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Session R

Between Spaces, Time and Cultural Traditions: (Re)Thinking Prehistoric Nomadic Territories

Facilitators: Béatrice COLLIGNON (Passages), Vincent DELVIGNE (PACEA & Université de Liège) & Christophe TUFFÉRY (CITERES & Inrap)

Constructed by empirical, utilitarian (landscape management) and mystical (even sacred) perceptions of human societies, territories are intrinsically linked to the notion of temporality, inasmuch as their stability depends on the system of values that governs them. Thus, there is not one single mode of territorialisation (i.e. mechanism for the appropriation of space in the sense of “thinking about oneself” in relation to it), but rather multiple territorialisation processes underpinned by a range of factors that remain to be unravelled.
Thus, in contrast to the continuous, limited but shifting perception of space found in sedentary, Western, productivist societies (where each point in space belongs to a physical or legal entity), nomadic populations have a discontinuous, open and permanent perception of space where only the significant places along clearly-identified routes (itineraries) are worthy of being named and thus appropriated. This meshed view of space –made up of points, lines and emptiness– is diametrically opposed to that of the (pre)historian who, conditioned by his/her own culture has invented centralised prehistoric nation states structured around centres (sites) from which various forms of knowledge emanated. In order to counter this approach –which has focused on the study of sites by exaggerating the development of site-centric models–, an epistemological shift is needed, based on a phenomenological approach to territory, which would prioritise the study of inter-site relations and the development of reticular approaches.
This session will adopt this perspective, with the objective of better defining the concepts and tools specific to the notion of “nomadic territories”. It is thus an excellent opportunity to obtain contributions from geographers, prehistorians, ethnologists, anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists on this topic, thus allowing interdisciplinary approaches to be weighed against one another so that they can be more effectively applied to evidence about the past.


Territory, Social Organisation, Networks, Spatialities, Epistemology, Methodology, Phenomenology, Prehistory

Indicative bibliographical references

Bernus E., 1982, « Territoires nomades. Approches d’un géographe », Bulletin de l’équipe écologie et anthropologie des sociétés pastorales, n° 11, p. 84-90.
Bonnemaison J., 1986, Territoire, histoire et société dans l’archipel de Vanuatu. Essai de géographie culturelle, Paris, ORTOM [2 vol.].
Bracco J.-P., 2005, « De quoi parlons-nous ? Réflexions sur l’appréhension des territoires en Préhistoire paléolithique », in J. Jaubert & M. Barbaza (dir.), Territoires, déplacements, mobilités, échanges durant la Préhistoire. Terres et Hommes du Sud. Actes du 126e congrès nationaux des sociétés historiques et scientifiques (Toulouse, 2001), Paris, CTHS, p. 13-16.
Collignon B., 1996, Les Inuit. Ce qu’ils savent du territoire, Paris, L’Harmattan.
Collignon B., 2006, Knowing Places. The Inuinnait, Place Names and the Environment, Edmonton (CAN), University of Alberta press.
Debarbieux B., 2009, « Territoire-Territorialité-Territorialisation : aujourd’hui encore, et bien moins que demain », in M. Vanier (dir.), Territoires, territorialité, territorialisation. Controverses et perspectives. Actes des entretiens de la cité des Territoires (Grenoble, 7 et 8 juin 2007), Rennes, PUR, p. 19-30.
Delvigne V., 2016, Géoressources et expressions technoculturelles dans le sud du Massif central au Paléolithique supérieur : des déterminismes et des choix, thèse de doctorat, Université de Bordeaux.
Di Méo G., 1998, « De l’espace aux territoires : éléments pour une archéologie des concepts fondamentaux de la géographie », L’Information géographique, 62(3), p. 99-110.
Frérot A.M., 2011, Imaginaires des Sahariens, habiter le paysage, Paris, CTHS.
Glowczewski B., 1991, Du rêve à la loi chez les aborigènes. Mythes, rites et organisation sociale en Australie, Paris, PUF.
Valentin B., 2008, Jalons pour une paléohistoire des derniers chasseurs : XIVe-VIe millénaire avant J.-C., Paris, Publication de la Sorbonne.



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