This page is dedicated to people who, in my mind, reflect this blog, their diverse backgrounds or research or interest or singled out individual view of the world make them worth casting some light about what a cosmopolitan personality really means for me (Daphné Romy-Masliah). You will find here from the newest to the oldest entries some particularly interesting testimonies. Enjoy!

The first piece (i.e. the latest I publish) deals with a strange accounter with a multiple artist with one of the sexiest voices I’ve ever heard. That’s, honestly, the reason why I decided to listen to him at the Société de Lecture. Listening to Tom Novembre on December 2nd was too much fun to be missed. I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s my account of this delightful man. I’ll be watching him on December 7th and might add up to this portrait;-)

Novembre, Tom (2013), ‘Propos’, paper given at Conférence de la Société de Lecture, Genève, 2 décembre 2013.

“Voix grave, yeux globuleux et cernés”…Jean-Thomas né Couture frère de Charlélie.
Beaux-Arts de Nancy. Pourquoi s’astreindre à une discipline quand on peut tout faire? Révélation du Printemps de Bourges en 1980. Acteur avec les plus grands. Personnage longiligne aux yeux globuleux qui dévorent le monde. One man shows, pièces contemporaines de Kleist à Bourville. Historien de l’art sur Paris 1ères. Artiste Multiste. L’expression est de son frère. Etat d’esprit des 2 frères qui n’avaient pas envie de cloisonner. Issus d’une génération qui voulaient faire tomber des barrières en tout cas culturelles. Festival mondial du théâtre universitaire. On pense qu’on va devenir une grande famille, ce qui me fait rire mais à l’époque j’y croyais dûr comme fer. Génération naive, baba cool, croyant au pacifisme et au pouvoir des mots et que o’avenir appartenait au poète. l’histoire m’a démenti, rie-t-il jaune, mais des portes se sont ouvertes, des espcaes se sont ouverts plus pour les femmes que pour les hommes….lorsque vous mettez juif dans une phrase, faites gaffe à ce que vous mettez autour. D’ailleurs là vous voyez, vous riez moins!
Non je n’ai pas lu Finkielkraut car je ne lis que les livres avec des images et ne suis pas sûr qu’il soit mon type de philosophes d’après ce que j’ai entendu de lui à la télé.

Retrouvailles avec Engel (je suis fidèle aux gens qui me sont fidèles). La troupe a amassé le Molière, fruit d’un travail d’équipe. A l’heure actuelle ce genre de projet devient difficile à monter…André en a chié pour la monter!

Vous êtes inspecteur et commissaire dans les 2 pièces qui se situent entre 29 et 1933?
André cherchait des passerelles à 10 ans d’intervalle. La prèmière, meurtre dans la rue des morts n’a jamais été monté. On sent les influences brechtiennes. 10 ans plus tard, il est un dramaturge confirmé et est confronté à Paris à un fait divers, l’histoire de l’inconnue de la seine retrouvée morte mais..souriante! Cette seconde pièce marie davantage cynisme et humour.

Monter cette pièce aujourd’hui, on y trouve des résonnances avec la situation actuelle, 33…
Oui, juste avant que ça bouge de manière effrayante, et je pense qu’on est dans une espèce d’atmosphère, de repli, de méfiance. Qui sont les patrons, où va-t-on?

Voir la scène finale où on voit des couples arpenter la scène joyeusement mais d’un rire jaune…

Son parcours artistique:

Toile cirée en 83

Signé Renard de Michel Soutter 1er film, 1er rôle, très encourageant. Je me suis endormi avec une vocation mais je me suis réveillé avec un métier. Découverte de Lausanne. Il faisait froid, il pleuvait mais c’était magique et j’étais heureux!
Avec le temps, on privilégie l’utile car on est responsable et qu’on a des bouches à nourrir, mais à l’époque je privilégiais l’agréable.
et Elsa Elsa  de Didier Haudepin et mon troisième disque.
Dès le départ s’est imposée une image en porte à faux entre un genre et un autre…donc j’ai dû flouter mon image dès le départ, mais c’est pas mal aussi.

