Conférence en anglais de Maurizio Meloni, théoricien social, sur les politiques coloniales et l'histoire de la santé publique : la contribution de Norbert Elias. Modération : Francesco Panese, IHM & SSP-UNIL
20 juin 2023, 11h30-13h00 | Salle de colloque de l'IHM
The Colonial Politics of Time: lessons on Norbert Elias and decolonization from the history of public health.
This paper addresses Norbert Elias's narrative of a civilizing process that remains still fashionable and well-referenced in sociological courses and handbooks all over the world. While it is out of question that Elias did understand important changes in a geographically delimited part of Europe at a certain historical juncture, his narrative takes a mythical element when it is turned into a longue durée historical trajectory or "civilisational curve" that shapes societal development from infantilism/barbarism/immediacy of feelings to modernity/state monopoly/ and emotional self-control. The binary opposition of Northern European modernity as capable of self-constraint and premodern Europe or colonized societies as spontaneous or controlled only by external constraints is from the outset part of a logic of epistemological dispossession (Russell, 2010). However, turning Elias’ narrative upside down is not enough to undermine the binary nature (Us vs. Them) of world histories that sociologies of modernity have circulated. This is why I offer a few concrete examples from the history of public health and medicine before and beyond 'the rise of the West' to challenge Elias’ simplified view of a pacification of emotions via the top-down role of the modern state. I suggest instead a more global and bottom-up history of practices and techniques of the permeable body (individual and collective) across Afro-Eurasia as a contribution to a provincialization of European social theory.
Maurizio Meloni is a social theorist and a science and technology studies (STS) scholar with strong affiliations to the history and philosophy of biology and medicine. He is the author of three books, including Political Biology: Science and Social Values in Human Heredity from Eugenics to Epigenetics (Palgrave 2016: Winner of the Human Biology Association Book Award, 2020) and Impressionable Biologies: From the Archaeology of Plasticity to the Sociology of Epigenetics (Routledge, 2019), and other coedited volumes. He is currently Associate Professor in Sociology at the Alfred Deakin Institute (ADI) for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University, Australia, where he was previously an ARC Future Fellow (2019-2023).