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dimanche 15 avril 2012

Medical Anthropology in Paris The Cuban Connection

Medical Anthropology in Paris- The Cuban Connection

Soon after graduating from the Medical Anthropology programme in London, I was requested to give an introductory course in Medical Anthropology at the University of Havana. The people who became friends, RMDLG and ALP, CTGA, all professors at the University remain close friends to this day. Also, being a fresh graduate, I was not prepared to give a class at postgraduate level at a University where the average student is so hungry for knowledge. I decided to visit various universities in Europe and thus congeal a unique course, under the guidance of my professor and friend, Cecil Hellman. I visited London, Paris, Heidelberg and Oslo on that trip.
The love and connection with Cuba grew in the ensuing years and situation in the island also changed so that I can now expect my colleagues from Havana to visit me in Paris.
Over this past weekend one such visit did happen, Dra RMDLG, who is in charge of Anthropology at the University of Havana paid a visit of three days. She is a Medical Anthropologist and our ways of thinking are very similar, even though her Doctorate is in Philosophy and mine is in Medicine.
We talked about many things, academic and personal and one of the points of discussion was my attachment to Cuba. We could conclude that all the countries I have lived in, I loved them at that time, but none of them have left continuity in my life, except Cuba. I share a past with Australia, Brunei, England, Jamaica and I share a present with France and USA. Many other countries, like evanescent lovers, loved and left with no memories, Malaysia and Myanmar among them.
Only with Cuba, I do share a Past, a Present and a Future; thus my longing for that country. My Cuban mother was right, people fall in love with Cubans, and you fell in love with Cuba.  I also realize that if you are in love with a country because you love someone in that country, and as soon as the love affair is over, the country also leaves you along with your lover!
We wondered aloud why break dancing (good but not original) by a group of marginalized young Parisians attract a large crowd during their sightseeing journey through Paris? Is it the value of street theatre? A respite from the walking? Or creating a distance while enjoying a spectacle? The name of the anthropologist, Marc Auge and his concept of Non Space did come up. That type of break dancing by marginalized people can be seen at any of the tourist places in the west: Miami or Havana, Barcelona or Brussels, Los Angeles or London. Still one has to explain the attraction!
Various meals in between conversations, walking around this beautiful city of Paris, discovering new statues, I had never paid attention to the statue near Pont Alexandre, which turned out to be that of the Liberator, Simon Bolivar.
A certain academic plan, which would strengthen my relationship with Cuba, was drawn up, including the revision of a book we were planning to write together.
I realized that since 2006, my visits to Cuba had decreased in frequency as my visits to south East Asia increased. This is the natural change in frequencies, I know in my heart that the importance of South East Asia has played out in my life, professional attachments such as that with would remain but strong friendships of recent past would blend into oblivion.
Welcome to Cuba..
So if you wish to spend some time, chatting, being caressed by the breeze from the ocean along the sea walk on the streets of Havana, I will be waiting for you.