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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Popular conceptions of ‘technology’ tend to associate that term with activities governed by science and involving important ‘hardware’ content, i.e., tools, devices, machines. Conversely, ‘technique’ would pertain to more mundane activities; built upon non-reflexive routines and implying more direct forms of engagements with materials. This view has been severely challenged for the last three decades. As stressed by Haudricourt (1964) and Sigaut (1987), the ‘technology’ label should more appropriately designate the ‘science of techniques’, which is above all ‘a science of human activities’. This article presents a short overview of the way in which social sciences reinvested the technical domain and renewed it with a more culturally oriented conception of techniques that included its religious and ritual dimensions. It summarizes some of the post-1970 anthropological contributions to the study of techniques. It presents a brief evocation of some questions generated by studies that seek to explore the symbolic dimensions of technical practices.

Keywords: techniques, social sciences, religion, rituals, technical practices

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