Marcel Mauss Quote
September 24, 2008 12:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the origin of a quote attributed to Marcel Mauss for a friend.

From my friend:

I've run into various Latin American folklore scholars who keep referring to a "well-known" quote by French anthropologist Marcel Mauss. It is usually reproduced as "es popular todo lo que no es oficial" -- roughly, the popular is everything that is not official/institutional. Can you help me identify the source of this quote? Bonus points for either official/published English translation or original French.
posted by cachondeo45 to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, this text seems to indicate that one A. Proviña produced a translation of Mauss'
Manuel d'ethnographie
(link is to copies of full text in French) in 1957 which was entitled Manual del Folclore frances contemporaneo, and that this quotation occurs on page 17. I may be incorrect, but that's my reading of the situation. Unfortunately, I can't find the quotation, so I'm thinking I might have taken the wrong track.

For those playing along at home, Marcel Mauss' complete works in French are here.

I think I'll go try to brute-force it by doing a broad search there.
posted by koeselitz at 1:06 PM on September 24, 2008

Sorry: that first link ("this text") is a link to a .pdf, and the indication to which I refer is at the top of page 16, which is marked as page 33. There's a line in the bibliography about it.
posted by koeselitz at 1:11 PM on September 24, 2008

Ah. I should be reading instead of searching so much. Proviña isn't a translator; he's a sociologist himself who seems to like to quote the bit you're looking for.
posted by koeselitz at 1:21 PM on September 24, 2008

The French version of this quote is "Est populaire tout ce qui n'est pas officiel." I can't locate it in Manuel d'ethnographie, however.
posted by nasreddin at 1:49 PM on September 24, 2008

Okay. The French formulation is:

« Est populaire tout ce qui n’est pas officiel ».

Or, as you say above, 'the popular is all that isn't official.' Mauss appears to have formulated this as a way to think about folklore and ethnography. It is mentioned here in an interview with Pierre Bourdieu.

Though it seems to be a theme in his works, and I can find similar ideas, this particular phrase does not seem to come from his writings, however. This article quotes an unpublished article called "L’ethnologie et l’État en France, des années Trente aux années Cinquante" ("The ethnology and state in France from the thirties to the fifties," I think) that refers to "[la] définition attribuée à Mauss : est populaire tout ce qui n’est pas officiel." That is, it calls this quotation "the definition attributed to Mauss." But if Alfredo Proviña was mentioning this frequently in Spain in the 1940s (see here, and Proviña might well be the reason that Latin American scholars would mention this saying of Mauss') then it must have been a frequent formulation of his, even if that precise formulation didn't make it into his writings.
posted by koeselitz at 1:52 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks, koeselitz -- I am the aforementioned friend, and after a year-plus of lurking I have now prostrated myself before the power of the hive mind and registered. Your sources seem to confirm what I was beginning to suspect -- that while the concept is prevalent in Mauss, it doesn't exist anywhere as the pithy, compact quote that is frequently attributed to him. Too bad -- I really want to use it as an epigraph to a section of my dissertation.

(Argentine musicologist Carlos Vega reproduces it as a "well-known" Mauss quote in an essay published in 1944, by the way, predating the Proviña cited above by a year, but damned if he'd take the time to cite his source.)

If anyone can invent a better Mauss trap and prove us wrong, I'd be delighted, of course...
posted by dr. boludo at 5:31 PM on September 24, 2008

Well, Dr. Boludo, looks like you bit the bullet and paid your $5. :)
posted by cachondeo45 at 6:24 AM on September 25, 2008

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