“Their father does not yet know his children, he knows nothing about their smell”

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© Denis Balibouse
Anne Dubos gave birth to twins prematurely. Their father is not allowed to visit them at the maternity ward (photo illustration).


How do we understand the transition to deconfinement? What has been encountered “while” that we want to keep “after”? Release asked Anne Dubos, anthropologist and dancer.

“I gave birth to twins ten days ago a little bit prematurely. I am still in maternity. Their father has no right to visit me, he doesn’t know his children yet, he doesn’t know anything about their smell, their skin, their little sucking noises, their looks, their relationships with each other, of their personality which is outlined because, yes, infants are gifted from the birth of this enigma, a singularity which we do not know where it comes from, how it is possible. It does not touch them, it does not feed them. When he gets to know them, they will be fifteen days old and will have changed a lot since the first moment. According to my perception of the passage of time, they will already be old. I send her photos and short films, but nothing can replace carnal relationships. The most amazing thing for me is not having shared the joy of birth.

“For the past ten days, I have only been touched by gloved hands and I only see an army of masked faces. Health precautions are essential and far from me the idea of ​​challenging them. But how long has it been since I smiled and haven’t seen the full expression of a face? Maybe someone smiles at me, but behind a mask. I can’t help smiling like a newborn baby can be. Can we imagine the number of women who give birth alone, rejoice alone, despair alone, tell themselves that they will never do it, alone, during confinement? They bring my babies to my room and then take them away from me so I can get some sleep. The impressive efforts made by the parents of twin babies transferred to the Olympic championship during this period of health crisis. With this contradiction: locked in maternity because of Covid, the virus has become unreal for me. He does not exist anymore.

“I am an anthropologist and a dancer. My research focuses on invariant gestures according to eras, civilizations, countries but also their mutations and the appearance of new rituals in social space. Suffice to say that I could be celebrating since the new rules of “social distancing” and my eyes particularly sharpened with the prohibition of hugs and the impossibility of accepting an outstretched hand. In France, the affront is extremely violent as all those who have risked it have experienced before this transgression becomes the norm. But it would be very wrong to believe that social distancing has arisen with the virus. It is as old as society. Pierre Bourdieu had already pointed out forty years ago, in the distinction, how much one spends one’s life making distances through a whole series of behaviors, gestures, symbols, words. A subordinate does not speak to a chief in the same way as the latter speaks to him, even when the company claims to be governed by principles of equality.

“In the Hidden Dimension, published fifty years ago, anthropologist Edward T. Hall described the different codes that govern social distance between societies. He showed that in England the length of an arm stretched between two beings is necessary to feel good, where, in France, the length of an elbow establishes the right distance and that in Maghreb societies, there is no It is not uncomfortable to be so close that you can feel the breath of your interlocutor. In Britain, two men do not kiss to greet each other when the practice has become common in France in recent years. Will it become again in this world said the day after? I do not know. In India for example, where I did my first research, you don’t touch each other, but place your hands together in front of your chest to celebrate the light of the heart. The gesture was introduced in France with yoga but it is unlikely, despite the distancing and the exponential diffusion of this practice, that it will become a banal way of greeting each other in the street. Where, however, body movements have recently taken on an unprecedented scale. I get the image of a masked neighbor who, to communicate with me from the sidewalk opposite, contorted with her whole body, her hands on her stomach: “Are you ok? Is it going well?” We completely understood each other. Conversely, a friend had a dry experience: saying hello to passers-by and shopkeepers with a mask. A minority reacted. She repeated the maskless exercise. People, just as unknown, answered him.

“It is strange, this period when the elderly barricade themselves, and when little babies are taken out and with even more precautions than usual. The two ends of life are excluded from the public space devoted to young people running and sweating at certain times. When I went out, I avoided everyone, because frequenting the hospital a lot, I was likely to be a healthy carrier. Then I was bedridden. An Anglicist friend taught me that one of the meanings of the word confinement in English is to be pregnant. The whole world has become pregnant with me. ”

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