Peripheral palimpsests: Competing layers of memory and commemoration in contemporary banlieue narratives

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In recent years, the palimpsest metaphor has emerged as a predominant analytical tool in the study of great metropolises such as London, New York, Paris, or Berlin: the association of the city with the parchment on which a new text coexists with traces of an old one has been exploited in different ways. While the metaphor has been used to address urban marginality by referring to the idea of an under world beneath an over world, it has also been conceptualised to investigate the role played by unintentionally conserved heritage and memory in contemporary cities. It is easy to demonstrate that Paris's familiar streets, monuments and open spaces are ‘all the product of accretion, juxtaposition and transformation and this history is made available to us on the surface’, however, the high-rise housing estates of the French banlieues are rarely considered as archives conserving traces of multilayered memory. By focusing on representations of spatial exclusion and postcolonial memory in five contemporary banlieue narratives by Faïza Guène, Thomté Ryam, Rachid Djaidani, Mamadou Mahmoud N'Dongo, and Rachid Santaki, this article undertakes to explore the validity of the palimpsest metaphor in the French urban periphery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187
Number of pages201
Issue number3/2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • récit, palimpseste, mémoire, ville, banlieuenarrative, palimpsest, memory, city, banlieue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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