Lelouche, Altman…c’est grace à souterre? Son rôle? Un dépucelage toutes proportions gardées. Découverte du décallage entre ce qu’on fait et le tout.
Le cinéma est plus artificiel, c’est du sprint par rapport au fond, le théâtre.
C’est le même métier mais dans des conditions différentes.
A Ouaga c’est la même chose sous d’autres tropiques. J’ai pu aller en guinée, à Cuba, au Burkina, en Europe centrale…j’ai pu voir des bouts du monde en ayant des choses à y faire autres que le touriste. En bande c’est mieux…

J’ai fait deux films et deux participations avec Jean-Philippe Toussaint mais j’ai tourné le plus avec Mocky.
Toussaint a une autre écriture et plus il progresse moins l’humour masque le reste. Cela a été un coup de foudre littéraire. La Salle de Bain, c’est moi!
J’ai une plume, mais une plume de canard, mais j’ai retrouvé mon écriture à travers la sienne.
Deux heures de spectacle pour un one man c’est du francis lalanne version théâtre!
Je suis passé régulièrement par chez vous, y’a pas de frontières, je suis francophone. Le Palais Mascotte vous a inspiré!
11 personnages en 92
8 personnages en 96 dont une femme qui n’est pas la plus féminine du lot. Idée d’attente, on est toujours en train d’attendre quelque chose, quelqu’un…
Etes-vous multiple à ce point là? C’est peut-être dû aux commentaires qui me taxaient d’anthropologie.

Dans le Double-Meurtre de l’Horloger, y a-t-il d’autres personnages qui vous auraient tenté?Oui mais je le garde pour moi.

Dites du bien de quelqu’un tout le monde s’en fout, dites du mal et tout le monde s’en rappelle. Fallait pas faire cette place là aux médias, les gars. Moi j’ai pris mes distances notamment avec la télé. Cette référence immédiate et générale n’est devenue que la vitrine des grands magasins. Ma minute sur Paris 1ères, c’est une virgule dans cette masse. C’est la vulgarisation de l’art contemporain. Vous aimez, vous n’aimez pas, OK, mais écoutez-moi d’abord une minute.
J’ai aussi écrit la série Soyez prudents, faits divers absurdes mais réels n’a pas marché et je le regrette.
Lire le texte de la Mort de l’Horloger avant d’aller voir la pièce. Petite vie de petites gens qui nous ressemble. Terreau dans lequel se prépare les événements à venir. Ambiguités et tensions ous-jacentes. Ecriture populaire avec des accents régionaux. La traduction essaie de les transcrire, mais il s’amusait à faire faire des phrases à ses personnages, qui s’écoutent parler…language qui ne veut rien dire d’autre que l’infatuité qu’on peut se faire de soi-même. Parfois déroutant et incompréhensible mais plus facile qu’on ne croit.

La chanson, je fais ça à mon rythme. Dans Bande de Pions que je dois retravailler maintenant que j’ai racheté les droits. Je l’ai écrit avec des copains dont certains ne le sont plus.
Le disque de Bouville, bel album qui n’a pas intéressé grand monde car on peut lui reprocher d’être trop sage.

Vorace contrarié? Non juste curieux. Obsolescence programmée en tout secteur d’activité de pensée. Portrait caléidoscopique du monde. Cela a failli être le titre de mon prochain spectacle, donc j’ai regardé ce que je pouvais faire avec ce que j’avais…entre temps je remonte sur scène car le spectacle vivant c’est très agréable. Je le finalise dès février, rodé à Avignon puis à Paris et ici s’il y a des amateurs ici (à Genève)

 

The second (last) piece deals with a scholar I never met, except through what her grieved son, Probal, told me. I hope you’ll enjoy and marvel as much as I did, with one regret, not to have met such a wonderful lady who passed away last month. May she rest in peace and may her work continue speaking for her.  (January 9, 2011)

The democratic imagination and Manashi Dasgupta’s legacy

by Probal Dasgupta
Probal Dasgupta, an Honorary Member of the Linguistic Society of America and a member of the Akademio de Esperanto, teaches at the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. Two of his mother Manashi’s books (a novel, 2006, and an autobiography, 1989) translated by him into Esperanto have received critical acclaim.

