Home / Events / The prophetic speech.Intuition, Forecast, Reform


The prophetic speech.Intuition, Forecast, Reform

10 dec 2020 09:00 - 11 dec 2020 19:00
IEA de Paris
17 Quai d'Anjou
75004 Paris

International conference organized by Pierre Pénet, sociologist and former Paris IAS Fellow, as part of the D’Alembert Paris-Saclay / Paris IAS Chair, with the support of Paris-Saclay University.

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Free entry upon registration (see Form at the bottom of the page). The registration is nominative and individual, it does not correspond to a seat reservation. It gives you priority access within the limit of available places.


Prophecies have now become inescapable in the public debate. In recent years, they have generated considerable interest and debate among experts and policymakers in finance, environmental science and health policy. Self-proclaimed prophets (or individuals designated as such by third parties) produce alarmist declarations warning of an impending threat. Prophetic themes capture the popular imagination, arousing curiosity, incomprehension but also distrust. Some adhere to prophetic discourses, viewing them as a boon and a political lever to change mentalities. Others see them as a symptom of irrationality or obscurantism. If the prophetic speech surprises, challenges and sometimes disarms us, it is perhaps because the modern Era was thought to be immune to the eschatological discourses propagated during Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Contrary to expectations, the prophetic speech seems to thrive particularly well in our present time.

The objective of this symposium is to reflect on the prophetic speech, its modes of expression and reception and its transformative effects on societies. This event comes at a time of multiplying crises (financial crises, health and environmental disasters, not to mention the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic). Such adverse events and conditions has caused renewed interest among the general public and policymakers for the themes of risk forecasting and anticipatory knowledge. In academic research, prophets and prophecies are an emerging object of inquiry but available studies remain scattered across disciplinary lines. Research heterogeneity and the relative lack of communication between disciplines is detrimental to the cumulativity of knowledge. Reflecting the interdisciplinary tradition of the Paris Institute for Advanced Study, this symposium aims to advance a common analytical and methodological framework for studying prophecies and to make prophetic studies a specific domain of research.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

09:00 - 10:00 Introduction

Saadi Lahlou (Director of the Paris Institute for Advanced Study)
Pierre Pénet (Sociology, University of Geneva / Institute for Advanced Study)

10:00 - 13:00
Session 1: Prophetic speech and imagination

Discussant: Frédéric Lebaron (Sociology, École normale supérieure, Paris Saclay)
Ariel Colonomos (Political Science, CERI-SciencesPo)
Emmanuelle Danblon (Linguistics, Université libre de Bruxelles)
François Denord (Sociology, CSE-EHESS)
Jean-Baptiste Fressoz (History, CRH-EHESS)

14:30 - 17:30
Session 2: Return on experience: the prophets of the 2008 financial crisis

Discussants: Éric Monnet (Economics, EHESS, Paris School of Economics) and Isabelle Strauss-Kahn (former Banque de France and World Bank economist)
Marc Faber (financial analyst, Editor and Publisher of “The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report”)
Paul Jorion (Anthropology and Sociology, Lille Catholic University)
Steve Keen (Economics, University College London)
Ann Pettifor (Economics, Political Economy Research Centre at City, University of London)

17:45 - 18:00
Closing words

Ariel Weil (Mayor of the Paris Centre arrondissement and Senior Vice President at Moody’s Investors)

18:00 - 18:45
Keynote speaker (1)

Jens Beckert (Sociology, Director of the Max Planck Institute, Cologne))

Friday, December 11, 2020

10:00 - 13:00
Session 3: Prophetic action

Discussant: Pierre Pénet (Sociology, University of Geneva / Institute for Advanced Study)
Francis Chateauraynaud (Sociology, GSPR-EHESS)
Jean-Paul Engélibert (Comparative Literature, University Bordeaux-Montaigne)
Michaël Fœssel (Philosophy, University of Burgundy and École Polytechnique)
Erik Swyngedouw (Geography, University of Manchester)

14:30 - 17:30
Session 4: Prophets and prophecies in historical perspective

Discussant: Sylvain Piron (History, CRH-EHESS)
Sylvie Barnay (History, University of Lorraine)
Claudine Gauthier (Anthropology, Université de Bordeaux IIAC-LAHIC)
Lionel Obadia (Anthropology, University of Lyon)
André Vauchez (History, Paris-X Nanterre)

18:00 - 18:15
Closing words

18:15 - 19:00
Keynote speaker (2)

Bruno Latour (Sociology, Medialab-Sciences Po))

Free entry upon registration (see Form at the bottom of the page). The registration is nominative and individual, it does not correspond to a seat reservation. It gives you priority access within the limit of available places.

10 December 2020, 09:00 - 13:00
10 December 2020, 14:30 - 18:45
11 December 2020, 10:00 - 13:00
11 December 2020, 14:30 - 19:00
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11 Dec 2020 19:00
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