Paris Descartes University, Sorbonne Paris Cité, France
One of Michel de Certeau's great virtues was the attention he paid to other people, as Luce Giard reminds us in the book she edited in 1987, a year after his death. This is reflected in his work through a never ending search for otherness, his quest for an invisible presence. De Certeau was one of the great experts on mysticism, and his quest was close to that of earlier mystics in their constant search for the hidden presence of God. Himself a Jesuit, he followed the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, by which adherents apply prudence with respect to illusions, discernment of the meaning of life, and liberation of the self as a means of being more available to others. These characteristics are often also demanded of a social science researcher. They are that much more effective in de Certeau's work in that they are associated with physical and intellectual mobility.
Michel de Certeau was born in 1925. He traveled constantly between the provinces and Paris, between France and the Americas, between institutions – from the Jesuits to EHESS (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) in Paris, with stops at Berkeley and Université Paris VII – and, especially, between intellectual fields, from mystics like Jean Joseph Surin, a seventeenth-century Jesuit, to the exploration of daily routine and the ordinary life. These activities plunged him ...