Towner Fellows’ Lounge
Lafitau is known as the discoverer of American ginseng (panax quinquefolius) and a precursor to scientific anthropology. His richly illustrated Mœurs des sauvages amériquains comparées aux mœurs des premiers temps (1724) offers unparalleled insights into Iroquois life, an innovative method of cultural comparison and testifies to the author’s aspiration to create a “science of customs”. Yet Lafitau’s production of knowledge is inscribed within an apologetic agenda and his preoccupation with religion has curtailed his reception ever since. Andreas Motsch’s talk addresses this paradox, explains his arguments in their historical context and argues for a reassessment of the author and his work.