Posts Tagged ‘culture’

The Fassin brothers (Didier Fassin, anthropologist, and Eric Fassin, sociologist) object, in an interesting opinion piece (“Misère du culturalisme”, Le Monde, September 30 2010), to the general climate of rehabilitation of the Moynihan Report. In France, for instance, a couple of recent books (here and here) just added another layer to the “we should not remain blind to the question of their ethnic origins” motto (note the deictics) in the national conversation on anti-social behavior.


A very nice point made by Donald MacKenzie in the pages of the Financial Times: “Beneath all the toxic acronyms lies a basic cultural issue”, November 25 2009 (or, alternatively, “Culture gap let toxic instruments thrive”, November 26 2009).

Exceptionalism may apply to all sorts of countries. But, in France, it is a French specialty. French-reading readers, though, might want to have a look at the last issue on “The French Exception” of the very fine journal (this is a plug) Cosmopolitiques. The presentation of the issue (and more) is available here.

It is true that anthropology might have worked sometimes (or many, actually) as a colonial device and as a tool to subtly (or not, in some cases) construct appropriate (or inappropriate, depending on the point of view) notions of cultural identity whose essential purpose may have been to foster some political operation of domination (or some barren causerie, at best) in the face of any call for an otherwise unattainable (or fake, as some may put it) scientific insight.

That said, and without denying the ethos (or pathos) of deconstruction, the great anthropologist Maurice Godelier (author of The Making of Great Men and The Enigma of the Gift) gives us in his last book (Au fondement des sociétés humaines, Albin Michel, 2007, first twenty pages available in French here) a quite compelling list of important truths that anthropology have to deliver to whoever cares. Namely: (1) that there are things that can be given away, things that can be sold and things that cannot be neither sold nor given but that need to be kept; (2) that never a society has been grounded in family or kinship; (3) that always more that a woman and a man has been needed to make a child; and (4) that human sexuality is essentially asocial. Whow.

Ellery Eskelin, Andrea Parkins and Jim Black played some great tunes earlier this week at La Dynamo, in the northern outskirts of Paris. Earlier this month, Sylvie Courvoisier, Susie Ibarra and Ikue Mori were heard playing amazing music at Le Triton, also uptown Paris. Well, in the great land of Seine Saint-Denis, to be more precise.

In a much discussed article, Marc Ribot recently expressed concern about the failure of downtown NYC experiments into neoliberal entrepreneurship and “do it yourself” market independence (The Tonic sadly closed its doors in April):

“In truth, our belief that the market could fund new music was always as illusory; European touring, heavily state subsidized, has been the real economic motor of experimental jazz/new music for decades, the light at the end of the tunnel of months of scarce and/or poorly paid NYC gigs. The fact that access to Europe was easier and cheaper for NYC musicians than for their LA counterparts is an important factor in the historical productivity of the NYC new music scene as compared with the West Coast. European public subsidies have funded cutting- edge US music since the time of Louis Armstrong. They’ve been a part of the landscape for so long that US musicians have come to take them entirely for granted, seeing them as natural a part of Europe as the Alps or snotty waiters. Unfortunately, they’re neither natural nor guaranteed. They were created by people through struggle and they are in the process of being challenged and to some extent dismantled by European neo-liberals. The idea behind European public arts subsidies, the reason why NYC jazz/new music artists for at least the last 40 years have played Paris, Cologne and Zurich many more times than they’ve played Hartford (and how many have ever played Des Moines?) is a doctrine called “the European cultural exception”, a set of government policies based on the concept that, even within a market economy, art/culture is to be treated differently from other commodities. This concept asserts that some music deserves to exist even if the market says it doesn’t. That the best string quartet isn’t necessarily the one that plays the most TV commercials. That the best composer isn’t necessarily the one George Lucas picks to score his film. That the best band isn’t always the one most favored by a large radio network’s advertisers.” (from Mark Ribot, “The Care and Feeding of Musical Margin”, All About Jazz, June 5 2007)

The solution is clear: you people come and settle down in Seine Saint-Denis, now. Please.