New Research Project
Traces of generosity:
Philanthropy between the desire to leave a trace and collective memory
* An analysis of the relationship to time: looking towards the future
This project aims to understand philanthropy by focusing on the relationship donors have with time. Many researches have analyzed the relationship elites have to the past, showing their strategies of transmission, heritage management, attention to inheritance and lineages. Few studies, on the other hand, are interested in the relationship elites have with the future of elites, in terms of influence or impact. Studying the material traces of philanthropy makes it possible to understand the particular relationship donors maintain with the future, starting with the ways they project themselves into the future and the traces they wish to leave.
* The material traces of generosity: benefits as a form of eternity?
To examine the relationship that donors have with time, we will focus on “what is left” once the donation is made. Indeed, many institutions offer donors material benefits, including donor plaques, nominal or multiple, but also benches, statues, buildings bearing the names of the donor for 10, 20, 100 years. When the donor dies, the name - and the plaque bearing that name - remains. There is also the question of the appropriation of public goods by private actors – by attaching their names to buildings belonging to the nation. Thus, based on the study of the various inscriptions of philanthropic donations in the urban, institutional, social and patrimonial space, this research aims to better understand the imaginary and symbolic logics of philanthropy, but also to grasp, through concrete cases, the negotiations between donors and philanthropic professionals around the question of mentioning their names in the projects.
*Objects, a key element of philanthropy: various methods
Objects and inscriptions thus represent an important issue for donors, but also for the institutions that offer them. We will analyze several elements, using a variety of methods, combining ethnography and interviews:
1) An ethnography of philanthropic materiality
To study the materiality of the plaques and other objects: the form, the material used, the spelling, the location - To analyze the presentation of self that it supposes.
2) Interviews with patrons
To study the relationship between donors and these objects (whatever it is - a plate, a building) and how this expresses a specific relationship to time.
3) Interviews with philanthropy professionals
To ask philanthropy professionals about what is at stake with these objects and the negotiations they carry out around them
To view archives about these objects
* Fields in which this search is inserted
– Sociology of elites
– Sociology of culture
– Sociology of Philanthropy
– Anthropology of objects
– Anthropology / sociology of time
– History, relation to the past, traces