We are not alone in the world: teachings from Paris’ “93”

El hospital Avicenne de Bobigny (Paris)

The most important hospital in Bobigny, a town in the north-east outskirts of Paris, in the department of Seine-Saint Denis (the “93“), is called Avicenne, from the latinized name of Ibn Sina, muslim philosopher and physician. Almost 1000 years before psychoanalisis, Ibn Sina developed a verbal “influence technique” through which he treated psychic disorders. Given a place like this, in which immigrants recently reached the fifth generation, and where it represents the 30, 40 percent of the population (like in Aubervilliers, La Corneuve, Bobigny itself), it’s not strange that here was born a technique in psychotherapy that, starting from the treatment of immigrants families, ended up overturning the basis of occidental psychology and epistemology. It is ethnopsychiatry, or ethnopsychoanalisis, developed by Tobie Nathan from his experience of public psychiatrist in Avicenne hospital.

Georges Dévereux, anthropologue and psychoanalist (1908-1985)

Today, in Centre Georges Dévereux, founded by Nathan in Paris VIII University (until last year, in Seine-Saint Denis), work psychotherapists, philosophers of science, curanderos, babalaos, maîtres-des-secrets of uncountable origins and “affiliations”, brought together by the fascinating quest of a new “influence technique” that could deal in a decolonized and non-ethnocentric manner with the complexities of this world: in which we know well, by now, that “we are not alone” (Nathan, 2001).