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de 18:30 à 22:00

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LEADING AMIDST CHAOS – Should We Develop “Shamanic” Abilities to Prepare for Future Pandemics? with Frédéric Keck

Virologists and ornithologists have learned to detect early warning signals by following birds, which are considered to be sentinels for disasters that will affect humans. Pandemic preparedness techniques...

Speakers: Frédéric Keck
Partners: l'Institut de l'ENS
Réservé aux membres
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Seminar series presented by l’Institut de l’École normale supérieure

Nine evening seminars from January to April 2022, rue d’Ulm et rue Gay-Lussac in Paris

Beginning with September 11th through to the current pandemic, a nearly continual series of upheavals have broken the frame of reference in which businesses have been accustomed to operating.

This seminar series offers a dozen leaders the opportunity to explore, in a small group and with an interdisciplinary panel of top-level researchers and experts, the driving forces of this structurally unstable moment that we are living through. These seminars will draw upon the insight of disciplines ranging from the cognitive sciences to political philosophy, as well as economics, anthropology, and sociology.

Along with the ever-increasing climate threat — which is rapidly undermining the basic tenants of the market economy — disruptions arising from the digital and biotechnology revolutions, and growing demographic imbalances, are added multiple sectoral or global crises: financial, social, geopolitical, and democratic crises; crises related to globalization, multilateralism, and values… Cyber threats. Growing radicalism. Health crises.

The seminars will first focus on understanding what distinguishes this critical mass of changes — specific to the 21st century — from the great crises of the past. Is this a series of temporary turmoil? Or is it an irreversible destabilization of the existing order? In the absence of a definitive answer, participants will come away with a more complete and deeper understanding of the fault lines which pervade their strategic and operational landscape.

The program will be primarily focused on the tools that leaders can use to increase their organization’s resilience — as well as their own. What are ways to cope? Are the lessons learned from previous crises a help or a handicap in preparing for future ones? How can we practice analyzing and acting judiciously in stressful or highly uncertain situations?

In broader terms, what signals should leaders and company representatives pay more attention to? What new skills or sensibilities should be developed by those responsible for guiding their organization’s path in this chaotic environment, riddled with Grey Swans — those predicted disasters which are nevertheless unpredictable in their timing and progression? 

These seminars, organized by the Institut de l’ENS in partnership with the Groupe d’études géopolitiques, publisher of Le Grand Continent, will include nine evening working sessions between 26 January and 5 April 2022, at rue d’Ulm and rue Gay-Lussac in Paris.


Frédéric Keck is CNRS research director at the Laboratoire d'anthropologie sociale (Collège de France).  A graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure and agrégé in philosophy, he was awarded the CNRS Bronze Medal in 2012 and directed the research department of the Quai Branly Museum between 2014 and 2018. His most recent book is Avian Reservoirs: Virus Hunters and Birdwatchers in Chinese Sentinel Posts (2020).

Program Committee

Daniel Andler – Gilles Gressani – Pierre Cohen-Tanugi

Session 6 – 16 March 2022

Should We Develop "Shamanic" Abilities to Prepare for Future Pandemics? Frédéric Keck Virologists and ornithologists have learned to detect early warning signals by following birds, which are considered to be sentinels for disasters that will affect humans. Pandemic preparedness techniques (sentinels, simulations, storage) mobilize an imaginary of wild and domestic animals in a way that escapes statistical rationality or risk calculation. Based on surveys concerning the management of avian flu in Hong Kong, the presentation will propose an anthropological reflection on pandemics and on the almost shamanic capacities that allow certain scientists to cross, in their own way, the species barriers in order to operate in a disrupted, vulnerable, and uncertain world. What can companies learn from their approach? 


Nine evening sessions (18:30 or 19h – 22:00)

At the l’École normale supérieure, 45 rue d’Ulm or 62bis rue Gay Lussac, Paris

 Participation in the entire program is 8 250 € without tax, or 9 900 € with tax per person. This includes enrollment fees, meals, and documents.

The number of participants is limited to 12.

Any health measures in place at the time will be strictly observed.

Payment may be sent to l’Institut de l'École normale (I-ENS), 45 rue d’Ulm, 75005 Paris. For additional information contact: [email protected] / tél : 01 46 33 67 14 and 07 82 70 83 60

The Institute of the École Normale Supérieure

The Institute of the École normale supérieure is a non-profit association (governed by the law of 1901).

It offers high-level leaders from the public and private sectors the opportunity to work with top researchers and experts through seminars that draw on a wide range of scientific and literary disciplines in order to gain insight into the emerging phenomena that will transform the strategic landscape of companies. 

Participants in these training sessions, who are generally responsible for managing the present but also for imagining the future of their organizations and preparing for their evolution, also find at the Institute opportunities to put their professional practice into perspective and to broaden the scope of their thinking.

The association's members are groups such as La Caisse des Dépôts, LVMH, L'Oréal, Hermès, MBDA, banks and insurance companies such as BNP Paribas, Cardif, or Lazard, international law firms such as Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, and investment companies such as Euris.

The ENS Institute does not aim to teach management techniques, but rather to offer training in areas where the development of personal reflection and culture must go hand in hand with the development of professional skills.

The Institute's directors firmly believe that the contribution of the sciences and humanities is more important than ever in preparing decision-makers to grasp the complexity of the world of tomorrow. 


The ENS Institute's mission is to forge links between companies and university research, particularly that which is carried out at the ENS. The Institute's budget is financed by member fees and by providing services. The Institute does not receive any subsidies and is therefore completely independent.

President : Dominique D'Hinnin 

Vice-president : Marc Mézard, Director of the Ecole normale supérieure

Treasurer: Jean Michel Mangeot

Director: Pierre Cohen-Tanugi