Abstracts for Esprit 7/2007

16 July 2007
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Rita Bassil El Ramy
Storytelling saved Scheherazade’s life – but spells death for “intellectuals”

Why does freedom of expression seem to be such a challenge in Arab countries and others further east? Why do so many, especially Lebanese, journalists pay with their lives for their independence vis-à-vis the powers that be? This contribution, basically a collective tribute to prominent Lebanese editor Samir Kassir who was slain earlier this year, also comes as a call to break away from an all-too-well shared fallacy.

Jérôme Sgard
When Nicolas Sarkozy revisits Gramsci: The new French president’s stab at hegemony

As his campaign maintained a sharp focus on commonly held values, France’s new president unexpectedly endorsed the legacy of Gramsci, the Italian Marxist theorist of cultural hegemony. And yet Sarkozy’s perspective on practical politics has a lot to do with a very Gallic form of Bonapartisme, which will not necessarily go well with his Anglo-Saxon, free-market rhetoric.

An interview with Fellag
Language, laughter, and violence, or: How do you hold the stage in the suburbs?

The celebrated Algerian-born stand-up comic staged his latest show, The Last Camel, while discontented young people of largely North African stock were going on a blazing rampage in the French suburbs in the winter of 2005. Although his humour largely hinges on inward-looking attitudes, what did Fellag make of the feedback from a fairly mixed type of audience, who had first-hand experience of the enduring tension and simmering violence in the suburbs? It would look like the artist’s word and the attendant laughter somehow manage to overcome the violence in the real world outside.

An interview with Jean-Baptiste Thoret
When Hollywood was no longer so sure: The 1970s and the break in US moviemaking

It only took an amateur movie – the 26-second film of Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 – to change the outlook of US moviemaking forever, as the classified status of the reel spun an endless string of conspiracy theories amidst fears of public manipulation at the hands of government. To the emerging generation of movie directors of the 1970s, the war in Vietnam seemed to prove the ultimate inanity of cultural protest.

Christophe Jaffrelot
Five bitter years of Indian democracy in Gujarat

In 2002, over 2000 died in riots in western India. A visit there shows that the local government is not bothered about healing the wounds through the judiciary or assistance to refugees; this does not augur well for the relationship between Hindus and Muslims in that region of India.

Jean-Philippe Béja
China’s censorship officials are having a hard time

Though censorship of the press and book prohibitions are a matter of routine in China, the expansion in that segment of the press concerned with everyday urban life combines with Internet sites to make it more difficult for public authorities to crack down on free expression. And yet liberalization, Chinese style, remains far from giving basic liberties free reign.

Jean Claude Ameisen
The flu pandemic gives leverage against disenfranchisement

On both a national and a global scale, the challenges of an avian flu pandemic are not just of a medical nature. An additional risk is that it will further entrench the ongoing disenfranchisement, either through the stigma associated with the condition or because those more at risk are those who are already receiving the lowest degree of attention from the French healthcare system.

François Beaufils, Anne-Sophie Ginon, Thierry de Rochegonde
Voicing donor consent over organ transplantation

A lawyer, a doctor, and a psychoanalyst discuss the schemes that encourage more donors for organ transplantation. If we are to overcome the ethical challenges of putative consent, we must first scrutinize the nature of what is improperly referred to as a “gift” and overcome the temptation to cast donors as “heroes”, both of which lie in the background in the relevant French (2004) legislation.

Isabelle Marin
Gift and sacrifice in oncology

Care management for cancer patients is highly organized and looks way beyond strictly therapeutic goals: medical rationality combines with a more complex commingling of gift and sacrifice in staff-patient relationships which makes it difficult to sort out the issues involved in therapeutic escalation.

Benoît Pigé
The children of Down’s syndrome

Can we really understand those with Down’s syndrome and their place in the community if in the first place we assume that theirs is a deficient condition? Taking a fresh look at our own position in the world, we come to recognize their way of being for what it really is, that is, a lesson in human behaviour.

Agnès Ricroch and Catherine Baudoin
How far can we certify life?

When scientists claim patents over some kind of vegetal matter, an array of transgenic mice, or some bacteria, does this still come under conventional patent law? Does it infringe upon some ethical borderline, and which one is that exactly? How do we preserve living matter from the power of technique and business?

Marc Crépon
Living with the images and the notion of death

Can the notion of death be the topic of a discourse to be shared? And how can it take into account the images of death that have become ubiquitous on television and cinema screens? Between the thinking that isolates us and the images that bring us together, can death still nurture philosophy?

Published 16 July 2007

Original in French
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