Charles Marius Barbeau’s Ethnography and the Canadian Folklore

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Charles Marius Barbeau’s Ethnography and the Canadian Folklore Born on 5 March 1883, in Sainte-Marie-de-Bauce, Charles Marius Barbeau is widely seen as the first Canadian educated anthropologist. He graduated from Université Laval in Québec, from his studies of law, in 1907; he never practised law. Upon graduating, Marius was awarded – as the first French-Canadian recipient – the Cecil Rhodes scholarship which allowed him to study at Oxford University where he was introduced to the emerging field of Anthropology. « Je [voulais] savoir comment l’homme a été créé » he later explained to Marcel Rioux. (Benoît 1959a) During his stay in Europe, Marius also attended classes at the Sorbonne’s École des Hautes Études and at the École…show more content…
But his sometimes contradicting statements require a more precise study, so we will simply present his main positions, and state some of the opposing points without thoroughly analysing them. Marcel Mauss – whose classes Barbeau attended – concludes in a 1902 document on ethnographic method: « En somme, rester cantonnés sur le terrain des faits religieux et sociaux, ne rechercher que les causes immédiatement déterminantes, renoncer à des théories générales qui sont peu instructives ou qui n'expliquent que la possibilité des faits, ce sont là plutôt des actes de prudence méthodique que des négations scientifiques. » (Mauss 1902) In the same line of thought, Franz Boas – the famous American anthropologist, also a contemporary of Barbeau – stresses the need to focus on collecting data. He even criticizes social and anthropological theory makers. (See Boas 1920) Barbeau was, at the beginning of his career, much influenced by these ideas. He collected data on many aboriginal societies – mainly of the Northwest Coast, of Québec and of the North of the USA – and later, at the suggestion of Boas, he started recording folk songs, legends and myths from French-Canadians. But we will see that Barbeau did advance some quite controversial theories later in his career. This collecting of folkloric data opened Barbeau’s eyes to the need to salvage the cultures of Native and French Canadians alike. « Fortement inspiré par l’ethnologie de la

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