The following piece is Probal’s Obituary about his mother Manashi Dasgupta. Initially published in several Indian national papers and to be a piece of The Hindu’s Literary supplement this coming February.

To present Manashi Dasgupta’s (1928-2010) legacy involves pulling together the academic, cultural and critical strands of a vision that cherishes friendship and intercontextual conversation. It is at this crucial interface, she suggests, that the democratic imagination must make interpersonal sense of institutions.

Dasgupta’s 1962 Cornell University doctoral dissertation brings social psychology to bear on what makes somebody seem interesting to others. She proposes that we imagine narratives about people we meet; perceiving a half-story leaves us intrigued – and interested in the protagonist.

Her 1986-7 research, sponsored by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, studies India’s literary and institutional handling of friendship. She argues (especially in Jiggasa 11:3.287-301, 1990) that we make friends where we find it possible, in principle, to initiate joint projects.

Dasgupta’s interpersonalist vision identifies a democratic, anti-hierarchical imagination as a prerequisite for modernity. The point is to fashion a friendship-based institutional format outside the patriarchal family paradigm. In Samaaj-Mon ‘Society and mind’ and Monostattwo o Raajniti ‘Psychology and politics’, Dasgupta stresses one specifically Indian question: how to build a family-independent civic episteme that will make nepotism look unnatural.

The academic flows into the cultural in Dasgupta’s work. Her post-Cornell experiences in India convinced her that there was a disconnect between what the apparatus of psychology offers and what her fellow citizens would accept. She detected a widespread denial about the existence and addressability of basic interpersonal problems. Her response was a series of interventions – combining the artistic with the administrative in unusual ways – outside the structures of psychology.

Her favourite art was vocal music. As one of Debabrata Biswas’s early students, she became an exponent of Rabindrasangeet. But her knowledge of the diversity of Bengal’s musical traditions made her want to represent that diversity rather than Tagore alone. Accordingly, Dasgupta focused on Tagore’s contemporaries like Rajanikanta Sen (whose Aami tomaar dhorbo naa haat and Mon re aamaar she chose for her 1970 HMV single), Atul Prasad Sen, Dwijendra Lal Roy. Her knowledge of kirtans and of Bangla film music from the 1930s was encyclopaedic. Few of the friends who picked her brains, however, recognized that this was one of her ways of nurturing intercontextual conversations and thereby feeding the democratic imagination.

Dasgupta’s administrative career framed her artistic interventions. She served as Principal of Shri Shikshayatan College, Kolkata (1963-72, with a brief interruption as Regional Officer of the US Educational Foundation in India), where she initiated musical performance and discussion on an unusual scale. Her next job was to run and upgrade archiving and research at Rabindra Bhavana, Visvabharati, Santiniketan (1972-73, 1975-82). Here she enabled, and herself carried out, research on Tagore that took on board the intricate interpersonal context of his flourishing. Her book Rabindranath: Ek Asamanvita Dvandva ‘Rabindranath: An unresolved tension’ portrays a Tagore trying to bypass the vertical family and establish horizontal structures, but resorting to reverse nepotism as the means to this end – bequeathing his crown of thorns to his son Rathindranath. This point, however, is embedded in an overall argument that analyzes Tagore’s textual and institutional oeuvre and concludes that he wished to build friendly institutions but had to work with colleagues steeped in patriarchal verticality.

Significantly, Dasgupta had this study published in Dhaka. She was one of the many cultural activists who played a role, especially from 1971 onwards, in promoting dialogue between the two Bengals – yet another intercontextual conversation where she provided distinctive input.

We turn now to the third, critical strand in her contribution. Dasgupta’s work combines criticism of patriarchy with a pervasive skepticism about simple-minded radical genres of opposition. She did put herself at stake: the public in 1969 were hardly prepared to accept a woman testifying in court to defend Buddhadeva Bose’s novel Raat Bhore Brishti against the charge of obscenity. What, then, distinguishes her work, including her 2004 book Meyeder Bhumikaa o Bhaashya ‘The roles and rules of women’, from familiar feminisms?

