Anne-Marie Dedouits – 2004
Anne-Marie Desdouits, professor at Laval, is the recipient of this year’s Marius Barbeau Prize. The approach which best characterizes her work is what brought her to Canada in the first place: the understanding of her own culture in comparison with others.
She first arrived from France in 1981 to do her doctorate research, comparing the traditions of her native Normandy to those of French Canada. She defended her dissertation in France in 1984, at which point she began a second Ph.D. at Laval, with the same comparative approach. She obtained that degree in 1985, and it was the contribution of her comparative approach which gained her notice from both the scientific world and the general public.
She was named professor of ethnology/folklore at Laval in 1988 and has since headed research projects in her two specialised fields of study: folksong and, more particularly, folk rituals. She undertook an extensive research project on rituals which received both federal and provincial grants and which brought together scholars from Laval, the Universities of Chicoutimi and Trois-Rivières, within the Interuniversity Institute of Research on Populations (IREP). Within the framework of this project, she directed several graduate students from the very first year on. In all, ten students began their Ph.D. under her supervision and more than half completed their dissertation. She has also supervised an equivalent number of M.A. theses.
A succession of research grants associated with this project from the governments of Canada, Québec and France have allowed her work to be influential in many directions, particularly with the addition of a SSHRCC grant on wedding songs. Anne-Marie Desdouits has presented papers at countless national and international conferences; she has been invited as a lecturer to France and the United States, and has published numerous journal articles and books. Her first two publications, La vie traditionnelle au pays de Caux et au Canada français. Le cycle des saisons (1987), and Le monde de l’enfance. Traditions du pays de Caux et du Québec (1990), which came out of her two doctoral dissertations, were published jointly by the CNRS in France and the Presses de l’Université Laval in Québec. The third, prepared in collaboration with Laurier Turgeon, Ethnologies francophones de l’Amérique et d’ailleurs (1997), is a collection of papers presented at the international colloquium which marked the fiftieth anniversary of the chair of Folklore inaugurated at Laval University in 1944. This book has taken its place as a basic text for the understanding of the discipline, particularly from a French standpoint.
Anne-Marie Desdouits’ scientific influence has extended to Regina, where, in 2002, she conducted research on the rites of passage in contemporary societies, and to Russia, when the Québec-Moscow Research Centre invited her to give a series of conferences and seminars to students, both on rituals and Québec folksong.
One of Anne-Marie Desdouits’ latest major contributions to the discipline in French Canada will have lasting influence on academia: in collaboration with the Anthropology department of Laval, and working closely with Nancy Schmitz, she set up a new B.A. programme in Anthropology and Ethnology/Folklore, which has been offered at Laval since September 2001. This programme gives students a grounding the the complementary approaches of the two disciplines and opens opportunities for ethnologists in response to contemporary societal demands.
Anne-Marie Desdouits has also contributed her specialised knowledge to the museum world by sitting on several scientific exhibition committees for museums such as the Musée de la civilisation in Québec. She participated in a series of programmes presented by Radio-Canada and Radio-Canada International on the theme of History through Song (in France and in Canada) in her capacity as specialist of the songs of French Canada.