Institute of Civilizations


This Institute of Civilizations was created two years ago in order to consolidate, coordinate and develop the Chairs, specialized teams and libraries housed on the Cardinal Lemoine site within an interdisciplinary entity whose hallmark is the symbiosis of research and documentation. The objective is to synthesize Oriental Studies (long one of the jewels of the Collège de France) and the social sciences based on the very abundant heritage collections made available to the entire national and international scientific community. The ambition of the Institute of Civilizations is to break down barriers between traditional disciplinary boundaries and facilitate a concrete interdisciplinary approach through the development of joint research projects and the pooling of certain services and facilities.

The development and implementation of the Institute will involve the complete renovation of the site. Construction is scheduled to begin in the summer 2016, and the Institute of Civilizations will be set up there after two years of renovation work. Site redevelopment will include new Chairs, new teams, and visiting scholars. Numerous internationally recognized journals are published under the auspices of the four divisions that make up the Institute of Civilizations.

These four divisions are:

1) Social Anthropology;

2) Ancient Near East (Semitic Studies, Assyriology, Egyptology);

3) Far East (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian and Tibetan Studies; the Asian Society Library);

4) Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Mediterranean World Division (Hellenistic Studies, Arab, Turkish and Islamic Studies, Byzantine Studies. This center will be significantly reinforced over the next two years).

Social Anthropology

The Chair in Anthropology of Nature (Professor Philippe Descola) relates to the comparative study of forms of relationships between humans and non-humans and ways of representing stable systems, considered primarily using ethnographic sources alongside complementary historical, iconographic or archaeological documentaries. The Chair is linked to the Social Anthropology Laboratory (UMR 7130), led by Professor Descola. The professor also leads a research team whose main objective focuses the study of cultural invariants, understood as structures or intermediate patterns between biophysical potentialities and historically attested systems of practice.

Ancient Near East

This division includes the following Chairs: Mesopotamian Civilization (Professor Dominique Charpin), The Hebrew Bible and its Contexts (Professor Thomas Römer), and Pharaonic Civilization: Archaeology, Philology, History (Professor Nicolas Grimal). The libraries for Semitic Studies and Assyriology are grouped in the former Institute of the Ancient Near East, led by Thomas Römer. Professors Charpin and Römer are co-directors of UMR 7192 (Near East - Caucasus: languages, archeology, cultures).

Go to the UMR 7192 website

Research conducted as part of the Chair in Mesopotamian Civilization currently involve the following projects:

- ARCHIBAB Program (Babylonian archives, 20th – 17th centuries BC). One of the main objectives is the creation of a searchable online database to consult the text in multiple ways.

Go to the ARCHIBAB Program website

- Publication of the Royal Archives of Mari, co-directed with Jean-Marie Durand, a member of the Institute, Honorary Professor at the Collège de France.

- Added to this are various projects carried out jointly with members of the "Mesopotamian Worlds" UMR 7192 team (historical geography research; archaeological research in Kurdistan).

The research activities of the Chair in the Hebrew Bible and its Contexts focus on the formation of the Hebrew Bible, especially the Pentateuch. In collaboration with the Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, the professor leads a research center seeking to create a fuller dialogue between archeology and textual studies in the reconstruction of the history of ancient Israel and the emergence of written documents.

The research of the Institute of Egyptology covers Pharaonic Egypt. Preferred periods include the New Kingdom (c. 1550 BC – c. 1077 BC) and later periods (750 BC -. 332 BC). An significant part of the research regards the survey, analysis and commentary of written testimonies.

Far East

This division comprises the Chairs in History and Cultures of Pre-Islamic Central Asia (Professor Frantz Grenet), History of Modern China (Professor Pierre-Etienne Will), Intellectual History of China (Professor Anne Cheng) and Philology of Japanese Civilization (Professor Jean-Noël Robert). The various Institutes of the Far East are headed by Professor Jean-Noël Robert.

The Chair in History and Cultures of Pre-Islamic Central Asia is devoted to current research in urban pre-Islamic Central Asia. The Institute of Indian Studies is also attached to the Chair’s fields of study. It currently houses the most extensive library of Indology in Paris with a primary orientation towards classical India and Sanskrit studies, managed by two full-time librarians.

The focus of research for the Chair in History of Modern China concerns autobiographical documents that provide special insight into the history of modern China. The Professor leads the UMS "Documentation Center of Oriental Institutes and the Collège de France" and the Library of Chinese Studies.

The holder of the Chair in Intellectual History of China conducts research on Confucius and Confucianism, seeking, through new analytical methods (textual criticism school) to better understand the importance of the Confucian phenomenon in China today to shed light on the transition from the process of reinvention to a process of reconstruction.

The Chair in Philology of Japanese Civilization (Professor Jean-Noël Robert) considers a double objective. It is dedicated to elucidating the process whereby Japanese culture has developed in parallel and sometimes out of phase with the Chinese world. This Japanese model should provide a better understanding of similar linguistic phenomena seen in various forms not only in the Far East, but also in other cultural areas (Arabic-Persian, Indo-Tibetan, Greek and Latin, etc.).

Mediterranean and African worlds

Six Collège de France Chairs are currently attached to this division: “Religion, Institutions and Society in Ancient Rome” (Professor John Scheid), “Techniques and Economies in the Ancient Mediterranean” (Professor Jean-Pierre Brun), “History of the Koran. Text and Transmission” (Professor François Déroche), “Written Culture in Late Antiquity and Byzantine Papyrology” (Professor Jean-Luc Fournet). “Religion, history and Society in ancient Greek world” (Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge), “History and archaeology of the African worlds” (François Xavier - Fauvelle).

The division’s two libraries are among the leading institutions in their field in both France and Europe. The library of the Institute of Byzantine Studies houses a collection on history and art history of territories influenced by the Byzantine cultural sphere, such as the eastern Roman Empire, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and North Africa up to the seventh century as well as the Balkans, Asia Minor and outlying areas during the Middle Ages.

The library of the Institute of Ottoman Studies covers a vast and complex field of study and partially reflects the focus of professors at the Collège de France, including Louis Massignon, Jacques Berque, and André Miquel. In recent years the library has broadened its Ottoman collection thanks to an initiative from Gilles Veinstein. Priority has been given to medieval and modern history up to the early nineteenth century.

The Institute of the History and Civilization of Byzantium, unique in Europe, has replaced the Center for Byzantium History and Civilization created by Paul Lemerle. The Center has created a “Byzantine World” team that welcomes researchers whose interests include Byzantine studies, but also late Antiquity and civilizations bordering Byzantium.

The Institute of Ottoman Studies is organized around the CNRS Center for Turkish, Ottoman, Balkan and Central Asian Studies, whose primary research focus within the framework of the Institute is on the civilization and history of the Ottoman world from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, but also on other regions along the borders of the Turkish empire.