Bordering Humanity

Aux frontières de l'Humain


Organized by Bruce Buchan (Griffith University), Linda Andersson Burnett (Linnaeus University), Silvia Sebastiani (EHESS).

Where did humanity begin, and where did it end, in the era of Enlightenment? Europe’s Enlightenment is still celebrated for its ‘invention’ of universal humanity, while its colonial legacies continue to reverberate across the globe. The purpose of this symposium is to bring together an interdisciplinary array of scholars whose work explores the visual, conceptual, historical, and geographical boundaries and borders of humanity in this dynamic era of global intellectual history.

Our presentations will seek to explain how Enlightenment humanity accommodated universal aspirations alongside internal limitations that:

  • Differentiated between humans and non-humans;
  • Denied the humanity of colonised peoples;
  • Distinguished between human races and nations;
  • Depicted human diversity in ethnographies of ‘savagery’, ‘barbarism’ or ‘animality’.

Focusing on the ‘borders of humanity’ allows us to trace the definitional limits of European concepts of humanity. These limits were mapped by locating a series of borders and boundaries – between peoples and tribes, men and women, nations and states, between humans and the ‘animal kingdom’, and between supposedly civil and savage realms. The presentations will illuminate how these borders were conceptualised in diverse intellectual contexts – in European intellectual centres, in published texts by leading intellectuals, in correspondence, in colonial settings, and in engagements between European and non-European agents.

The ‘borders of humanity’ is a methodological frame that holds the fluidity and dynamism of Enlightenment conceptions of the human firmly in view. Enlightenment discourse on humanity developed through an eclectic aggregation of ideas drawn from multiple traditions of thought. To uncover these layers of thought and colonial experience, our symposium seeks to open discussion of an extensive body of primary European and colonial texts charting the complicated cycles and networks of natural historical and moral philosophical knowledge in the eighteenth century.



9h-9h.10: Introduction

9h.10-9h.50: Silvia Sebastiani (EHESS), A ‘Monster’ in London: Edward Tyson’s Orangutan

9h.50-10h.30: Linda Andersson Burnett (Linnaeus University), Mapping Borders and Difference: Race and Instructed Travel in the Enlightenment

10h.30-11h.10: Charlotte Guichard (CNRS, IHMC),Framing Antiquity, Bordering the Human Past: Joseph Pellerin's Chinese coin cabinet

11h.10-11h.30:  Coffee break

11h.30-12h10: Antoine Lilti (EHESS), ‘Not a proper sample’? Tahitians in Europe (1769-1776)

12h.10-12h.50: Bruce Buchan(Griffith University, Professeur invité à l’EHESS), Racing Humanity: Moral Philosophy and Colonial Travel 1775-1800

13h-14h: Lunch

14h-14h.40: Guido Abbattista (Università di Trieste, Professeur invité à l’EHESS), Moving West Bodies from the Borders of Humanity: the 18th century origins of human exhibitions

14h.40-15h.20: Jean-Luc Chappey (Université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), For a political approach of the Savage in 1800

15h.20-16h: Debate

Histoire Historiographie

Informations pratiques

  • Mardi 14 mars 2017 - 09:00 - 17:00
  • De 9h à 13h - EHESS (Salle A du Conseil) - 190, avenue de France 75013 Paris De 14h à 17h - EHESS ( Salle Jean-Pïerre Vernant) - 190, avenue de France 75013 Paris
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