Luc de Heusch (1927-2012)

The well known Belgian ethnographic film-maker Luc de Heusch started his career as a poet who was part of the CoBrA group (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam). He later fell under the influence of Claude Lévi-Strauss as well as Marcel Griaule and Jean Rouch. He was professor of anthropology at the Free University of Brussels, where he taught for nearly forty years from (1955-1992).

Strongly anti-colonialist in his political views, he directed the ‘Laboratory of Belief Systems & African Thought’. From 1987 to 1991 he was president of the scientific council for the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren near Brussels and was also president of the Henri Storck Foundation. It is as a film assistant to H. Storck in the late 1940s that he learnt to make ethnographic documentaries. 

Along with his good friend Jean Rouch, de Heusch was one of the most prominent advocates of visual anthropology, especially in his role as deputy secretary general of CIFE (the International Committee on Ethnographic Film – which, at the instigation of Edgar Morin, became CIFES in 1958 with the addition of the adjective ‘sociological’). It was Morin who wrote the preface to de Heusch’s groundbreaking UNESCO publication Cinema and Social Sciences: A Survey of Ethnographic and Sociological Film.

Luc de Heusch was elected as a member of Belgium’s Royal Academies for Science & the Arts. 

Select Filmography:

Fête chez les Hamba (1955), Les gestes du repas (1958), Les amis du plaisir (1961), Jeudi on chantera comme dimanche (1967), Tracking the pale fox (1984), Quand j’étais Belge (1999).

Select Bibliography:

1958. Essais sur le symbolisme de l’inceste royal en Afrique, Brussels: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles.

1962. The Cinema and Social Science. A Survey of Ethnographic and Sociological Films. Paris: UNESCO.

1966. Le Rwanda et la civilisation interlacustre. Études d’anthropologie historique et structurale. Brussels: Université Libre de Bruxelles.

1981. Why Marry Her? Society and Symbolic Structures (trans. by J. Lloyd). Cambridge: Univ. Press.

1982. The Drunken King, or, The Origin of the State (trans by R. Willis). Bloomington: Indiana.

1982. Rois nés d’un cœur de vache. Mythes et rites bantous II. Paris: Gallimard, Coll. Les Essais.

1985. Sacrifice in Africa: A Structuralist Approach (trans. by L. O’Brien & A. Morton). Manchester: Univ. Press.

1987. Ecrits sur la royauté sacrée. Bruxelles: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles.

2002. Du pouvoir: Anthropologie politique des sociétés d’Afrique centrale. Nanterre: Société d’ethnologie.

 

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