Regional fields

Central Mexico, North Mexico, Germany

Thematic fields

shamanism, cosmology, rituals, anthropology and psychoanalysis, museology, anthropology of the night


world views, rituals, native exegeses, metapsychology, aesthetics

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The master of wealth, San Pablito (Puebla), 1985 (photo J. Galinier)

Since 1969, Jacques Galinier has been studying the Otomi Indians of the Southern Huasteca (eastern Mexico). He lived among them for two long periods (1969-1972 and 1975-1977) and has continued to visit them regularly since then. As this region was undocumented, Jacques Galinier initially undertook a salvage ethnography, studying first its material culture and technology and then its social organisation (PhD). Gradually learning the vernacular enabled him to contemplate a systematic study of the ritual system, in particular the isomorphisms revealed by native exegesis, between images of the body and those of the cosmos (thèse d’État). In light of this data, Jacques Galinier gradually turned his attention to research into native psychic apparatus theories, then into analogies with the major principles of Freudian metapsychology, as well as into the radical differences between these two systems of thought. These results led to a better understanding of the fundamental assumptions of Otomi ontology, and more broadly of native epistemologies in Mesoamerica.

Jacques Galinier has reoriented his work over the years, from a spatially circumscribed ethnography in eastern Sierra Madre, towards multi-site research in the Oto-Pamean cultural area, then among the Tohono O’odham people of the Sonoran Desert. He has also undertaken an exploration of a multidisciplinary field of research through the “Anthropologie de la nuit” program (“Anthropology of the Night”), which he coordinated with Aurore Monod-Becquelin (CNRS) and Piero Salzarulo (University of Florence), the results of which were recorded in the journal Current Anthropology, and in the form of an examination of sleep entry and exit rituals of the Otomi and the Mazahua.

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Dance of the Volador,
San Miguel (Hidalgo), 1972
(photo J. Galinier)

With Antoinette Molinié, he has explored new fields from Mexico to Peru, through the study of “neo-Indian” rituals and philosophies – part of the American New Age and mystic tourism trends – in Mexico City and Cuzco. Jacques Galinier is currently extending this research through new studies on the construction of a “state Indian” in Querétaro, developed by regional institutions on the basis of the conjunction of the stereotypes of the civilised Indian from the central Mexican highlands, and of the savage Indian from the northern border of Mesoamerica.

In order to test other analysis tools for a multi-centred approach, Jacques Galinier turned his attention to carnival performances in the Swabian-Alemannic region (Kinzigtal) said to be of the “Fifth Season” (die fünfte Jahreszeit), which have strong similarities to those observed among the Otomi Indians, similarities that are not only formal, but also concern the cosmological background, the representation of nature, the question of genders, and the politico-ritual organisation.

Principal publications

  • 2013 (with A. Molinié), The Neo-Indians: A Religion for the Third Millenium (Boulder, University Press of Colorado).
  • 2013 (with A. Molinié), Los neo-indios: Una religión del tercer milenio (Quito, Abya Yala).
  • 2011, Une nuit d’épouvante: Les Indiens Otomi dans l’obscurité (Nanterre, Société d’ethnologie).
  • 2010 (with A. Monod Becquelin, G. Bordin, L. Fontaine, F. Fourmaux, J. Roulet Ponce, P. Salzarulo, M. Therrien, I. Zilli), Anthropology of the night: Cross disciplinary investigations, Current Anthropology, 51 (6): 819-847.
  • 2009, El Espejo otomí: De la etnografía a la antropología psicoanalítica (Mexico, CEMCA−UNAM− CDI).
  • 2006, L’anthropologie hors des limites de la simple raison – Actualité de la dispute entre Kant et Herder, L’Homme, 179: 146-164.
  • 2006 (with A. Molinié), Les Néo-Indiens: une religion pour le IIIe millénaire (Paris, Odile Jacob).
  • 2005 eds (with P. Bidou, B. Juillerat), Anthropologie et psychanalyse: regards croisés (Paris, Éditions de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales).
  • 1997, La moitié du monde: le corps et le cosmos dans le rituel des Indiens otomi (Paris, Presses universitaires de France).


Publications available at the Éric-de-Dampierre library


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Mis à jour le 16 January 2014

Directeur de recherche émérite, CNRS
[Emeritus Research Professor CNRS]