Challenging Accusations of Separatism: Transnational Neighbourhood and Vernacular Cosmopolitanism in Insa Sané’ Comédie urbaine

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In the volumes of his Comédie urbaine [Urban Comedy], a cycle of five novels often compared to Balzac’s Comédie humaine [Human Comedy], Insa Sané undertakes to deconstruct some of the prejudices which surround stigmatised banlieues in the French spatial imagination. This chapter proposes to examine how in Sarcelles-Dakar (2006), Gueule de bois (2009), Daddy est mort (2010), Du plomb dans le crâne (2013) and Les Cancres de Rousseau (2017), the Franco-Senegalese novelist attempts to shift dominant perceptions of Sarcelles, a transnational neighbourhood situated in the north-eastern outskirts of Paris, to demonstrate that banlieues like Sarcelles should be regarded as transnational contact zones in which a vernacular cosmopolitanism is elaborated, rather than “badlands of the Republic” (Dikeç) or ghettos plagued by separatism. This chapter relies on the concepts of global diasporas (Cohen), vernacular cosmopolitanism (Bhabha, Werbner), contact zones (Pratt) and translocalities (Appadurai; Sinatti) to argue that, by exploring the themes of ethnic and cultural diversity, the tensions between Paris proper and the city’s underprivileged periphery, the memory of colonisation and the residents’ ambiguous feelings towards normative definitions of Frenchness, Sané does more than just debunking clichés attached to the French banlieues. His Urban Comedy replaces elitist definitions of cosmopolitanism with vernacular alternatives to demonstrate the necessity to reframe dominant narratives about banlieues in public imagination as a way to confront the French Republic with its missed ideal of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExploring the Transnational Neighbourhood
Subtitle of host publicationIntegration, Community, and Co-Habitation
EditorsStephan Ehrig, Britta Jung
Publication statusUnpublished - 2022


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