Michel Serres, philosopher and science historian
Culture as an integral part of the fight against poverty: a central theme espoused by Académie Française member and Stanford University professor Michel Serres
“When we speak of poverty, we generally analyze it from a strictly economic perspective. We tend to speak of unemployment or growth. For many years, I belonged to the ATD (Acting Together for Dignity) Quart Monde organization, an international movement engaged in the fight against extreme poverty and social exclusion, active in some thirty countries. There are three words commonly used to describe people living in dire economic circumstances: we use the word “poor" to describe those with very little income, “indigent", for those lacking food, and “destitute” for those who do not even have a place to live. The ATD Quart Monde movement aims to eradicate destitution or extreme poverty. The movement’s founder, Joseph Wresinski, included culture among his priorities to reach this objective. This French diocesan priest who died in 1988 considered access to culture and knowledge to be a real source of liberation. “Extreme poverty paralyzes the intellectual faculties of human beings; it narrows their vision of society while every life project is constructed around a constantly evolving learning experience. The development of intellectual faculties is an inalienable right of every human being,” Wresinski affirmed during the "Culture and poverty” symposium in 1985. This vision led ATD Quart Monde, from its inception, to create street libraries, adult education centers and cultural programs in areas of extreme poverty.
For these reasons, I share this vision that culture must be included in the next United Nations Millennium Development Goals for the fight against poverty, thus offering the people of our planet an opportunity for a more harmonious development.”
Listen to an interview with Michel Serres on Vivoice, Vivendi’s web radio. He was the guest of the Culture Webcast on October 24th, 2013