Lescarbot's Noble Savage and Anthropological Science

Ter Ellingson

in The Myth of the Noble Savage

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2001 | ISBN: 9780520222687
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520925922 | DOI:
Lescarbot's Noble Savage and Anthropological Science

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The Noble Savage is obviously a legal concept, a technical analysis of the legal status of “savage” peoples from the standpoint of comparative law. For those conditioned by folklore and more than a century of professional polemic masquerading as history, the blatant contradiction between this historical evidence and the myth of Rousseauian “romantic naturalism” must give rise to feelings of shock and denial. However, Lescarbot's construction of the Noble Savage offered at least a partial solution to the greatest ethnological problem of the age of discovery, that of comparative negation, often expressed through the metaphor of savage nakedness. This chapter argues that the concept of the Noble Savage did indeed exist, and in fact was brought into existence together with the call for the foundation of an anthropological science.

Keywords: Mark Lescarbot; France; India; savage nakedness; Rousseau; comparative negation; anthropological science

Chapter.  6347 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural Anthropology

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