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Special issue n° 42 “Anthropology of Knowledge, Information Science and Communication Studies”

Coordination : Yolande Maury (University Lille 3 ; Geriico Research Team), Susan Kovacs (University Lille 3 ; Geriico Research Team), Régina Marteleto (IBICT, Université Fédérale de Rio de Janeiro/UFRJ, Brésil)

Among the many research objects in Information Science and Communication Studies which borrow analytical models from the discipline of Anthropology, the question of knowledge has emerged as a significant area of study over the past ten years.

The study of knowledge from an anthropological perspective implies a “un certain regard [a certain point of view]” according to the anthropologist François Laplantine, mindful of the structured and structuring effects of knowledge, as well as its very human dimension.

Rather than favoring a theoretical approach, anthropological inquiry leads us to a pragmatics of knowledge, that is to say, a consideration of how knowledge is constructed, as the product of practical competencies [savoir-faire] and of intellectual operations. Such an approach seeks to understand knowledge as it is historically situated, as it is embodied within contexts, spaces, institutions, and materialized through physical inscriptions which are communicated to others. How does knowledge circulate, how is it conveyed and shared, especially in the context of digital technology and digital communication, which create new relationships to time and space?

This issue of Etudes de communication seeks to investigate the ways in which current research in Information Science and Communication Studies considers this dynamic aspect of knowledge, as it is situated at the juncture between the individual and the social, the structured and the informal.

The construction of an anthropological perspective

  • How does current research in Information Science and Communication Studies construct an anthropological perspective of knowledge? Going beyond individual ethnographic case studies, what general models have been elaborated?

  • Which authors (anthropologists, sociologists…), which anthropological approaches (linguistic, pragmatic, cognitive…), which analytical tools and models are cited, discussed, applied, in Information Science and Communication Studies, with regard to knowledge circulation and communication ?

  • How do observation methods used in Information Science and Communication Studies allow researchers to study the processes of construction and communication of knowledge? Is the construction of “context” by the researcher compatible with a pragmatic vision of knowledge and of the social world, both continually created through complex interactions?

A dynamics of knowledge

  • Knowledge constitutes an important link between man and his environment; knowledge as an ordering of the world organizes, arranges and decodes the universe. As such, knowledge is related to power.

  • Knowing differs from “knowledge” in the sense that it is inseparable from the particular situations, moments, gestures and acts through which such “knowing” declares itself and emerges. Observing knowledge thus implies the observation of acts of knowing, in the sense that knowledge is  “what people employ to interpret and act on the world” (Fredrik Barth, 1995).

  • How then can we define the role of knowledge, and in particular knowledge of informational structures (classifications, rankings, hierarchies) in forging man’s experience of the world? What are the processes of selection, transformation and communication which play a part in the elaboration of knowledge? What does knowledge of classifying principles and of power relations tell us about man’s place in the world?

  • Beyond the dual process of heritage (preserving) and communication (transmission), knowledge circulates through unexpected and informal channels which participate in the hybridization or mixing of forms and practices of knowledge/knowing. What processes of contagion, permeation and retention are at play in the dynamics of knowledge? What is the role of intuitive knowledge as compared to reflexive knowledge? What is the role of experience and of the shared construction of knowledge (communities, social networks)?

  • An anthropology of knowledge necessarily implies consideration of time and space, categories of human sensibility which participate in communication processes and in the understanding of the world. What does current research on places of memory (archives, libraries, heritage centers) tell us about the construction and circulation of knowledge, between stability/permanence and transformation/change? How do digital technologies, which are sometimes presented as machines which « cristallize time » (Maurizio Lazzarato), allow us to investigate the temporal and spatial dimensions of knowledge?

Review process

We invite submission of original article proposals presenting theoretical or epistemological discussion, as well as methodological considerations and empirical studies.

Proposals may be made in French or English.

All submissions will go through a two-part review process:

  1. Submission of a 1500-2000 word abstract which should include a presentation of objectives and principle arguments, explain the originality of the paper and provide key bibliographical references,

  2. For accepted abstracts, a second evaluation will take place for final papers (30 000 characters including spaces).

Papers will be peer-reviewed by at least two anonymous referees. Instructions for authors are available at the journal homepage

Abstracts should be submitted in Word (.doc) or PDF and sent to the following email addresses:

Important Dates

May 30, 2013: Abstract submission deadline

July 20, 2013: Notification of acceptance/refusal

October 20, 2013: Preliminary version of article due

November 30, 2013: Notification of acceptance, refusal, or revisions of full article

December 30, 2013: Final version of accepted article due

May 2014: Publication date (paper and digital)

Scientific committee

Smiljana Antonijevic, Roskilde University, Danemark, et Penn State University, USA

Annette Béguin-Verbrugge, GERiiCO, Université Lille 3, France

Igor Babou, LCF, Université de la Réunion, France

Brigitte Chapelain, LCP, Université Paris 13, France

Giulia Crippa, Université de São Paulo, Brésil

Pierre Delcambre, GERiiCO, Université Lille 3, France

Isabelle Fabre, EFTS, Université de Toulouse 3, France

Patrick Fraysse, LERASS, Université Toulouse 3, France

Michèle Gellereau, GERiiCO, Université Lille 3, France

Joelle Le Marec, CERILAC, Université Paris 7, France

Lia Raquel Moreira Oliveira, Universidade do Minho, Portugal

Paul Rasse, I3M, Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, France

Florence Rio, GERiiCO, Université Lille 3, France

Odile Riondet, CIMEOS, Université de Bourgogne, France

Gustavo Saldanha, IBICT, Université Fédérale de Rio de Janeiro/UFRJ, Brésil


Augé, Marc. Pour une anthropologie des mondes contemporains. Flammarion, 1994. (Champs essais ; 373)

Barth, Fredrik. Other Knowledge and other Ways of Knowing. Journal of Anthropological Research, 1995, vol. 51, n° 1, p. 65-68.

Laplantine François. L'anthropologie. Ed. Payot et Rivages, 2001. (Petite Bibliothèque Payot ; 227)

Lazzarato, Maurizio. Machines à cristalliser le temps : perception et travail dans le post-fordisme. Thèse de doctorat, 1996, Université Paris VIII.

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