Category Archives: Culture (VEN)

When comic books meet sociology

Sociorama – Les Nouvelles de la Jungle de Calais
Lisa Mandel and Yasmine Bouagga
Éditions Casterman, 2017
(Published in French)
Cover : © Editions Casterman S.A./Lisa Mandel and Yasmine Bouagga

Publisher’s note

The Sociorama series is where comic books meet sociology. On one side, you have sociologists who happen to love comic books and founded the Socio en cases association; on the other, comic book authors curious about sociology. Together, they came up with an original approach: to produce neither literal adaptation nor anecdote, but fiction based on the reality of the field. Any resemblance is not entirely coincidental…

In Les Nouvelles de la Jungle de Calais, Lisa (the artist) and Yasmine (the sociologist) visited the Calais “jungle” over the course of one year. With humour – and without descending into miserabilism – they depict the daily work of organisations easing the plight of thousands of men, women and children fleeing war. A field survey that sheds light on how refugees are welcomed in France, the land of human rights… Continue reading

Climate change as captured in literature

The Great Derangement. Climate Change and the Unthinkable
Amitav Ghosh
University of Chicago Press, 2016

Publisher’s note

It all starts with a simple question: why is climate change absent from contemporary literature?

The climate crisis is a new kind of event and one that is difficult to comprehend because it is incompatible with the narratives and imagination that have shaped our world. This phenomenon is the rebuttal of our modern tales, our stories and our myths. Ghosh therefore invites us to embark on a thorough reshaping of our narrative frameworks. Firstly, by calling for another type of literature, liberated from this immutable Nature and confined to the background of human actions. Secondly, by rewriting the history of modernity so as to dispel the myth of industrialisation driven solely by the countries of the North. Finally, by questioning the Nation-States, whose imperial structures are inseparable from the profligate consumption of energy that causes global warming. Continue reading

An A to Z of project management

La gestion de projets de développement international et d’action humanitaire
Sophie Brière, Yves Poulin, Yvan Conoir, Stéphanie Maltais et Isabelle Auclair
Presses de l’Université Laval
Second edition, 2021
(Published in French)

Publisher’s note

Designed with a management approach, this book lists and documents all the phases of the international development and humanitarian project life cycle. The guide’s rigorous approach provides a comprehensive and up-to-date vision of project management concepts, methods and implementation tools, and simultaneously tackles international development and humanitarian work. The emphasis is deliberately placed on the skills and roles of the people who propose, manage, monitor and assess projects. The book will inform the training and vocational practices of anyone looking to become involved in humanitarian work and international development. Continue reading

No Way Out, a multimedia documentary on the 10 years of war in Syria

Ten years after the start of the war in Syria, 6.6 million people have been displaced by the fighting and violence tearing the country apart. One and a half million of them have found refuge in the Idlib region, the last enclave held by the rebels, which is overcrowded and regularly bombed. The multimedia documentary No Way Out, produced by Médecins Sans Frontières, retraces the exile of a few of them and the extreme violence they were victims or witnesses of. Based on ten testimonies of displaced Syrian men and women collected in Idlib, as well as on archive footage from Syrian photographers and journalists, the documentary presents the conflict in Syria through the faces and words of those who lived through it, collects their stories and bears witness to the limitless violence they have experienced over the past ten years.

To discover the documentary in English, click here.

A multimedia documentary produced by Médecins Sans Frontières and directed by Abdulmonam Eassa, Mohammad Ghannam and Agnès Varraine-Leca thanks to the photographic work of Ameer al-Halbi, Baraa al-Halabi, Sameer al Doumy, Mohamad Abazeed, Tarek Baderkhan and Thaer Mohammed, as well as recent images by Abdul Majeed Al Qareh and Omar Hajj Khaddour.

You can also find the photo essay by Abdulmonam Eassa “In the closed door of Eastern Ghouta” in issue 12 of Humanitarian Alternatives.

Photo (top): An inhabitant of the Jobar district carries a water can on his bicycle through the destroyed buildings, Damascus, March 2016. © Sameer al Doumy

40 years of Médecins du Monde

La belle histoire
Boris Martin
Éditions Médecins du Monde, 2020
[Published in French]

Publisher’s note

2020 marks Médecins du Monde’s 40th anniversary. The age of maturity, perhaps, and above all the occasion to go back to the founding principles of the association, to review the memorable episodes of its history and to highlight the key elements of its action, which were stated four decades ago.

“To go where others will not, to testify to the intolerable, and to volunteer”. Such was the declaration of faith contained in the “oath of equals”, signed by forty-three people one day in 1980 in an amphitheatre in the Broussais hospital in Paris. The assembly, which included Biafran veterans, disillusioned members of Médecins Sans Frontières, the young guard from the Île de lumière operation in the South China Sea, doctors, journalists and photographers, gave rise to a newcomer in the little family of French humanitarian aid. A mix of militant determinism, triumphant enthusiasm and good-natured improvisation: Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) was born.

