Françoise Héritier (15 November 1933 – 15 November 2017)
An emeritus professor, Françoise was the Chair of Comparative Studies of African Societies at Collège de France (a prestigious institution) from 1982-1998. She was the successor of Claude Lévi-Strauss and was also influenced by Alfred Radcliffe-Brown’s work. Her work focused mainly on the theory of alliances and the prohibition of incest.
Héritier became interested in anthropology in the late 1950s while she was still a student of history and geography with the goal of becoming a teacher or a researcher in ancient history. Her interest and curiosity in social anthropology arose during seminars lead by Claude Lévi-Strauss. In 1958, she visited the-now-called Burkina Faso in order to conduct a research study on Samo Bourkinabé. This was her very first research which made her known as the African philosopher. She has authored many books such as The Salt of Life, which gained international attention.
She received the CNRS Silver Medal in 1978 for her work on the functioning of systems of kinship and alliance. She has also been awarded the Irene-Joliot-Curie Prize in 2003, Grand’Croix of the National Order of Merit in 2011 to name a few.
A Few Quotations:
“Gender equality must become a political issue.”
“We must annihilate the idea of an irrepressible masculine desire”
“The most important of the constants, that which runs through the animal world, of which man is a part, is the difference of the sexes. I believe that human thought was organized on the basis of this observation: there is something identical and different. All things will then be analyzed and classified between these two headings. This is how humanity thinks, we have not observed companies that do not subscribe to this rule. In all languages there are binary categories, which contrast hot and cold, dry and wet, hard and soft, high and low, active and passive, healthy and unhealthy…”
“Nothing that we do or think, life systems, attitude and behaviour, is derived directly from the laws of nature.”
“It is said that a man could not marry such or such a woman. But it is never said that a woman could not marry such or such a man. In fact, women have never been subjects of the law speaking in the historical texts.”