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Ludovic Coupaye

Ludovic Coupaye

Tel:  +44 (0)20 7679 8642

Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 8632


Room: 141

Main Interests

  • Anthropology of Art (Pacific, general)
  • Anthropology of Techniques and Technology (Mauss, Leroi-Gourhan, Lemonnier)
  • Papua New Guinea, Sepik
  • Museum ethnography (collections, display, exhibitions)

General Interests

Areas: Melanesia, Polynesia, Australia, Africa (Mali, Madagascar)

Topics: exchanges, rituals, magic, food, aesthetics, materials, environment, heritage, innovation, methodology, history of theories.

Approaches: archaeology and ethno-archaeology, art history, Science and Technology Studies, Frankfurt School, non-linear theory, structuralism/post-structuralism, praxeology, ergonomy, cognition.

Past and Present Research

My main field research is in Oceania, and I did fieldwork in the Sepik area of Papua New Guinea. My doctoral thesis dealt with the cultivation and display of the Abelam’s long yams in Maprik area.

My research interests so far have focused on the study of the relationships between people and things through two related angles: techniques and arts, especially in the Pacific area (mainly Melanesia, Polynesia and Australia). This implies investigating knowledge, materials and skills as well as addressing dimensions such as rituals and aesthetics in relation to social dynamics and environment.

Following Mauss’s footsteps, my approaches combine Francophone anthropology of techniques (Leroi-Gourhan, Lemonnier), with Anglophone material culture studies, as well as archaeological and ethno-archaeological approaches. Other theoretical interests include the history of anthropology, notably the relationships between the different anthropological traditions, regarding the treatment of material culture and art.

Incoming book: Growing Artefacts, Displaying Relationships: Yams, Art and Technology amongst the Abelam of Papua New Guinea (Berghahn Books).

Based on my study of the decorated long yams of the Abelam in a contemporary Papua New Guinea village, my book asks the following question: “How does one make artefacts beautiful and powerful enough to act simultaneously as symbols, valuables and images?”  Through the combination of anthropology of material culture, anthropology of art and anthropology of techniques, I unravel the process of making, decorating and displaying these long yams, and I show how this process merge agricultural techniques, social interactions, and cosmological knowledge. In the course of the book, after discussing the debated positions of techniques and arts within anthropological studies, I also address theoretical issues on agency of art, technology and determinism, as well as on exchanges, rituals and aesthetics.


Ludovic Coupaye teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate levels the course on Technology of a Selected Region, entitled: Transforming and Creating the World: Anthropological Perspectives on Techniques and Technology.

He also currently teaches anthropology of Pacific arts at the École du Louvre in Paris, France.

Other Affiliations

He is a Research Associate to the Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur l’Océanie (CREDO, UMR 6574, Université de Provence) in Marseille, France, and to the Sainsbury Research Unit, at UEA, Norwich.

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UCL Anthropology, 14 Taviton Street, London, WC1H 0BW Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 8633