The author is the Editor-in-Chief of the Humanitarian Alternatives review.

Translated from the French by Juliet Powys

40 years of Solidarités International

Aider plus loin. 40 ans de crises, 40 ans d’actions
Pierre Brunet and Tugdual de Dieuleveult
Éditions Autrement, 2020
[Published in French]

Publisher’s note

Afghanistan, 1980. Faced with the war imposed by the Soviet invasion, a group of young French people set off to help the population. Crossing the border illegally, on foot or on horseback, they brought aid to the remotest regions. This unprecedented humanitarian engagement gave rise to Solidarités International. Forty years later, the NGO is active is eighteen countries, wherever there is need. It also helps more than 4 million beneficiaries every year, victims of wars, epidemics or natural disasters. This book is an account of these forty years of actions, including texts by its founder Alain Boinet and his travelling companions – Gérard d’Aboville, Patrice Franceschi, Bernard Kouchner, Bernard Pivot –, but also by those in danger and by field teams. It also sheds light on new challenges linked to the future of humanitarian aid. It is the story of an exceptional human adventure, a daring response to the numerous crises that are shaking up the world.

Translated from the French by Juliet Powys

History against the grain

Pierre Singaravélou, Karim Miské and Marc Ball
Éditions du Seuil, 2020
[Published in French]

Publisher’s note

Decolonisation began on the first day of colonisation. From the arrival of the first Europeans, the people of Africa and Asia rose up. No one accepts domination lightly. But in order to win one’s freedom back one day, one first had to stay alive. Faced with the Europeans’ machine guns, the struggle of the colonised people took on other forms: from civil disobedience to the Communist Revolution, by way of football and literature. The combat was characterised by infinite patience and a determination without bounds. This long struggle is the subject of this book, which, giving an account of the proliferation of university research, foremost offers a new and engaging narrative. It is an unforgettable saga that reveals the unknown or forgotten heroes and heroines of this painful story: Manikarnika Tambe, the queen of Jhansi who led her troops into battle against the British in India; Mary Nyanjiru, the insurgent from Nairobi; Lamine Senghor, the Senegalese infantryman turned anticolonial militant in Paris. Throughout the pages, we meet more familiar characters too: the Algerian Kateb Yacine, the Indian Gandhi, the Vietnamese Giap and Ho Chi Minh. Thanks to them, a wind of resistance swept across the world and resulted in the independence of nearly all of the colonies in the 1960s. But at what cost? In Indira Gandhi’s atomic India, in the Congo subjected to the dictatorship of Mobutu; or in London shaken by riots amongst young immigrants, this history of decolonisation demonstrates how important it is to tell this story today.

Translated from the French by Juliet Powys

Alternative approach of change

Development, Humanitarian Aid, and Social Welfare. Social Change from the Inside Out
Cornelia Walther
Palgrave Pivot, 2020

Humanitarian Work, Social Change, and Human Behavior. Compassion for Change
Cornelia Walther
Palgrave Pivot, 2020

Publisher’s note

The first book examines how human behaviour is shaped by our aspirations, emotions, thoughts and sensations, and conversely, how the experiences that result from our behaviour impact ourselves, others and the planet. Based on an analysis of the constant interplay between these four layers, it offers practical solutions to systematically induce sustainable social change dynamics. It shows why change, in addition to economic and political transformation at the macro level, begins with mind-shifts at the micro level. Hereby it establishes the missing link between investments in personal empowerment and collective welfare. A novel theoretical paradigm is the foundation of this book, which is anchored in the perspective of an ongoing “body-mind-heart-soul connection”. Based on the premise that an equitable society is to the benefit of everyone, it is argued that efforts made for others have benefits at three levels – for the individual who acts, the one who has been acted for and for society.

The second book is based on the view that human existence results from the interplay of four dimensions: mind, heart, body and soul, which find their expression in thoughts, emotions, sensations and aspirations. By combining theory and praxis, including personal lessons learned during the author’s two decades of humanitarian work in emergency areas, the book’s goal is to make the reader understand (thought), feel (emotion), experience (sensation) and want to be part of a paradigm shift that is geared toward local and global change (aspiration). It introduces a methodology to optimise the interplay between individuals and the institutions and societies in which they work, raise families and pursue their dreams. Further, it seeks to reposition purpose at the centre of both everyday life as well as humanitarian institutions. The book’s central message is that a better world is not, and should not be, abstract and abstruse, but something that lies in everyone’s hands.