Jean-Godefroy Bidima

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2011/2012
discipline Philosophy
Professor and Yvonne Arnoult Chairholder in French and Francophone Studies at Tulane University (New Orleans)

Research project

Care and Fragility: Narrative Ethics and Sollicitude in Africa. Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Approaches


Sickness and Care. A Sociopolitical Issue


In the so-called postcolonial countries, we are used to interrogating political philosophy by insisting upon the question of citizenship, particularly the manner in which the notion of public democratic space (l’espace public démocratique) is developed. This vast project often demands that we relook at issues such as justice, the peace that is established after war and genocide, and particularly access to new juridical instruments of international law. 


At the center of these preoccupations can be found the State and its symbols, as well as the manner in which communities restructure themselves under the auspices of this State. Yet beyond that, it is a question of sounding out how various subjectivities are made and unmade. The citizen —the subject— expresses himself, even while he is placed in a context of fragility. This fragility is experienced through sickness, and the coming of AIDS to Africa permits African political philosophy – until now too focused on the State, elections, colonial history, and ethnophilosophy – to return to the center of its preoccupations. Sickness and Care are moments of fragility which appeal to the great anthropological referents, that is Subject, community, speech, gaze, body, presence, disappearance, degradation, bond, justice, and duty. Regarding Subject, how can we understand this in a context of fragility? The Subject’s community has forged certain bonds with him through shared symbols, fruits of socialization, but how is this space reinforced or broken in the case of illness? How is the gaze constructed, how does speech organize itself, and how does the body act during illness, which may be considered both an observable fact as well as representation? In conjunction with our primal fears and our expectations, to what extent does the disintegration of the body caused by the illness combined with the dread of disappearing affect relationships between subjects faced with the declaration of sickness, with the persistence of pain, with the permanence of death, and with the substance of our connection with the Other? Care, comfort, promote life, but in the name of what principles?



Jean-Godefroy Bidima earned a Ph.D in Philosophy at université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne and a Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies (DEA) in Aesthetics and Sciences of Arts. He was Visiting Associate Professor at Bayreuth University (Germany) and Programme Director at the International College of Philosophy. Since 2004 he has been Professor and Yvonne Arnoult Chairholder in French and Francophone Studies at Tulane University (New Orleans). 


His research includes continental Philosophy, Literatures and Arts of the Francophone world, African Philosophies, Juridical Anthropology and Medical Ethics. 

Selected publications


Réalités et représentations de la violence dans les postcolonies, with L. Zoungbo Victorien, Presses de l’université de Perpignan, 2010.


'Philosophy and Literature in Francophone Africa', in K. Wiredu (ed.), Companion to African philosophy, Blackwell, New York -London, 2003, pp.549-560.


Philosophies africaines : Traversées des Expériences, (ed.), Special Issue, Collège International de Philosophie de Paris, Presses universitaires de France, Paris, 2002.


La Palabre : une juridiction de la parole, Editions Michalon, Paris 1997.


L’Art négro-africain, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1997.


La Philosophie négro-africaine, Presses universitaires de France, Paris, 1995. 


Théorie critique et modernité négro-africaine: De l’Ecole de Francfort à la “Docta spes africana”, Publications de la Sorbonne, Paris, 1993.


senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
discipline Anthropology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
discipline History