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  • Writer's picturegabriellehalpern

A Note for the Jean Jaurès Foundation: "Third places - The conditions for genuine hybridisation"

In partnership and with the support of the popular education movement Les Petits Débrouillards, the philosopher Gabrielle Halpern has published a prospective note on the phenomenon of third places at the Jean Jaurès Foundation, questioning whether or not they form a laboratory for experimentation in the future. This study on third places is part of the Foundation's research on hybridisation and is based on interviews with a number of stakeholders - third place directors, third place project developers, elected representatives, etc. - who the author met over the last few months. Gabrielle Halpern thanks them for their time, their sincerity and their insight.

In rural, peripheral and urban areas, unusual places combine activities which, at first sight, have little to do with each other. How can we understand the proliferation of these third places? How could these spaces lead to new forms of collective creation?

Extract: " One of the weak signals testifying to the progressive hybridisation of our world is the third places. We are seeing an increase in the number of unusual places in rural, peripheral and urban areas that combine activities that at first glance have little to do with each other - economic activities such as crafts and digital technology, scientific research and cultural infrastructures - but which are creating a new world. Strongly rooted in the local area where they were created, these third places nourish close ties with it. The diversity of activities leads to a diversity of audiences, professions and generations, which again, until now, didn't seem to have much to do with each other. This generates new models of professional collaboration, a new way of existing collectively, the invention of new links and new solidarities. These collectives, by the way they are formed and cultivated, seem to raise questions about the exercise of contemporary citizenship and provide keys that could feed into a reflection on how to rethink our social contract, both in the political and the professional field.

By bringing together activities that are seemingly heterogeneous, these third places are part of an objective of social utility, connection and innovation and intend to progressively blur the artificial borders created between generations, sectors, professions, territories and audiences. Is the emergence of these third places, as well as all the examples mentioned above, proof that we are beginning to tame our anxiety about what doesn't fit into our boxes? An anxiety that has led us, for centuries, to ignore or even reject anything in reality that might seem to be hybrid, that is to say, heterogeneous, contradictory, unconquerable. An anxiety that our ancestors of Greek antiquity embodied in the figure of the centaur - half-human, half-horse, a hybrid figure "par excellence" - almost always described, depicted or sculpted as threatening. Does what is hybrid intend to do us harm? We seem to have been persuaded of this for a long time. While we used to see the world through the prism of identity and homogeneity, we may be beginning to understand how hybridity can be a real opportunity for our society and for those who inhabit it.

But what conditions are required to be able to talk about 'hybridisation' in relation to third places? To answer this question, it's worth remembering that hybridisation raises the question of the relationship with the other. What is the right relationship to the other? This is where the figure of the centaur can shed some light. In the centaur, what's the relationship between the human part and the horse part? Are they in a relationship of fusion where we no longer know who is who? Are they in a relationship of juxtaposition where they coexist, but each leads its own life in indifference to the other, or are they in a relationship of assimilation, i.e. there is one part that tries to take precedence over the other? These three types of relationship - fusion, juxtaposition or assimilation - constitute the three pitfalls of the relationship to the other, and this is true in the field of friendship, work, love or geopolitics. Hybridisation is neither fusion, nor juxtaposition, nor assimilation. There is a fourth way, which is that of 'reciprocal metamorphosis' : to obtain a centaur, it is not enough to put a man on a horse, but each of the parties must take a step to the side, step out of its own identity, metamorphose in contact with the other, and only then will there be an encounter, and therefore the creation of a third figure, a third world, a third place. The right relationship with the other can be defined as 'reciprocal metamorphosis'8 , which leads to hybridisation.

To what extent do these third places not only constitute a simple juxtaposition of activities, audiences, skills, generations and uses, but do they lead to a real hybridisation of worlds? Is there any hybridisation within the third places and if so, what are its forms, dynamics; what are the conditions that make it possible and sustainable? How do collectives form within these atypical places? To what extent can third places be schools for learning about otherness and constitute laboratories for experimenting with new methods, new ways of meeting and collaborating? To what extent do they allow us to rethink citizenship and the social contract? To what extent can these third places become federating points of reference within local areas, through the collectives they cultivate?

To try to answer these questions, a number of interviews were conducted in various third places, in order to collect information to think about these collectives, the way they are formed, cultivated and maintained (...)".

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