Æsthetica : anthropology and aesthetics

The Æsthetica Collection

An editorial and scientific partnership between Rue d’Ulm publishers (École normale supérieure publications) and the Research and Education Department of the musée du quai Branly on a series devoted to the anthropology of the aesthetic.


This collection has two objectives: to contribute to a rewriting of the history and anthropology of the aesthetic and to participate in contemporary thought on past and present arts from the west and elsewhere. Inaugurated in 2003 under the direction of Danièle Cohn the collection is presently developing through a partnership between rue d’Ulm publishers and the musée du quai Branly. Owing to this development towards anthropology, the direction team has tripled: Danièle Cohn and Lucie Marignac (Director of Rue d’Ulm publishing) have been joined by Carlo Severi and Anne-Christine Taylor (Director of the museum’s Research and Education Department). The work of Carlo Severi: Le Principe de la chimère. Une anthropologie de la mémoire (The principle of illusion. An anthropology of memory) is the first to be proposed within the framework of this collaboration.


The collection provides an opportunity to (re) read various artists’ written work, critical, philosophical and historical texts, and texts on art anthropology. These have either been forgotten or were never before translated, and yet in many cases, they were pivotal. It also publishes original essays questioning both western and non-western iconographic traditions, the theorizations they have aroused and artistic practices of today. Aiming to restore aesthetics to its original dimension, the collection endeavours to present and analyse the diversity of the sensitive theoretical propositions developed by visual arts, music, theatre and ritual performance.



2008 - Sur l'ornement

Karl Philipp MORITZ Sur l'ornement

Préface, traduction et annotation de Clara PACQUET

Postface de Danièle COHN


L’ornement a souvent été trop rapidement considéré comme une manifestation périphérique et secondaire de la forme, dénuée d’indépendance. Pourtant, il permet d’interroger les œuvres d’art dans leur autonomie par rapport aux sujets de la représentation et dans leur développement historique. La conception de l’ornement traduit le regard qui a été porté sur les grotesques, sur le décor des objets utiles, et nourrit la réflexion plus générale sur le beau et la fonction de l’art. À ce titre, la question de l’ornement est essentielle pour l’anthropologie de l’art.

Ces Concepts préliminaires en vue d’une théorie des ornements restituent un épisode important de l’histoire des idées appliquées aux formes artistiques. Une préface de Clara Pacquet et une postface de Danièle Cohn, qui reviennent longuement sur le statut de l’ornement, permettent de situer le texte de Moritz dans l’histoire de l’esthétique allemande du XVIIIe siècle.

Ce texte est inédit en français.



Méconnu en France, Karl Philipp Moritz (1756-1793) est une figure centrale du classicisme allemand. Auteur prolifique, il fait partie de ce mouvement contemporain de Kant que l’on nomme la « Philosophie populaire » et participe ainsi au projet de la formation d’un peuple éclairé par l’établissement d’un « goût national ».


A paraître le 14 novembre 2008

Format : 19 x 20 – Nombre de pages : 132

Prix : 15 euros

ISBN : 978-2-7288-0411-5

ISSN : 1761-2160

Collection : « Æsthetica »

Coédition Éditions rue d’Ulm (presses de l’ENS) / musée du quai Branly

Diffusion - distribution : Les Belles Lettres


The principle of illusion. An anthropology of memory

Carlo SEVERI Le Principe de la chimère. Une anthropologie de la mémoire

(The principle of illusion. An anthropology of memory)


Whether based on adornment, body painting, masks or pictograms: it seems that people ‘without writing’ have memories that are labile, unstructured and bound to fail. The ‘mnemonic aids’ that historians specialised in the history of writing discuss in relation to these traditions are regularly described as aborted attempts to reproduce the external form of an object, or simple as graphic means to express elementary concepts.

This book presents us with the results of a vast anthropological investigation lead in Indian America and Oceania. It analyses a number of these visual devices, while addressing the contexts of ritual enunciation that they imply and demonstrating a completely different hypothesis: there is a channel of illusory representation through which non-western mnemonic arts are invented. There is nothing imitative about these ‘mnemonic aids’ whose form mobilises the eye and invites you to decipher them. They are a visual testimony of a series of mental processes condensed in images that are effective, intense and fragmentary all at the same time. A new field of research is opening owing to the study of these iconographic and oral traditions and it concerns both the history of arts and social sciences in equal measures: an anthropology of memory.


The author

Anthropologist, Carlo Severi is the Academic Director at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences) and the Director of Research at CNRS (the (French) National Centre for Scientific Research). Member of the laboratoire d’anthropologie sociale du Collège de France (Laboratory of Social Anthropology of the Collège de France) since 1985, he is currently an associate of the Department of Research and Education of the musée du quai Branly. His major works include La memoria rituale (La Nuova Italia, 1993 ; trad. esp. Abya Yala Ediciones, 1996), Naven ou le donner à voir (with M. Houseman, CNRS Éditions-Éditions de la MSH, 1994; éd. angl. Brill, 1998). In 2003, he edited the special edition of the review L’Homme devoted to image and anthropology.


November 2007

Format : 19 x 20 – Price : 34 €

Number of pages : 372

ISBN : 978-2-7288-0393-4 – ISSN 1761-2160

Diffusion - distribution : Les Belles Lettres