Abstract : The positions of the researcher expressed here are a response to epistemological doubt and methodological difficulties. The epistemological doubt arises from the conceptual blur that surrounds the term "anthropology"; the methodological difficulties are caused by the operationalizing - in my work on memory – of certain concepts inherited by the discipline, in particular those that concern the molar tropism of the social sciences. The argument is developed in three parts.
First, I deal, essentially, with the presentation of my epistemic posture. To assert such a posture supposes, at least, a theory of the discipline. After a critical inventory of the concurrent theories, I develop mine, by defending the idea that general anthropology has its own object: forms of sharing. At the same time, I resolve my epistemological doubt. After expressing my theoretical standpoint, the two additional parts of this paper are devoted to the ontology and epistemology of the object of general anthropology.
In the second part, entitled Fictions of the sharing?, I partially resolve my methodological difficulties. In four sections, I specify the way in which we anthropologists work on our object (forms of sharing). At the same time, I describe the "manufacture" of the concepts that are suppose to define forms of sharing (e.g., "collective memory", "cultural identity", "community", etc.) and their use within the rhetorical framework of sharing. From these two points of view (manufacture and use), the relevance of the concepts is far from obvious. This justifies the interrogative title given to this part of the paper. In fact, I adress the following thesis: if rhetoric specific to anthropological science maintains the fictions of sharing, it sometimes happens that it authorizes and ontologizes the sharing of fictions, although this tendency is currently opposed by the vast movement of the rehabilitation of the singular which today occupies our discipline.
In the third and last part, entitled Sharing of fictions, I explore more systematically this thesis, but from the point of view of common speech. I try to identify some of the objective and subjective conditions of sharing, by assessing hypotheses relating to the degree of relevance of holistic rhetorics. I deliberately excluded from my examination phenomena as important as language or a common history shared by the members of a group. I prefer the more hazardous route of exploring the methods of shared cognition under the effects of the following variables: size of the groups, the role of the “protomemory”, density of the public representations, intensity of the interactions and the permeability to doubt.
My principal thesis is that representations of sharing are increasingly more generous than real sharing. However, in a nominal group, this belief in sharing can become an objective clue of sharing, precisely when it is a shared belief. This belief supposes the use of a criterion of resemblance, essential cognitive resource at the time of any perception of sharing and not-sharing, whether the sharing or not-sharing is real or not. For this reason, it is important to imagine research programs that will make it possible to better understand the nature of this resource. This type of exercise poses many problems, the majority of which remain unresolved. Nevertheless, these problems open up many prospective avenues for research in cognitive anthropology which I explore at the end of this third part.