Born in Poitiers in 1935, he had dedicated his studies to the contemporary condition of man, characterized by pathological loneliness and the search for escape
if there one thing that characterized Marc Aug, anthropologist and philosopher who passed away yesterday at the age of 87, the secular. His Genius of paganism (1982) the answer, eighty years later, al Gnie du Christianisme (1802) by Chateaubriand, to culminate in the ironic and irreverent desecration of The three words that changed the world (2016), a political fiction entertainment, where an unusual Pope Francis looks out over St. Peter's Square to announce that "God does not exist".
Born in Poitiers on 2 September 1935, Aug carried out ethnographic research mainly in Africa and Latin America, he directed the prestigious cole des Hautes tudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, of which he was also Presidentand the French Institute for Development Research (IRD).
tireless traveller, he has dedicated many of his works to human “mobility”. in the world, like An ethnologist in the metr (1986) and the funny The beauty of the bicycle (2008), but his international fame linked above all to the intuition of "non-places" (Non-places. Introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity1992).
Man is a symbiotic animal – he writes – e it needs relationships inscribed in space and time, needs "places" in which his individual identity is built through contact and thanks to the recognition of others. Non-places are then those spaces created artificially for exchange needs, where the individual is a unit without personal identity.
Are the airports, railway stations, large shopping malls, iwhere millions of people flow and pass through every day, without this huge influx being able to build significant relationships. Here the individual alone uses impersonal codes and follows general rules of conduct. Non-places are the product of advanced modernity or, better, in Aug's definition, of "surmodernity": the evolution of society as a result of globalization and the overcoming of postmodernity.
Non-places are the product of consumerism, not only of material or perishable goods, but above all of communication: Communication is the consumer good par excellence and, paradoxically, it never ceases to become individual. The need for relationships, in which to build "places" to confirm one's identity and get out of a devastating loneliness, drives us to look for shreds of community in the non-places themselves - such as those groups of young people who meet in supermarkets or around stations - but above all in the network, in social networks, fascinating non-places of obsessive and compulsive dependence, where the unsatisfied desire to be recognized (and loved) by the Other is consummated.
On several occasions Aug has celebrated the bistro as a perfect example of a place par excellence (An ethnologist at the bistro2015), where people practice authentic relationships and find the joy of living. The problem is that from a mass society we have moved on to a more rigid division into three classes: the powerful, a minority that escapes national laws; consumers, privileged heirs of the disappeared middle class; the excluded, for whom even hope is denied. Salvation is sought in evasion, in travel, in leaving oneself.
The new social practices often choose non-ritual escape routes, real forms of realization of utopia - Foucault's "heterotopes" - recreating new bonds, even ephemeral, in holiday villages or in the most welcoming countries for the elderly (Portugal, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Malta, Morocco), final destinations for retirees in search of tranquility and well-being at affordable prices. But even migrations from the poorest countries are forms of "heterotopia", of the search for welcoming places in which to realize the dream of a better existence, often shipwrecked in the Mediterranean or in refugee camps.
For migrants, Aug believes assimilation is necessary, full integration in the country of arrival, to avoid the risks of terrorism; he sees in multiculturalism a deadly trap, which maintains and exacerbates ethnic division, institutionalizing it.
He has written enlightening pages about time (What happened to the future?2008; Future2012; Time without age2014; Another possible world2017), arriving at the conclusion that one always dies young, since the generational differences that marked the ages of human life have been lost, with the roles and behaviors (also aesthetic) of the evolutionary stages. To the point of being able to say today that old age does not exist. Thus time crystallizes and reduces the future to a probabilistic possibility.
Modernity has erased the narratives of the past and made nineteenth-century utopias a purely economic and quantitative issue. The inability to plan the future perhaps lies in the existential conflict of the present: We change the world before we even imagine it. This will be why we feel it as a stranger, something that does not belong to us. In short, a non-place.
July 24, 2023 (change July 24, 2023 | 17:22)
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