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Collective Terms

Collective Terms: Race, Culture, and Community in a State-Planned City in France

Beth S. Epstein
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: DGO - Digital original, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Collective Terms
    Book Description:

    Thebanlieue,the mostly poor and working-class suburbs located on the outskirts of major cities in France, gained international media attention in late 2005 when riots broke out in some 250 such towns across the country. Pitting first- and second-generation immigrant teenagers against the police, the riots were an expression of the multiplicity of troubles that have plagued these districts for decades. This study provides an ethnographic account of life in a Parisianbanlieueand examines how the residents of this multiethnic city come together to build, define, and put into practice their collective life. The book focuses on the French ideal of integration and its consequences within the multicultural context of contemporary France. Based on research conducted in a state-plannedvillenouvelle,or New Town, the book also provides a view on how the French state has used urban planning to shore up national priorities for social integration.Collective Termsproposes an alternative reading of French multiculturalism, suggesting fresh ways for thinking through the complex mix of race, class, nation, and culture that increasingly defines the modern urban experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-085-2
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction Collective Terms
    (pp. 1-24)

    On 27 October 2005, violence broke out in a poor, working-class suburb of Paris, France. Two young teenagers—both of them immigrants, one from Mali and the other from Tunisia—had died tragically seeking refuge in an electric power station as they ran from the police. As word got out, their friends and peers took to the streets. Within days the violence spread around the country, engulfing over 250 cities and towns in riots that continued, night after night, for a period of three weeks. It was the most serious uprising to shake French society since the student and labor...

  7. Chapter 1 Urban Plans
    (pp. 25-52)

    In 1960, President of the Republic Charles de Gaulle and Paul Delouvrier, who would become de Gaulleʹs director of regional planning, surveyed Paris and its environs by helicopter. ʺDelouvrier,ʺ de Gaulle is reported to have said, ʺgive me some order in thismerdeʺ (Le Monde, 18 January 1995). Below them lay an unwieldy mass of poorly served suburbs marked by long, monotonous housing blocks built quickly after the war, congested roads and highways, and disorderly and hazardous shantytowns inhabited, for the most part, by foreign workers recruited to help fuel the countryʹs postwar modernizing boom. Acceding to de Gaulleʹs request,...

  8. Chapter 2 Community Ties
    (pp. 53-73)

    ʺHave you seen this?ʺ the president of the newly formed civic association St. Christophe Ensemble asked the other members of his group as one of their meetings came to a close. Based in the central commercial and residential district of Cergy–St. Christophe, St. Christophe Ensemble was created by a group of concerned residents in the mid 1990s to establish a forum where neighborhood residents could meet, organize, and exchange ideas about such issues as housing, youth unemployment, and education. The association is one of literally hundreds of civic organizations around the city that run the gamut from dance clubs...

  9. Chapter 3 To Be Exclu
    (pp. 74-91)

    The sense of closed horizons that characterizes life for many in thebanlieuedefies the expansive expectation of social mobility and opportunity that accompanied the suburbsʹ construction in the 1950s and 1960s, giving way to concern that the republican principle of equal opportunity has come undone by the intrusion, and hardening, of structural inequalities. Unemployment, economic hardship, a sense of disenfranchisement: how to account for the grinding and corrosive difficulties experienced by many living in thebanlieue? Global economic transformations that have ended in the restructuring and growing precariousness of the workplace are being profoundly felt in places like the...

  10. Chapter 4 Race-Conscious and Race-Blind: A Housing Crisis
    (pp. 92-117)

    ʺThe French are hypocrites,ʺ Hélène Omansango told me over lunch between the morning and afternoon sessions of a training program in which she and thirteen other African women were learning, under the auspices of ADFA, a prominent African womenʹs group in Cergy, to become ʺcultural mediators.ʺ Hélène, from Cameroon, had lived in France since 1983. Her brother, she told me, lived in Chicago, and while she had heard that there was not much mixing of black and white there, she avowed that ʺeveryone knows that the French are the most racist.ʺ This was not the first time I had heard...

  11. Chapter 5 The Common Good: Parents, Teachers, and the Public Schools
    (pp. 118-137)

    It is 4:20 on a chilly winterʹs day. A group of mothers gathers outside the doors of the nursery and elementary school Les Alouettes in Cergy–St. Christophe. Some are talking together; others wait quietly by themselves. They wrap their coats around them, trying to keep out the cold. It is the same scene, every day, in front of schoolyards across the country—the end of the school day. Parents, grandparents, babysitters, older brothers and sisters have come to pick up the younger children and accompany them home. In the morning they will be back again to drop them off,...

  12. Chapter 6 Having Culture
    (pp. 138-158)

    I have argued up to this point that in order to understand the long-standing ʺimmigrant problemʺ in France and its relation to the geopolitics of the querulousbanlieue, it is necessary to look outside of the ethnocultural categories often used as a means of explaining the kinds of hardships and conflicts that one might find there. Following Brubaker and Cooperʹs warning against confusing ʺcategories of practiceʺ with ʺcategories of analysisʺ (2000), I have sought to see how differences of various types—socioeconomic, racial, national, ethnocultural—are made to mean something within and in relation to the French integration ideal, rather...

  13. Conclusion In Other Words
    (pp. 159-164)

    Much has changed in France since I first started to conduct my research there in the mid 1990s. Jacques Chirac, who was elected during the course of my first period of fieldwork, is no longer president; the National Front, after having come close to a stunning, and disturbing, victory in the presidential elections of 2002, is less present, even as many would argue that the ideas the party stands for have been usurped by the party now in power and moved more solidly into the mainstream. The Socialist Party, along with the Left more generally, is in disarray, while Nicolas...

  14. Appendix
    (pp. 165-166)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 167-175)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 176-186)
  17. Index
    (pp. 187-190)