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The scholarly inscriptions of Maximilien Sorre (1880-1962) between conformation and differentiation in geography





Maximilien Sorre (1880-1962) promoted human ecology in geography. From his thesis, entitled Les Pyrénées méditerranéennes. Étude de géographie biologique (1913), to his 1943 essay Les fondements biologiques de la géographie humaine. Essai d’une écologie de l’homme, his work focuses on the relationships between human beings and the living environment. Thus he distinguishes himself from other geographers because of the diversity and originality of his preoccupations: lifestyles (“genres de vie”), illnesses, diet, urban climate, “artificial environments”, etc. In doing so, he is part of numerous learned networks – of biologists, doctors, sociologists and psychologists. His written works also differentiate themselves because they have a general and speculative dimension, while his contemporaries often favour a regional approach. Nevertheless, the scholar is fully involved in the places of knowledge of his time. He is a professor at the university of Lille between the wars, the author of some volumes for Géographie Universelle, he then holds a chair at the Sorbonne and directs Annales de Géographie in the 1940s, Maximilien Sorre ends his career as the head of Centre of Sociological Research. The brilliant, yet traditional nature of his path contrasts with the relative singularity of his interests. Therefore this biographical study attempts to grasp the tension or the coexistence between these different learned inscriptions, to reflect on the articulation, during his lifetime, between a principle of conformation – or reproduction – and a principle of wishing to stand out, thus enabling scientific innovation.

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