logo Sphere
Logo Université Paris-Diderot Logo Université Paris1-Panthéon-Sorbonne


On this website

On the whole CNRS Web

Home > Seminars > The “Arts of Thinking” Mathematics: introduction and case studies in Ethnomathematics

Axis Interdisciplinarity in History and Philosophy of Science

The “Arts of Thinking” Mathematics: introduction and case studies in Ethnomathematics

This seminar is the continuity of "Practices, Artefacts and Mathematics: Ethnomathematics, Anthropology, History."

What do we have to gain epistemologically by broadening our point of view on mathematics by including all activities of an “arithmetic”, “geometric” or even “algorithmic” nature (braiding, divination, navigation, games, music, etc.), practiced in the past and / or nowadays in various societies? First, the seminar will address this central question of ethnomathematics by introducing the work carried out over the past few decades in this young interdisciplinary field. Secondly, we will present current research aimed at studying different mathematical practices involved in procedural / technical (textile production, string games, paper folding), musical, and counting activities.

Organized by: Éric Vandendriessche (SPHere, CNRS) [referent], Marc Chemillier (EHESS, CAMS), Sophie Desrosiers (EHESS, Centre de recherches historiques CRH)

This seminar is organised in collaboration EHESS / SPHERE

2012–2013, 2013–2014,
2014–2015, 2015–2016,
2016–2017, 2017–2018,

SCHEDULE 2020-2021

Sessions at EHESS, 105 bd Raspail, 75006 Paris) on Thursdays, 1 to 5 p.m, Room 9

IMPORTANT: Due to the current health situation, the sessions will take place by webconference.

To participate in several sessions of the seminar, please register on the listsem platform:

In the case of a one-off participation, we thank you to write to Eric Vandendriessche (eric.vandendriessche ( at ) latest 24h before the session.

January 14 January 28 February 11 March 11 March 25 April 8 May 6

Session 1 : January 14, 2021

  • Sophie Desrosiers (EHESS), Marc Chemillier (EHESS) et Eric Vandendriessche (CNRS) : Présentation du séminaire, suivie d’une introduction aux Différents courants de l’ethnomathématique

Session 2 : January 28

  • Eric Vandendriessche (CNRS, SPHere), Marc Chemillier (EHESS, CAMS)
    Les différents courants de l’ethnomathématique, 2

Session 3 : February 11

  • Sophie Desrosiers (EHESS), Flavia Carraro (doctor in anthropology (LAS/Paris 8), researcher corr. of the Centre Norbert Elias and ArScAn), Eric Vandendriessche (CNRS, SPHere) :
    Idées mathématiques et constructions textiles

Session 4 : March 11

  • Lisa Rougetet (Centre François Viète, University of Bretagne Occidentale)
    Les activités de pliage de papier dans les ouvrages de récréations mathématiques (XVIIe – XVIIIe) : entre géométrie et amusement
    This contribution, prepared in collaboration with Michael Friedman (Humboldt University, Berlin), aims to show how paper folding activities were integrated into recreational mathematics in the 17th and 18th centuries. We will show, through various works of mathematical recreation published in France and Germany, the main traditions which favored the integration of paper folding in this area, namely the folding of napkins and fabrics for tableware, and the representation of regular polyhedra by their patterns, introduced by Albrecht Dürer in 1525. We will then see how these activities made it possible to acquire certain geometric knowledge in a way that was both visual and tactile.
  • Sophie Desrosiers (EHESS) & Eric Vandendriessche (CNRS)
    Atelier d’ethnomathématique, 1

Session 5 : March 25

  • Marc Chemillier (EHESS), Rosalia Martinez (Ethnomusicologist, Paris 8)
    Musique, mathématiques et textiles [title tbc]

Session 6 : April 8

  • Eric Vandendriessche (CNRS, SPHere), Agnès Henri (Inalco, Lacito), David Jabin, Céline Petit, (SPHere)
    Etude ethnomathématique et anthropologique des jeux de ficelle

Session 7 : May 6 ( !! Room 11 !! )

  • Arnaud Macé (University of Franche-Comte)
    Mathématiques militaires en Grèce ancienne d’Homère à Platon
    The official history of Greek mathematics seems to begin with the development of demonstrative methods, perhaps in the middle of the fifth century BC. J.-C. (see R. Netz, 1999, p. 272-277). However, we recognize in the testimonies which have come down to us from previous eras, different types of occupations manifesting a rudimentary mathematical dimension. Among these, little attention has been paid to the military use of arithmetic, as evidenced by the Homeric texts: ranking of men, division of the army into groups and sub-groups, breakdown of these into new units, manipulation of booty quantities to produce equal shares. However, it could be that on closer inspection, the "art of thinking" of the Homeric chiefs gives us the key to subsequent constructions, such as the political project of the Laws of Plato where the city is fashioned around the number 5040, of so that it lends itself precisely to the familiar manipulations in Homer.
  • Sophie Desrosiers (EHESS) & Eric Vandendriessche (CNRS)
    Atelier d’ethnomathématique, 2