Recent scientific and technological advances have led to profound changes to the humans’ outlook on life and to their relationships to the living. Thus the definition of life becomes a crucial issue for the social sciences, not only the natural sciences. Research done in the field of Science and Technology Studies has shown that cultural contexts play an important role in how biology is practiced and/or in how knowledge from it is used. But until now there has been an insufficient effort to articulate this field with the growing number of ethnological works that investigate understandings of life found in traditional societies. In order to establish a dialogue between disciplines that tend to follow their own separate paths, this presentation proposes showing how the ethnology of Amerindian societies (Mesoamerica, Andes, Amazonia) can contribute to the definition of life.
Perig Pitrou is a researcher in the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Laboratoire d’Anthropologogie Sociale, Paris. He is the author of Le chemin et le champ. Sacrifice et parcours rituel chez les Mixe de Oaxaca (Mexique) and the co-editor of the book La noción de vida en Mesoamérica (CEMCA-UNAM, 2011). In 2013-14, he directed the research programme ‘Of Living Beings and Artefacts: The Interrelation of Vital and Technical Processes’ (Des êtres vivants et des artefacts – Musée du quai Branly (département de la recherche et de l’enseignement). He is now Deputy Director of the interdisciplinary programme ‘Domestication and Fabrication of the Living’ (CNRS-PSL)