British Centre for Durkheimian Studies


On 7 March 1991, at the initiation of W.S.F. (Bill) Pickering, a group of interested academics met at St Antony’s College, Oxford, where he was a Senior Member, to consider forming a centre for the study of Emile Durkheim. The group included Philippe Besnard of Paris. With the help of Herminio Martins, fellow of St. Antony’s College, Bill Pickering had already organised a number of seminars on Durkheim in the College. At the meeting it was decided that such a centre should be created and Professor John Davis, head of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (commonly known as ISCA), indicated that the Centre would be welcome to make its home in the Institute. One of the reasons for accepting his offer was that the library of the Institute had a very good collection of books by and on Durkheim and his followers. There was also an historical connection for professors of the Institute, E.E. Evans-Pritchard and, later, Rodney Needham, as well as other teachers in the Institute, had led the way in introducing the work of Durkheim to the English-speaking world, through translations of  his work and that of some of his disciples.

The first committee meeting took place in ISCA on 25 October, 1991, when it was decided that what was to be called the British Centre for Durkheimian Studies should be initiated on a voluntary basis. Members agreed that it should go ahead straight away, with virtually no financial support. Bill Pickering was appointed as the secretary or organizer. Notices about the existence of the Centre were to be sent out to universities throughout Britain and to certain universities overseas. The Centre was to be governed by a committee with the professor of ISCA as its chairman.

Today the committee consists of about 12 members, a few of whom are from universities outside Oxford.

The first brochure that was printed and sent out to all British universities and institutes declared that the general aims of the Centre were to create:

  • A Centre with international links and interests where academics can find a common place of meeting.
  • A Centre which, in keeping with Durkheim's aims, encourages students of any discipline in the human and social sciences, including anthropology and sociology.
  • To promote English translations and publications.
  • To organize lectures, seminars and conferences.
  • To create up-to-date bibliographies.
  • To foster graduate students.

The work of the Centre and its achievements are given here.


What follows refers specifically to the British Centre of Durkheimian Studies. It is not related to Durkheim himself.

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