Equilibri artici. L’umanesimo ecologico di Jean Malaurie

Author: Giulia Bogliolo Bruna | Editor: CISU, 2016

“Arctic Equilibria: Jean Malaurie’s ecological humanism” traces the intellectual itinerary of the eclectic scholar, “monument” of French culture, to whom the academic world and the institutional sphere have made a vibrant homage. Drawing on a rich and unprecedented documentary material, this essay, an Italian translation of “Jean Malaurie: une énergie créatrice” (Paris, Armand Colin, 2012) illustrates the fruitful creativity expressed in a pluriform – but organic – scientific production and editorial.

Review (by René Maury): 

Already published in France under the title Jean Malaurie, une énergie créatrice, this volume, in the Italian version translated and completed by the Author, offers a broad overview of the dense activity of a great expert in the Arctic areas, Jean Malaurie, although less known in Italy than another French explorer of the polar areas, the ethnologist Paul -Émile Victor, or, in another environment, by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, oceanographic explorer. Sacred monster of arctic environments and tireless researcher both solitary and scientific expeditions, Malaurie, geographer of training but known as ethno-historian-sociologist, however at the turn of geomorphology, anthropology, human geography and scientific ecology, has marked an era, favoring research in the field, and always associating with it the Arctic peoples from Greenland to Siberia, among whom he settled for months,

The dense volume, edited by Giulia Bogliolo Bruna – in turn, ethnostoric and anthropologist, member of the Italian Geographical Society and other scientific societies, also a scholar of Inuit populations and engaged in other fields of American studies – appears as a broad subjective path in the vast activities of Malaurie, providing the reader with a rich documentation based on original texts, citations of published works or oral materials, letters and speeches from the personal archive – open for the occasion to the Author – a photographic kit and a dense bibliography articulated; in short, a tribute to the multi-faceted scholar, an intellectual biography of Malaurie.

From the six chapters, ranging from the call that the North has soon exercised on Malaurie, the early geomorphological and cartographic research, the progressive “inuitization” of the author and the call to the sacred in attending the Nordic communities, up to the militant commitment of the intellectual humanist, we find rather easily its geographical formation. From the first approaches on the field in Morocco and the Sahara, to remain still anchored to the fascinating nature of the desert and at the same time to escape the academic world, he heads towards the almost unknown Greenland, on the advice of the geography teacher Emmanuel de Martonne, before as geographer of the Expéditions polaires françaisesof the well-known Paul-Emile Victor, and then often in solitary with the Inuit peoples; until he holds the first chair of Polar Geography at the Paris Institute of Geography.

A long chapter is dedicated to his editorial activity, with the creation of the successful Terre Humaine publishing series , opened with his essay Les derniers rois de Thule (1955, on the Greenish Inuit community overwhelmed and partly dispersed from the creation of the Thule American nuclear military base) ), followed by the well-known Tristes tropiques by the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, and still active for the diffusion of works that are not exclusively university studies.

Another part of the volume deals with the care of Malaurie for the storage and enhancement of anthropological material, also oral, and for the constitution – always associating you with Inuit collaborators – of a research facility with the Center d’Études Arctiques , object of interest also in Canada, Denmark and Russia.

The preface by Anna Casella Paltrinieri and the afterword by Luisa Faldini, co-director with Elvira Stefania Tiberini of the Italian series “Etnografie americane” (in which this volume is included) is yet to be reported. The effect of Jean Malaurie’s political-ecological activist is even more evident from his action as a partisan during the Second World War, today always ready to denounce with proclamations, documents and local witnesses the internal and external evils of the marginalized peoples of the Great North, to whom he still remains viscerally linked.