Arnold van Gennep
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He was born in Ludwigsburg, Kingdom of Württemberg. His father was a German, his mother, whose family name he later adopted, was originally Dutch. At the age of six his parents divorced and he and his mother moved to France where she later married a French doctor who moved the family to Savoy.
He went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne, but was disappointed that the school did not offer the subjects he wanted. So he enrolled at the École des langues orientales to study Arabic and at the École pratique des hautes études for philology, general linguistics, Egyptology, Ancient Arabic, primitive religions, and Islamic culture. This scholarly independence would manifest itself for the remainder of his life. He never held an academic position in France.
From 1912 to 1915 he held the Chair of Ethnography at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland but was expelled for expressing doubts about the neutrality of Switzerland during World War I. There he reorganized the museum and organized the first ethnographical conference (1914). In 1922 he toured the United States.
His most famous work is Les rites de passage (The Rites of Passage) (1909) which includes his vision of rites of passage rituals as being divided into three phases: preliminary, liminaire (liminality) (a stage much studied by anthropologist Victor Turner), and postliminaire (post-liminality).
His major work in French folklore was Le Manuel de folklore français contemporain (1937-1958).
- The Rites of Passage was highly influential in the structuring of Joseph Campbell's 1949 text, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, as Campbell divides the journey of the hero into three parts, Departure, Initiation, and Return.
- The Rites of Passage influenced anthropologist Victor Turner's research, particularly his 1969 text, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure.
- Le Tissage aux Cartons et son utilisation décorative dans l'Egypte Ancienne, Neuchatel, Switzerland: Delachaux & Niestlé, 1916, co-author Gustave Jeqier. English translation Cardweaving in Ancient Egypt Barbara Shapiro, transl. San Francisco : 2010.
- Traité comparatif des nationalités, Paris: Payot, 1922
- Tabou et Totemisme a Madagascar Etude Descriptive et Theorique, Paris: 1904
- Essai d’une théorie des langues spécialesl, Paris: 1908
- Le folklore français
- The Rites of Passage, 1909. University of Chicago Press, 1960. web page
- Arnold van Gennep at unjobs.org
- Belmont, Nicole Arnold van Gennep: The Creator of French Ethnography Derek Coltman trans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979
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