Category Archives: Books

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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References
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

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

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

Décolonisations
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.