Wednesday, October 26, 2005

To a less contentious subject....or perhaps not

While I dodge the flak from my questions about Nigeria's tragic weekend, perhaps I'll diffuse the tension by telling you about a book I just finished last night. It's a biography of a homeless man living in Cambridge by an academic who befriended him for three years and it's called Stuart, a life backwards. It challenged me profoundly, not least because of the way it highlights how our (I use the pronoun advisedly) ways of thinking about the homeless can be so different from theirs, so that what may be well intentioned interventions end up horribly wrong.

I suppose the same applies to interventions to "save Africa and Africans" or to "help black and minority ethnic communities" and the bottom line is that before you can help someone you need to understand where they are coming from, and by understand I mean a real understanding of how these individuals or groups make sense of their world and their position in it...

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