The introduction to her 2004 book answers this question at length. I am forced to summarize, obviously unjustly. She finds contemporary feminism dividing its energies between oversyndicalized activisms and genres of social scientific and literary theorizing that leave each other’s terms of reference unexamined. This worries her. Dasgupta finds it imperative that the public space should use literature as a site of general accountability; she finds feminist writing insufficiently attentive to this use of the literary public space.

Even if space permitted a fuller summary of that particular introduction, it would be misleading to suggest that her 2004 collection of articles about the way literature portrays women at various junctures of Indian literary history is even notionally a complete statement of Dasgupta’s take on women. Let us note instead that Dasgupta’s project involved continuing the work of figures she admired in fiction and in social analysis, especially Ashapurna Debi (Dasgupta wrote a biography of her for Sahitya Akademi) and Iravati Karve.

Dasgupta’s publications on the sociology of caste and on the way canonical literary texts deal with women are in self-conscious dialogue with Karve’s work in these domains. And the sense in which her fiction constitutes a set of self-conscious sequels to Ashapurna Debi’s work becomes clear from the fact that Binu, the protagonist in her first novel Bhelaa ‘Raft’, is handicapped – she has a wooden leg. Her other novels (Trinoguccho ‘Tufts of grass’, Preme Apreme Nae ‘Not in love or unlove’, Anaarabdho ‘The sacrament that failed’, Ghumonto Gharbaari ‘Sleeping homes’), as well as her shorter fiction and autobiographical writings, explore themes that come to the fore once the screaming headlines have been digested. Dasgupta’s worry, made explicit in several of these texts, is that populist voices will keep reiterating the headlines and preempt reflection at the level of theory, leading to broad-spectrum, unfocused social interventions and an overconcentration on inequality at the expense of difference.

Probal Dasgupta

Jan. 4, 2009

I read today on a Multiculturalism on Facebook  a testimony I found worth reprinting here, with his author’s permission…

I hope it will inspire your own stories. It did inspire me indeed!!!

The question was: how multicultural are you. Here’s Can Sakirgil’s account:

I can happily say that I am quite multicultural. To tell you about my background I will start with pointing of various sides.
My civic (also cultural) identity is Turkish. However I grew up in a very interesting sub-cultural environment. I was born in Antioch (Antakya/Turkey).
Antakya is the place where Christianity spread as some of you might know from Acts 11:26 (And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.) So, I always believe that I am from the remnants of those first Christians. My family is Greek Orthodox, however our church liturgy and vernacular has always been Arabic, this is probably because the city has been under the Syrian/Lebanese influence for a very long time. It was actually a major territorial dispute between Turkey and Syria.
From 1920s till 1938 my hometown was a part of Syria which itself was under the mandate of the French. Then from 1938 till 1939 the region became a de jure republic of its own (Hatay Devleti –Republic of Hatay) till it got annexed to Republic of Turkey.
The city still has a big population of Arabic speaking Greek Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, Arabic speaking Alewis, and Sunnis as well as Arabic speaking Sephardic Jews and even some Assyrian Christians.
With all the mentioned political, regional and religious sides I can now tell about the culture of my city and of my own. I will start with my maternal grandma.
My maternal grandmother is Syrian (an Assyrian Catholic) , she grew up in Aleppo and married to my Grandfather (who was born and grew up in Antioch but held Lebanese identity). So as you can guess there was not much difference if you were from Antakya or Aleppo, you could easily be a couple and communicate since the language, religion and the culture is basically the same. My mother was born in Aleppo as well; she always tells me that till she got married she spent a lot of her time travelling between two cities. She is an Aleppoian as well as an Antiochian. Even today she frequently visits her relatives in Syria. So I grew up speaking Arabic and going to churches. I never thought it was strange or anything.
In the building that I grew up there are nine apartments. When I was a kid three of the families living in the building were Orthodox, two Jewish, three Alevi and one Sunni. I recall playing with my Jewish friends, eating Jewish food (purple rice pilaf, hamıt, kukle), celebrating Hannukah with them. I also remember them coming to our house to say Happy Easter or Merry Christmas. I remember the food (kibbe as sac, burani, adis bi hamıt) cooked by my mom or aunt being very different than those of my friend’s moms.
My city’s daily vernacular still has a good Arabic influence, yes everyone knows Turkish, it is our national identity, however one can still shop, chat, and yell in Arabic.
Our weddings and funerals are quite different, than those other parts of Turkey, and even in the city itself. We offer coffee after the funeral, Sunnis offer desert, Alevis on the other hand prefer meat kebaps.
We have a religious wedding then you got to have a big banquet. You are not married unless it is held ceremonially in the church; civic marriage is of secondary importance.
I remember the Moslem Sacrifice Holiday and Christmas coincide on the same date. So, I eat meat given by the neighbors while celebrating a major holiday of my own.
When we commemorate our founder Atatürk’s death on the 10 of November each year, right at 9:05 when he passed away, all around the country the sirens go off and simultaneously the bells of the Orthodox Church ring thirty three times symbolizing someone died.
I lived and still live in such a multicultural, multilingual, multi religion environment that I always try to tell people about it. If four different families of different belief systems are able live in harmony and peace in an apartment building, then why should the world not be the same.
I will later on continue with more details about multiculturalism and me. But if you ask me who or what I am, I usually say, “I don’t know, I am a Turk, I really like it, but I am also of Arabic background and I like it very much, Well, I am a Christian who grew up both with Orthodox and Catholic traditions, I have close friends from various religious backgrounds, so I am very much familiar with this and that… so I am all of the above and very happy to be so.

