Tuesday, July 17, 2018

More Bleu Banlieue

http://www.citylab.com; Nov. 16, 2017

July 17, 2018

Welcome back.  Before we continue our discussion on les bleu Banlieue, a quick update on the eye-popping, mind numbing performance of the president in Helsinki, Finland. Mr. Donald Trump walked back on his comments saying that he meant to say "would" instead of "wouldn't."  Right, of course.  Moving on, we will discuss the concept of spatial stigma in the Banlieue.

"Spatial stigma: a long tradition"

Journalists refer to the banlieues as the "Other Paris" (nytimes.com; Nov. 9, 2013 date accessed July 17, 2018) is, according to Tanvi Misra as a "diverse, varied and most of all, normal."  It is the part of Paris that is not part of any tour, not the place to sit in a café and sip tea.  Ms. MIsra sat down to talk with Chayma Drira, a journalist and student at Sciences Po, at café directly across from a gothic basilica where French queens were crowned.  Ms Drira's family came to France in the sixties following the Algerian War for Independence.  In the seventies, they moved to public housing in La Courneuve--also in Department 93.  This was the place that then-minister of interior, Nicholas Sarkozy, famously promised to "clean up" the cités in 2005 (ina.fr; date accessed July 18, 2018).  Ms. Drira told Ms. Misra, "Home prices in La Courneuve are prohibitively high for many because the suburb has a metro stop,..."  Some areas of the Banlieue have amenities but go a few blocks, and it can be a ghost town.  Ms. Drira said, Uniformly, though, they lack book stores, libraries, and other "third spaces,...

To the residents, the "Other Paris" is home like any other place. However, people in the city center have a different perspective.  They do not see it as a place to sit and sip tea or any beverage.  The city center dwellers are frequently too frightened to come and visit because they think it is unsafe--particularly for women.  Ms. Drira said, There is a lot of stigma in this town...because of politics...

The suburbs' bad reputation is not a contemporary phenomena, according to American University sociologist Ernesto Castaneda-Tinoco (american.edu; date accessed July 17, 2018).  Mr. Castaneda-Tinoco studies the stigmatization of marginalized urban spaces  (american.academia.edu; date accessed July 17, 2018) and says that "It goes all the way back to medieval times, whe Paris was walled off so that peasants who lived outside and sold their goods inside could be taxed upon entry."  In the mid-nineteenth century, Baron Haussmann designed the famous elegant boulevards that the city  specifically for the elite, relegating the lower classes to the outskirts.

Architectural historian Jean-Louis Cohen told New York Magazine in 2009,

In the time of Haussmann, the Paris bourgeoisie often spoke about 'les classes dangereuses'--the dangerous classes,... He sought to expel the popular classes from the center, to push them out, to push them out, to the north and northeast of the city.  But it marks the beginning of a long conflict (nytimes.com; June 8, 2009; date accessed July 17, 2018). 

When the factories opened outside Paris, the employees were the people who lived in the immediate area.  In the beginning of the 20th century, the French Communist Party established a firm foothold, casually referred to as the "red belt" (books.google.com; date accessed July 17, 2018). After World War II, France rebuilt with the help of migrant laborers from other parts of Europe and it's former colonies.  Like Chayma Drira's family, many first lived in shantytowns on the margins of the city.  In the sixties, they were collapsed into public housing projects--"many of them designed with utopian idea,s in mind by famous architects such as Le Corbusier.  This was done strategically."

Thomas Kirszbaum (isp.cnrs.fr; date accessed July 17, 2018), a sociologist with a specialty in urban policy at the École Normale Supérieure de Cachan, told CityLab,

During the relocation process, the choice was made not to mix these people with he other but to separate them into specific neighborhoods or in specific housing within these neighborhoods--so from the outset, the segregation model was in place,....

Tanvi Misra writes, "Whike French ghettos emerged in a different political context and in response to different historical stimuli than the ones in the U.S. [metropolitiques.eu; Dec. 16, 2010; date accessed July 17, 2018], they were similar in that they were created intentionally and they trapped their poor residents of color in poverty, often for generations.  Essentially,

All this means is that the French government, but also the mayors and so on, they have a huge responsibility in the construction of the French model of segregation. 

Today, the suburbs are thriving sprawling places with narrow sidewalks and wide streets, however, their islands of "high-density public housing" are archipelagos of social exclusion (thefunambulist.net; date accessed July 18, 2018), according to Paris-based architect Léopold Lambert.  Mr. Lambert has been writing a series on discrimination and design in the banlieue (Ibid) for his magazine Funambulist (Ibid).  He plotted the spatial disparities in transportation (Ibid; Aug. 6, 2015) and pedestrian infrastructure (Sept. 16, 2015). He posited that "decisions perpetuating racial and economic segregation are still being made today."  To buttress this argument, he illustrated the Parisian municipalities in the metropolitan areas that have less than 25 percent social housing in their communities, mandated by law update in 2013 (inta-aivn.org; date accessed July 17, 2018)--"Municipalities have until 2025 to reach this threshold."

The warmer colors in map (available at citylab.com; Nov. 16, 2017) highlight the lower amounts of social housing.  The dark grey area have more than 25 percent of their portion.  When you look at the map, pay attention to where the pockets of red, orange, and yellow are.

The Muslim population in the banlieues has grown, so has the fear that these spaces have become breeding grounds (nytimes.com; Apr. 5, 2017; date accessed July 17, 2018) of "anti-state sentiment and extermism--even though the evidence that terrorists come from practicing Muslim families [worldpoliticsreview; date accessed July 17, 2018), particularly from the banlieues [newyorker.com; Aug. 31, 2015; date accessed July 17, 2018]."  Further, the notion that Islam "is incompatible with national identity [Ibid] and values is supported by politicians on the far right [independent.co.uk; Feb. 5, 2017; date accessed July 17, 2018] and the left [middleeasteye.net; date accessed July 17, 2018]. 

The French government has responded by aggressively controlling public spaces.  The best known example of this is the longstanding ban on Muslim attire in the name of laïcité (secularism) (theatlantic.com; Feb 10, 2017; date accessed July 17, 2018).  However there are other cases. ms. MIsra reports, "Just recently, 100 or so lawmakers, led by Valérie Pécresse, the head of the regional government [fr.m.wikipedia.org; date accessed July 18, 2018] in the Laris area, disrupted street prayers [bbc.com; Nov. 10, 2017; date accessed July 17, 2018] held by Muslims in the birth day rubs who were demonstrating the closure of their mosque.  Worshipper Abdelkader told the BBC,

They were singing the Marseillaise, throwing it in our faces, even though we're French people here... We're French.  Long live France! [Ibid]...

To be continued.