inhabit the world

Inhabiting the world is the challenge of our time

There are still a wide variety of unusual habitats on our planet: earthen houses built on a salt desert on the edge of the Bolivian Altiplano, vegetable gardens between two buildings in Havana or a scientific base located in the far north of the planet ... Living in the world is about understanding how places express our lifestyles and our presence in the world. A real challenge which is the theme of a documentary series broadcast by ARTE in February 2019, which can be found in replay.
Rethinking our presence in the world is the challenge of our time. To live in the world is to conceive of ourselves as belonging to a space larger than our ethnic group, our nation... it is to fully inhabit the histories and riches of humanity's plural cultures. "Felwine Sarr (1)

To live is the characteristic of man, but what does it mean inhabit the world ?

To live would not be a state of fact, but a verb, a way of making room to exist, wherever it is, for whatever duration. But then what is left of the world if it only exists in the image of the individual who can be at home anywhere?
Conversely, can we go so far as to say that the world only comes into being when man is no longer content to merely inhabit, but tries to cohabit, which no longer poses the question of being to the world so much as the decisive question of knowing what to do with the world?
"Living" with Hannah Arendt does not at first glance reflect architectural, urbanistic or geographical considerations, but is understood in a sense close to that used by Heidegger to describe a certain presence in the world.  
Inspired by pragmatic philosophy and sociology, "inhabiting" goes beyond the strict framework of the individual, integrating groups. "Inhabiting is cohabiting" and "how to be oneself among others", according to Olivier Lazzarottigeographer, geographer, professor at the Jules Verne University.
In Lazzarotti's work we find two uses of the verb habiter: "to inhabit" is the activity of man in an appropriate space, it is to be active, mobile, migrating through the different spaces of the world. But "inhabiting" is also a concept that opens up to man's identity and cultural particularities through the inhabited space. By recognizing these two possible interpretations of "inhabiting", Olivier Lazzarotti is inventing a geography open to multidisciplinarity, which perhaps finds its most fruitful achievements in the work of Marc Abélès. (2), of Arjun Appadurai (3) and Michel Agier (4), or in Franco Moretti's literary research... (5). But first of all, it is by taking up Armand Frémont's concept of "living space". (6) that it develops its analysis of the verb "to inhabit": human groups inhabit the world in different ways, through demonstrations, speeches, arrangements, mobility, etc., and that it is the only way to understand the meaning of the word "inhabiting". He also borrows Sartre's "existentialism" to remind us that man defines himself (exists) by his movement in the world.

An invitation to travel

This documentary series "Living in the World" on ARTE takes us to ten new destinations. The first episode, dated Monday, February 4, Philippe Simay, traveling philosopher, returns for a second season of the documentary series. Living in the world. It takes us to the discovery of the most unusual and varied habitats on the planet. Inhabiting the world is an invitation to travel and to discover unforgettable characters and habitats, but also to reflect: how does mankind appropriate space to live in safety and in harmony with his environment?
For Philippe Simay, this second season questions more the way in which space and its resources are shared between human beings, but also with animal and plant species, whereas in the first season, the main aim was to show that living means more than just housing, that architecture tells the story of our lifestyles and our relationship to the world. What does not change is his passion for encounters and the desire to discover singular habitats, particular ways of adapting to the constraints of the environment. From mobile homes in Chile to earth fortresses in Togo, each episode explores a theme.
From 4 to 15 February 2019, Monday to Friday at 5:35 pm - And replay for 7 days.
Programming :
Monday, February 4, 2019: Chile - Chiloe Island, the know-how of wood / Director: Matthieu Maillet
The archipelago of Chiloé, located in the south of Chile, is composed of 44 islands where 150,000 people live. The inhabitants have taken advantage of the archipelago's large primary forests to develop exceptional technical know-how around wood. Philippe Simay is welcomed by Armando who introduces him to the Chilean culture. Here, the inhabitants live through a solidarity and collective system: the minga. Philippe is invited to participate in a ceremony of this traditional practice. In the course of the ritual, he discovers that on the archipelago, the habitat is a symbol of union and generosity that connects the whole community.
Tuesday, February 5, 2019: Cuba - Havana, vegetable garden city / Director: David Perrier
In the heart of Havana, there are organopónicos, or vegetable gardens. Created as a matter of urgency to alleviate Cuban food shortages following the collapse of the USSR, these green spaces are now a model of organic urban agriculture. With them, Cubans have invented a new way of living in the city: on rooftops, balconies, between buildings, arable land can be improvised in all forms. Welcomed by Dario and Lisy, Philippe discovers a know-how that is transmitted from one generation to the next. Here, cultivating is also learning to live together.
Wednesday, February 6, 2019 : Togo - The takientas, fortresses of land Realization: Jacques Offre
In Togo, the people of the Batâmmaribas, one of the country's ethnic minorities, live in takienta, curious houses similar to small earthen fortresses. Both functional and symbolic, domestic and religious, they embody the Batâmmaribas' vision of the world and allow each individual to find his or her place within the community. Thought out around equity, conviviality and sharing, each takienta is built as a family, using natural materials borrowed from the landscape and recycled. In this way, traditions and beliefs are transmitted. Philippe Simay meets Kuyenpani, who introduces him to this unique architecture in Africa.
Thursday, 7 February 2019 : Nepal - Lo Manthang, on the roof of the world / Directed by Jacques Offre
At over 4000 meters above sea level in Nepal, in the Mustang region, lies Lo Manthang, an amazing walled city. This is where the Lopas live. Despite the altitude, extreme cold and strong winds, about 800 Lopas live there year round. If this city, founded in the 15th century, resists time despite its isolation, it is because its architecture goes hand in hand with a communal way of life, where scarce resources are shared. Inside the enclosure, the clay walls and Buddhist temples are restored by the inhabitants of the village. Alongside Karma, who has always lived in Lo Manthang, Philippe Simay discovers this lost Himalayan city, centre of the religious and spiritual life of the Lopas.
Friday, February 8, 2019: Rio de Janeiro, the other face of the favelas / Director: David Perrier
Rio has nearly 700 favelas, which have long been associated with violence and drug trafficking. Today, however, these shantytowns are undergoing a revival: more and more people are taking an interest in them, while the inhabitants are multiplying initiatives to improve their daily lives and image. Gisele and Mauricio guide Philippe through the narrow streets and barrocos. Here, the ever-changing habitat obeys no rules and expresses all the creativity of those who have settled here. Going beyond temporary housing, these community living places have invented a unique and mixed culture.

