Regional fields

Himalaya, Maghreb, Mediterranean Europe, Italy, Corsica, Sardinia, France

Thematic fields

physical risks and challenges, social and cultural body customs, biologisation of social issues, sport, hobbies, precious materials and societies, applied anthropology


harvest, nature, habitat, body, biologisation, discipline, taste, disgust, wellbeing, hobbies, sport, risk-taking, value, collection, precious objects, coral, crystals, minerals, marginality, applied research

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Gilles Raveneau joined the University of Paris West Nanterre La Défense as a senior lecturer in 2000, after having taught at the Universities of Angers and Rouen. He completed his PhD thesis in ethnology and comparative sociology in 1998 under the supervision of Martine Segalen. He mainly conducts research into gathering practices, high-risk physical activities and sports in natural settings, ways of living in nature, and social and political restrictions on the management of one’s own body.

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Miyar glacier, Lahaul Zanskar, Inde, 2008
(photo G. Raveneau)

As an ethnologist, Gilles Raveneau has long conducted research in Nepal among the Sherpas, in Corsica and in Sardinia, in Algeria, in Tunisia and in Morocco with coral fishermen. More recently his examination of Alpine crystal seekers led him to Switzerland and Italy, and he plans to extend this research to include minerals when he returns to the Himalayas. His research interests revolve around natural settings (mainly mountains and the sea), focused more specifically on the vertical axis (altitude and the “furthermost depths, each representing in its own way one of the limits” of the world), and towards the high-risk jobs and activities that nature offers to individuals. In his thesis work on Mediterranean coral fishermen, as well as in current research on Alpine crystal seekers (France, Switzerland, Italy), he has attempted to understand open-air activities requiring a considerable physical commitment, and not just sports, but also those connected to the passionate search for a precious material (coral, crystals and minerals). In so doing, he revealed that the risk-taking at the heart of the practices of coral fishermen and crystal seekers is closely linked to individuals’ agonistic rivalries and exchanges, to this distinctive way of forming a group while seeming to reject its existence, leading them to the margins. This view led Gilles Raveneau to consider what determines the value of social life: honour or profit? It showed the recurrence of this opposition between, on the one side, man’s dignity and his subjective value, and on the other, the calculations that determine the relative value of objects. It also reflects nature’s place in these activities, the physical commitment and physical challenges that must be overcome, The Powers of Nature that enable discovery (precious materials) and/or punishment (accidents, death).

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Red coral, just fished,
Strait of Bonifacio, 1997
(photo G. Raveneau)

Beyond his contribution to the anthropology of risk and the anthropology of value, and his research on the limits of sport, Gilles Raveneau started a research program on the question of taste and disgust in relation to the body today. The idea is to draw attention to what our societies glorify, what they tend to drive out of their mental landscape, what they put forward as models, and what they relegate to the margins of social life. By concentrating the study on the social and political restrictions placed on individuals’ management of their own bodies, he intends to explore the other side of the question of physical challenges by examining the growth of the field of wellbeing (physical and psychological), today a central category in our Western societies. By slightly shifting his line of research on taste and disgust in relation to the body and linking it to the metamorphoses of the biological, he examines the tension between attraction and repulsion generated by the “natural” today and questions the classification systems used in the process of naturalising and biologising social issues.

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A red fluorite is found, Mont Blanc massif, 2007 (photo G. Raveneau)

A member of the LESC since 2000, Gilles Raveneau also participates in projects on sports culture at the Centre de recherches sur le sport et le mouvement (CeRSM / The Sport and Movement Research Centre), EA 2931, at University of Paris West, and since 2004 he has been a member of the Centre nantais de sociologie (CENS / The Nantes Sociology Centre), EA 3260, at the University of Nantes, where he periodically contributes to some courses. He is head of the thematic research network “Frontières du sport” (“Boundaries of Sport”) at the Association française d’ethnologie et d’anthropologie (The French Ethnology and Anthropology Society) and has been taking part in the multidisciplinary network Recherche et sport (Research and Sport) in Pays de la Loire since 2006. With Dominique Memmi and Emmanuel Taïeb, since 2006 he has also been jointly heading Thematic Network 17 “Gestion politique du corps et des populations” (“The Political Management of Bodies and Populations”) at the Association française de sociologie (AFS / The French Sociology Association). He is also a member of the editorial boards and review committees of several journals (Ethnologie française, le Journal des anthropologues, Sciences sociales et sport, Nature et récréation) and since 2009 has been head of the “Corps et sciences sociales” (Bodies and Social Sciences) research project at the Maison des sciences de l’homme Paris Nord (North Paris Institute of Human Sciences).

For several years, Gilles Raveneau has been involved in academic societies and associations, through which he has endeavoured to bring ethnologists and anthropologists together. He was one of the organisers of Assises de l’ethnologie et de l’anthropologie (Foundations of Ethnology and Anthropology) in France in 2007, which expressed a shared desire to establish a new federative organisation of the discipline. This led to the creation of the Association française d’ethnologie et d’anthropologie (AFEA / The French Ethnology and Anthropology Society) in January 2009, and Gilles Raveneau was its first president (2009-2012). Gilles Raveneau est engagé depuis de nombreuses années dans des sociétés savantes et des associations dans lesquelles il a œuvré pour un rassemblement des ethnologues et des anthropologues. Il a été l’un des organisateurs des en France, en 2007, où s’est exprimée la volonté collective de fonder une nouvelle structure fédérative de la discipline. L’Association française d’ethnologie et d’anthropologie (AFEA) a ainsi vu le jour en janvier 2009 et Gilles Raveneau en a été le premier président (2009-2012).

Principal publications

  • 2016 eds (with D. Memmi et E. Taïeb), Le social à l’épreuve du dégoût (Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes).
  • 2011 eds (with O. Sirost), Anthropologie des abris de loisirs (Paris, Presses universitaires de Paris Ouest).
  • 2011 eds (with D. Memmi andE. Taieb), Anatomie du dégoût [n° thématique], Ethnologie française, 41 (1).
  • 2010 eds (with L. S. Fournier), Les cultures sportives au regard de la globalisation [special issue], Journal des anthropologues, 122–123.
  • 2009, Le prix des cristaux. Figures élémentaires de l’échange aujourd’hui, in J. Tolan (ed.), L’échange (Paris, L’Harmattan): 233–247 [Logiques sociales].
  • 2008 eds (with L. S. Fournier), Anthropologie des usages sociaux et culturels du corps [special issue], Journal des anthropologues, 112–113.
  • 2008, Echanges agonistiques et confrontations sportives face à la violence, Esporte e Sociedade, 7 (1): 1–15.
  • 2006 ed., Sports à risque, corps du risque [special issue], Ethnologie française, 36 (4).


Publications available at the Éric-de-Dampierre library

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Mis à jour le 24 October 2016

Maître de conférences, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, UFR des sciences et techniques des activités physiques et sportives (STAPS)
[Associate Professor/Senior Lecturer]