And here is my reply:

a great account of your personal multicultural experience, I really loved reading it because I feel that way too except that with my wandering jewish family it becomes such a maze that I decided one day that cosmopolitanism was my real identity!
A Swiss resident for a quarter century, born in France from two parents born in Tunisia is only the starting point…
Where it gets complicated is that on my mother’s side, we are from Livorno, Italy, like a lot of Tunisian jews, and on her father’s side, it seems we belong to these tribes which converted to judaism quite a while back. My mum’s maiden name, Didi is as much moslem as jewish!
As for my dad’s side, they are easy to track because they were rabbis from the Holy Land (under Turkish domination back then!) which moved to Izmir, a very multicultural city if the accounts I was given have any truth. My great great grand-father was appointed Chief Rabbi of Malta. That’s also where my great-grand-father was born but he moved to Sfax or Souss in Tunisia (he was buried in Souss, anyways that’s quite near Sfax). Funny enough, they spoke Ladino in my father’s family while Italian was my mum’s family “other language” along french and of course judeo-arabic!
As for the nationalities, my Mum was deprived of her tunisian passport upon leaving Tunisia at the Independence (since her brother was jailed when he tried to stay there wasn’t much of an option) and my Dad’s family had to choose between being British subjects (The Malta connection) or getting the french nationality. Most of my Dad’s cousins preferred the british passport, no matter if they weren’t allowed to get into Britain. They went to Canada or Israel after the Tunisian independence. My grand father in fact belonged to those who opted for the french nationality and fought with De Gaulle for the liberation of France. I am thus the first french-born generation and I chose to travel for a living most of my life, but home is Geneva Switzerland although Paris is my second home… I grew up in Paris, my friends had all possible backgrounds but we didn’t care at all. They knew I was away for Yom Kippour and I just knew they were wearing lots of medals. As for the moslems, they kept, like me, their religion to their home. Multiculturalism has always existed in France but was something no one was ready to discuss. The best proof is that my Ph.D. on Multiculturalism made the word multiculturalism enter the database of the Sorbonne Theses keywords….and that was in 1992!!!
If you ask me, however, I am a french expat, a whole other dimension of the french citizenship and probably worth a sociological study!

4 Responses to “Cosmo People”


  1. [...] be surprised and fascinated to realize how common this cosmopolitanism is…I created a COSMO Page …check my pages out for more. I decided to publish some of the most extraordinary [...]

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