Tarde/Durkheim: Trajectories of the Social

14 March 2008, 09:15 - 15 March 2008, 20:00

St Catharines College, The Ramsden Room

Convener: Dr Matei Candea (Department of Social Anthropology, Cambridge)

Once dismissed as a naive precursor to Durkheimian sociology, Gabriel Tarde is now increasingly brought forward as the misrecognised forerunner of a post-Durkheimian era. Reclaimed from a century of near-oblivion, Tarde's sociology has been linked to Foucaultian microphysics of power, to Deleuze's philosophy of difference, and to Actor Network Theory.
The venerable ancestor of sociology has known better days. Long before the neo-Tardian challenge, anthropologists and others had attacked Emile Durkheim's work as totalizing, reductionist, positivist and conservative. As a result of these attacks, Durkheim has been thinned over the years to the point of becoming a straw man. Who will give this scarecrow his brain back?

Tarde/Durkheim: Trajectories of the social aimed to bring together major actors in the recent rediscovery of Tarde with participants from a range of disciplines including anthropology, sociology, STS and philosophy who acknowledge a continuing or productively re-imagined debt to Durkheim. Participants investigated the way these rival 19th century projects for the social sciences were formed and what remained of the ways each thinker proposed to define 'the social' and partition it across one or many 'disciplines'. They asked what light this century-old debate between the two sociologists might have shed on the very different (and yet sometimes uncannily parallel) concerns facing the arts, humanities and social sciences, at the beginning of the 21st century, such as inter-disciplinarity, the 'ontological turn', empiricism, affect and scale.

The conference explored the following questions among others:

  • How much of Tarde's sociology can be reclaimed for present use, and in what form?
  • What remains of the Durkheimian legacy, and what elements of his thought have not been deployed?
  • What light can Tarde and Durkheim's divergent definitions of 'sociology' throw on
    - the promises and dangers of (inter)disciplinarity?
    - the use of 'domains' and the treatment of scale in social science?
  • What can Tarde and Durkheim respectively tell us about the place of affect in the social?
  • How should sociology and anthropology interface with philosophy and with metaphysics?
  • What would a Tardean ethnography look like?
  • How might we rethink empiricism, explanation and method, beyond self-running social theories?

As part of the conference, you were invited to... 'The Debate' ... a re-enactment of a debate held in 1903 between
Gabriel Tarde and Emile Durkheim.

   Corpus Christi College, McCrum Lecture Theatre
  Friday 14th March


 Do you recall the discussion between Durkheim and my father, at the Ecole des Hautes
Etudes Sociales? Before they had even said a word, one sensed by their faces, their
looks, their gestures, the distance that lay between these two men. One knew that such
a discussion was sheer madness. 

                                                                                                   Guillaume De Tarde

A momentous debate concerning the nature of sociology and its relation to other sciences took place between Gabriel Tarde and Emile Durkheim at the Ecole des
Hautes Etudes Sociales in 1903. Unfortunately the only available record of the
event is a brief overview, which English readers may find in Terry Clark’s 1969
edited volume On communication and social influence (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press).
The present recension of the debate, therefore, is based on a script consisting of
quotations from the published works of Gabriel Tarde and Emile Durkheim,
arranged to form a dialogue. It will be acted out, in French, by Bruno Latour
(Gabriel Tarde), Bruno Karsenti (Emile Durkheim), and Simon Schaffer (The
Dean), under the direction of Frédérique Aït-Touati. An English translation of the
script, with references to the works from which extracts are drawn, will be
provided a few days before the event. 



14 March


9.00 - 9.30

Registration, Ramsden Room, St Catharine’s College

9.30 - 9.45

Welcome and Introduction
Matei Candea (University of Cambridge) 

9.45 - 10.45

Panel 1 – Durkheim Reconsidered – Revisiting the Elementary forms
Discussant: James Laidlaw (University of Cambridge)

9.45: Joel Robbins (University of California, San Diego)
If There is No Such Thing as Society, Is Ritual Still Special?  On Using The Elementary Forms after Tarde

10.15: Ricardo Roque (Universidade dos Açores)
Durkheim and the flag: colonial forms of religious life in East Timor

10.45 - 11.15 

Coffee break

11.15 - 11.45

11.15: Karen E. Fields (Vanderbilt University) Invisible Ontology in Durkheim's Elementary Forms:  Some Suggestions for the Study of Race Concepts

11.45: Discussion

12.15 - 13.15

Lunch break

13.15 - 15.00

Panel 2 – Ethnography, Theory, Durkheim, Tarde – anthropological connections 
Discussant: Matei Candea (University of Cambridge)

13.15: James Leach (University of Aberdeen) Intervening with the Social. Examining ethnographic engagements with the help of  Tarde 

13.45: Georgina Born (University of Cambridge)           
Relationality After Tarde

14.15: Karen Sykes (University of Manchester) The value of a beautiful memory  

 14.45: Discussion

15.00 - 15.30

Tea break

15.30 - 16.30

15.30:  Istvan Praet (University of Oxford)
Contribution to an Anthropology of Crime - Amerindian Comments on La criminologie comparée 

16.00: Penny Harvey/Soumhya Venkatesan (University of Manchester)
Faith, Reason and the Ethics of Craftsmanship: creating contingently stable worlds

16.30: Discussion


'The Debate'  at Corpus Christi College,McCrum Lecture Theatre

Gabriel Tarde: Bruno Latour
Emile Durkheim: Bruno Karsenti
The Dean: Simon Schaffer 

Directed by Frédérique Aït-Touati

15 March


9.00 - 10.45

Panel 3 – Affect and Effects – Interiority and inter-psychology
Discussant: Caroline Humphrey (University of Cambridge)

9.00: Andrea Mu Brighenti (University of Trento)
Tarde, Canetti, and Deleuze on Crowds and Packs

 9.30: Yael Navaro-Yashin (University of Cambridge) Collectibles of War and the Tangibility of affect

10.00: Sjoerd Van Tuinen (Ghent University)
Is There a Contemporary Use for Tarde’s Concepts of Magnetism, Somnambulism and Hypnosis?

10.30: Discussion 

10.45 - 11.15

Coffee break 


11.15: Eduardo Viana Vargas (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais)
Tarde on drugs, or measures against suicide: is it all right? It is all high

11.45: Discussion 

12.15 - 13.15

Lunch break


Panel 4 – Knowing the Social: Methods, traces, comparisons
Discussant: Marilyn Strathern (University of Cambridge)  

13.15: Bruno Latour (Sciences Po)  The new traceability of the social or the vindication of Gabriel Tarde

13.45: Alberto Corsin-Jimenez (University of Manchester) 
Number 2000

14.15: Robert Layton (University of Durham)
Durkheim vs. Tarde; Dawkins vs. Kauffman

14.45: Discussion


Tea Break


15.30: Andrew Barry (School of Geography, Oxford University) 
Sociology: an experimental science 

16.00: Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov (Dept. of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge) Post-Socialism as the Post-social: an ethnography of a social theorist

16.30: Tim Jenkins (University of Cambridge) 
One or Three: Issues of Comparison

17.00: Discussion


End of Conference