23. November 2017

Frédéric Keck (Musée du quai Branly, Paris)

Simulations of disasters in hospitals and museums: a perspective from the anthropology of rituals

IG-Farben-Haus, EG 311, 16:15 Uhr

This talk will describe “objects” that are manipulated by “persons” in contexts of simulations of disasters, comparing two different settings: a hospital where fake patients are triaged as a simulation of a pandemic flu outbreak in Hong Kong, and a museum where ethnographic artefacts are evacuated from the reserves as a simulation of a river flood in Paris. Referring to the anthropology of ritual elaborated by Michael Houseman and Carlo Severi, I will show that the distinctions between objects and persons, humans and non-humans, passive and active are reversed in the extraordinary context of the simulation, revealing the logic of value production in the ordinary life of these institutions. I will also refer to the work of Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot to show how the disputes between persons on the equivalence between objects is temporarily solved by the logic of collection as a recent frame for value production, qualifying objects that become waste in the logic of commodities. Combining these two references, I will defend a structuralist approach of value production for institutions built to face the threats of disasters, which can be described after Claude Lévi-Strauss as “cold societies” or cryopolitical institutions.

Keynote speaker of the conference 'Re-Evaluations. On the ascription of value in social and ritual Practices', 23 - 25 November 2017, Goethe University Frankfurt