Abstracts for Esprit 12/2006

Jacques Donzelot
Fresh foundations for social cohesion

Calls for “social cohesion” are widespread, but such cohesion can no longer be derived from the kind of solidarity that was fostered in industrial societies. In the new economic conditions, it looks as if it can only be based on trust or consent; this in turn requires a shift away from conventional governmental action towards an “enabling State”.

Nicolas Peraldi
A lame leg is no sin. When exclusion turns to seclusion

As a clinician in a long-term shelter, the author elaborates on the evolving conditions of those under his care and reflects on radical social exclusion, the vagabond down-and-outs, and the courses that effectively sever social links. Among the comings, goings, and shortcomings that make up such life stories are also the minute changes that help steer them back into the mainstream again and away from “the street”.

Dominique Vidal
Adhering to democracy in Brazil. The case of the domestic help trade union

Whilst president Lula’s re-election has proved to be less smooth than anticipated, the current state of democracy in Brazil cannot be confined to political strife. How does democracy grow deeper roots in a society so characterized by dizzying wealth gaps? The work conditions of domestic help, with a hierarchical relationship as a persistent defining feature, show how the principle of equality is transforming the country.

Mohamed Benrabah
A trip to Algeria, the land of 66 billion dollar reserves and youth in deep despair

Having lived outside his native country for a decade, the author, on two recent stays, was awe-struck by the build-up of failed hopes: politics is opaque and sclerotic, schools are a disaster area, and young people are left idle. Oil resources keep building up currency reserves, but general living conditions remain unchanged.

Filip De Boeck
The city of Kinshasa as verbal architecture

Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the second largest city in Sub-Saharan Africa with seven million inhabitants, epitomizes the current urban chaos. Whilst its infrastructure is either non-existent or doomed to disappear, how can one get to grips with what holds this city together? The only way is to understand this urban phenomenon through its links to the physical body, sexuality, religion, money, madness, and death.

An interview with Fabien Eboussi Boulaga
Africa’s way of thinking: reason, identity, and liberty

Boulaga, a philosopher and the founder of Terroirs (an African periodical focusing on the social sciences and culture), takes the liberty of considering Africa “a novel concept”. Feeling free of tradition and distrustful of abstract cosmopolitanism, he affirms African identity against anything that would query or undermine it.

An interview with Achille Mbembe
What is post-colonial thinking?

The faults in Europe’s universalism, especially when confronting its colonial history, have nurtured a variety of critical perspectives in the West. Why does the “post-colonial” way of thinking look so original? It developed as a transnational, eclectic vein from the very start, enabling it to combine the anti-imperialist tradition, the fledgling “subaltern studies”, and a specific take on globalization.

Jean-François Bayart and Romain Bertrand
Which “colonial legacy” are we talking about?

Cascading controversy, public petitions, and parliamentary bills: 40 years after its demise, colonization is fuelling public controversy in France. If we are to sort out this situation, we must take stock of any continuity between the colonial past and the present. This will allow us to better assess the extent to which the past retains a hold, if any, on the relationships between the former imperial powers and the post-colonial countries.

An interview with Philippe Roussin
France, world literature, and colonial currents

The end of empire is an overlooked gap in the French history of literary creation. It has encouraged a fall back into national geographical and linguistic boundaries whilst casting some doubt on the capacity of literature to cope with history when the latter can no longer be associated with heroism. Simultaneously, French literary critique has to some extent turned its back on the worldwide literary exchange and the attendant discussion over the current potential for a world literature.

Published 15 December 2006
Original in French

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