Interview with Philippe Simay

Why is learning to share space fundamental today?
PS: That's the condition sine qua non to make the earth sustainably habitable. Faced with the problem of migration, more and more of us are in favour of a place that is no longer guaranteed. Our habitat patterns, particularly in Europe and the United States, are having a devastating effect on biodiversity, which is having repercussions on the other side of the world, such as in Africa or at the North Pole. We urgently need to move away from our anthropocentric vision and rethink our position in the biosphere. This second season shows precisely that certain societies have developed habitat cultures and an intelligence with nature that is richer than ours. I hope to give some pointers for reinventing our relationship with space, which must no longer be merely a resource that can be exploited and transformed, but a shared concern.
What steps have marked you the most?
PS: I was impressed by the level of demand placed on the scientists at the Ny-Alesund* research centre in Spitsbergen. Hyperconscientious, they think about the environmental impact of the smallest of their actions. I will also remember the solidarity and courage shown by the inhabitants of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Precariousness does not prevent them from being aware of the need to share. We cannot but admire those who, while fighting for their survival, make significant gestures for others or for the planet.
What are your next projects?
PS: A companion book to the series, co-published by ARTE Éditions and Actes Sud, is planned for April 2019. It will develop reflections that I did not have the time to deepen in the series. I also wish to extend my social approach to ecology in my teaching at the École nationale supérieure d'architecture de Paris Belleville but also to a wider public.
Interview by Clara Le Quellec
(1) "Inhabiting the World - An Essay in Relationship Politics" by Felwine Sarr - Inkwell Memory Edition / Cadastral Collection, 2017
(2) Marc Abélès, Anthropologie de la mondialisation, Paris, Payot, 2008. Report by Boris-Mathieu Pé, 21 September 2009:
(3) Arjun Appadurai, Condition de l'homme global, Paris, Payot, Essais Payot, 2013. Review by Christian Ruby, "Aspirations and politics of hope",, 28 November 2013:
(4) Michel Agier, La condition cosmopolite. L'anthropologie à l'épreuve du piège identitaire, Paris, La Découverte, coll "Sciences humaines", 2013. Review by Rachid Id Yassine for Lectures :
(5)Franco Moretti, Graphs, maps and trees. Modèles abstraits pour une autre histoire de la littérature, Paris, Les Prairies ordinaires, Collection penser/croiser, 2008 [2005], review by Jean-Christophe Valtat, " Le texte comme territoire ",, 29 May 2008 :
(6) Armand Frémont, La région, espace vécu, Paris, Flammarion, 1977.

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