Friday, November 18, 2005

Reading Memmi Today

Guest Blogging: LB
Note: You are about to read the first in a series of posts from our colleague and friend at Harvard University, LB, who writes from the 14th in Paris where she has been observing the events of recent weeks and considering their source. Enjoy!

Writing a thesis on Albert Memmi's work has never seemed more timely. As I watch numerous news talk-shows, listen to the radio, devour the paper, I wonder why so many people seem to think that the current problem is due to lack of jobs, lack of opportunity, low levels of education, high rates of drop-outs, etc. The real question is: what is behind the lack of jobs, the lack of opportunity, etc. And unfortunately, the answer is very clear: it is still very difficult, even today, for the French to accept difference within their society."Je veux qu'ils viennent", says one of my friend's mothers, speaking of immigrants from Africa. "Mais qu'ils parlent français, qu'ils mangent français, qu'ils s'intègrent..." Yes, my dear lady, let them eat French. I still think Memmi has captured it best:

"Ce rejet d'autrui, par peur du différent, que j'ai proposé de nommer l'hétérophobie, n'est pas encore du racisme. Un ouvrier, interrogé à propos de ses voisins martiniquais, répondit qu'il abhorrait le boudin antillais, dont l'odeur empestait la cage d'escalier. Malicieusement titillé par le journaliste sur la soupe aux choux, son visage s'éclaira: 'L'odeur du chou, je l'adore!C'est celle de mon enfance."
[This rejection of the other as different, which I like to call heterophobia, is not quite racism. A worker, asked about his Martiniquais neighbors, responded that he hated the Antilles blood pudding whose foul odor filled the stairwell. Maliciously probed by the journalist to comment on cabbage soup his face lit up. "The smell of cabbage, I love it! It reminds me of my youth."]

--"La peur de l'autre" dans Bonheurs (52 semaies) Paris: Arléa, 1992.


At 18:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is another fact : strangers are welcoming or tolerated in France when they are European or even African from ancient colonies... to sum up when they live in a similar way to ours... but when they are North African it’s unfortunately written on their face and often mistrust and racism do their work. Why this rejection ? Mentality, history, revenge... who is wrong ? Each of us I think.


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