Category Archives: Culture (VEN)

Internal borders

Paris Stalingrad
A film by Hind Meddeb, co-directed with Thim Naccache
Les Films du Sillage – Echo Films
2019, nationwide release (France) on 26 May 2021

It is a parallel space and time, a countercurrent running against the flow of passers-by strolling along the sunny Parisian canals that directors Hind Meddeb and Thim Naccache set out to film in the summer of 2016. This socially aware documentary provides insights into the daily life of exiles fleeing from wars in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Guinea, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. Forced to sleep on the streets on their arrival, these men and women congregate in makeshift camps around Stalingrad metro station, where their daily lives are punctuated by police raids and alterations to the urban space the City and State authorities have ordered to prevent foreigners gathering in public spaces. Paris Stalingrad depicts the police brutality and structural violence to which refugees in France are subjected, alongside the shortcomings of a dysfunctional administration and the abdication by the public services of their responsibilities, offloading them onto NGOs often resigned to the attacks being made on the duty of solidarity that they stand for. Against this disturbing background, we discover the harsh reality of life on the streets but also – amongst the anger, bitterness and shared moments of complicity – the solidarity of local residents as well as the resistance and resilience of a struggling community. Paris Stalingrad is not a comprehensive survey of the experiences of exiles in France, but rather a portrayal of these invisible people which questions, without providing all the answers, the role and the responsibility of a State that is now defending its borders from within the city itself.

Capucine Coninx • Coordination/Communication of Alternatives Humanitaires

Translated from the French by Fay Guerry

A review of the Middle East

Moyen-Orient : des guerres sans fin
Special review of the review Questions internationales
Issue 103-104, October 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many reviews, including ours, to adapt. Whereas Humanitarian Alternatives upended its editorial schedule to devote itself to the subject, the excellent Questions internationales review maintained its programme for an issue devoted to the Middle East. This is to be commended, since the “world event” that was playing out could not lead us to neglect all of the other subjects of interest which remained as relevant as ever in the world turned upside down by the virus. Continue reading

The practice of midwives in Benin and Burkina Faso through the prism of research

“Being a midwife in West Africa: Between sensory experiences, moral standards, socio-technical violence and affective constraints”
Yannick Jaffré and Isabelle L. Lange
Social Science & Medicine, Volume 276, May 2021

Abstract, by the authors

Despite a long history of maternal health programs, the quality of obstetric care and access to facility services remain inadequate in West Africa. Although several qualitative studies have described human resource and facility constraints impacting pregnancy care and the violent or disrespectful care of women during labour, the reasons behind these behaviours have not been elucidated. In order to understand midwives’ experiences with caregiving, in 2017-2018 we conducted interviews with twenty-four professional midwives in Benin and Burkina Faso and examined their perspectives on their profession, obstetric practices and personal lives. By including emotional, sensorial, linguistic and social elements, this paper shows important discordances between the proposals made by programs (such as rural postings and financial disbursement projects) and midwives’ socio-emotional duties and economic roles. The study also shows that midwives’ attitudes towards their patients are linked to their considering childbirth to be a moral act. Midwives’ mistreatment of women in labour corresponds to constant shifts between technical obstetric skills and value judgements concerning expressions of pain, sexuality and desire. In addition, midwives justify their violent practices through the urgency of the situation, especially during crowning. The provision of care and the effective implementation of maternal programs cannot be improved without taking these justifications into account and without constructing dialogues enabling midwives to reflect on their social and emotional constraints, their relationship to the sexuality of childbirth, and the reasons for their practices. We advocate for more methodical research and for midwifery training to include in-depth case studies such as this one which start from the practical difficulties midwives face, making it possible to improve the midwifery profession as it is lived and not as it is imagined by fragmented, ungrounded programs.

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Fraternity as the common good of humanity

La fraternité globale
Michel Joli
Éditions érès, 2020
(published in French)

Publisher’s note

In a Darwinian perspective, Michel Joli develops a conception of global fraternity as a benefit of evolution, a “common good of humanity”. It is the oldest manifestation of the social instinct that ensures the protection of the weakest, without distinction between groups. In this sense, it is an absolute necessity to preserve both the diversity and the unity of our species. Fraternity, a major anthropological asset, is indeed the only universal characteristic that unites all humans.

In this period of global crisis, the author highlights the urgency of taking fraternity out of the storeroom of accessories and ideologies, and to call upon it in its globality as an essential argument (and tool) to confront the excesses of capitalism. This political, philosophical, and ecological essay, well-documented and committed, opens up tangible avenues of inquiry to build our future society on new foundations.

Translated from the French by Juliet Powys
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A life of commitment alongside the “disenfranchised”

La dignité pour boussole. Un engagement avec ATD Quart Monde
Eugen Brand, interviews with Michel Sauquet
Éditions de l’Atelier/Éditions Quart Monde, 2020
(published in French)

Publisher’s note

What is the story of this man who carried the ATD Quart Monde mission, alongside others, for forty years, in the footsteps its founder, Joseph Wresinski?

Born in Switzerland, Eugen Brand first encountered the Movement at the age of 22 and became a permanent volunteer. He lived amongst families in great poverty and learned alongside them. This commitment would take him to Créteil, New York, Basel, Peru, Bolivia…

By way of these episodes in the life of Eugen Brand, his doubts and convictions, and his moments of companionship with Father Joseph, a history of the ATD Quart Monde is sketched out, in its trials and errors and its developments.

In this series of interviews, which would lead to a great friendship, Michel Sauquet and Eugen Brand exchange and share their experiences and questionings. Following Eugen Brand, this book enables us to understand and claim that the “disenfranchised” are the source and the motor of great transformations to be carried out within society.

Translated from the French by Juliet Powys

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The mother of all battles

L’humanitaire sous l’emprise du néolibéralisme
Bertrand Bréqueville
Preface by Boris Martin
Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer, 2021
(published in French)

The article below is a slightly modified version of the foreword that Boris Martin wrote for Bertrand Bréqueville’s book. Here, as with the work in question, Boris Martin expresses his opinions as an independent author and editor, and not as the editor-in-chief of the Humanitarian Alternatives review.

I could only take it as a compliment that Bertrand Bréqueville was so inspired by L’Adieu à l’humanitaire ?(1)Boris Martin, L’Adieu à l’humanitaire ? Les ONG au défi de l’offensive néolibérale, Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer, 2015. (“Farewell to humanitarian aid?”) that he resolved to tackle the issue in greater depth in L’humanitaire sous l’emprise du néolibéralisme (“Humanitarian aid caught in the grips of neoliberalism”). For an author, it is immensely satisfying to see one’s work ignite a spark that not only sheds light on one’s own musings but also kindles new ones. To then be asked by Bertrand Bréqueville to write the foreword for his book was an honour.

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1 Boris Martin, L’Adieu à l’humanitaire ? Les ONG au défi de l’offensive néolibérale, Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer, 2015.

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