- The Homeless, the Lawyer and the Cardboard Sign
- Charity in Contemporary Europe
- Book title
- Postcolonial Transitions In Europe
- Book subtitle
- Contexts, Practices and Politics
- Pages (from-to)
- London: Rowman & Littlefield International
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
Je pourrais être votre grand–mère (I Could Be Your Grandmother, 2010) is the title of a 19–minute documentary co–written, directed, and co–produced by Bernard Tangy. Shown on European screens in France, Italy, Switzerland, and Sweden, it is a “docufiction” about an encounter between a wealthy Parisian lawyer and the homeless people who live or survive in his neighborhood. One day, upset by the sight of an old woman sitting in the street in front of his flat, one man writes “I could be your grandmother” on a piece of cardboard and places the sign next to her. The initiative is so successful that he ends up creating hundreds of similar signs for Parisian homeless people. This chapter considers which kind of political act this apparently individual and local intervention constitutes. The film is not a self–contained object of study: once we have watched it, a whole network of human and non–human actors starts begging for our attention. We are asked to rethink the definition of solidarity and generosity in the chaotic frame of a neoliberal, globalized, and post–Enlightenment Europe. In the first part of this chapter, I ask how the recipient of the gift is constructed by this interaction between two Europeans: how do their relationship to the movement of people and capital affect the definition of who gives and who receives? In the second part, I ask how we can describe a political act that consists of asking others to give. Does the distribution of cardboard signs to homeless beggars constitute an act of charity, or is it an ambivalent tactic of recuperation that perpetuates, rather than interrupts, neoliberal, profit–oriented mentalities?
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