The banlieue: realities, myths, representations

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The predominantly high-rise housing estates constructed in the 1950s and 60s at the periphery of every major French city have been marked by the monumental architecture promoted by Le Corbusier and the Athens Charter and the mass-scale immigration from North and Sub-Saharan Africa in the 1960s and 70s. Since the 1980s, the banlieues have undergone a process of marginalization and have become increasingly stigmatised in public in the collective consciousness. Despite the social, demographical and architectural diversity of the actual suburbs, the image of a homogeneous space know as “the banlieue” produced over nearly four decades by public discourses, successive urban policies and popular culture has progressively developed into one of the most powerful myths of contemporary France. This chapter will be composed of two main parts. The first part will examine the elaboration of the stereotypical image of the banlieue while the second will explore how artists and “civilians” responded to the contemporary myth of the ghetto, either by subverting this myth or by creating other, contradicting myths such as the banlieue as ordinary space or the banlieue as the hub of artistic creativity. The subheadings of the first part will focus on 1) the emergence of the suburban space; 2) the banlieue reflected by the media; 3) the urban policies shaping the banlieue; and 4) the mediatisation of the “ghettoization’ theory. The second part will discuss 5) the representation of the banlieue in cinema and popular culture; 6) the rise of the ‘banlieue novel’; 7) the banlieue represented by its non-artist residents and 8) the use of banlieue slang in creative projects. The chapter will draw on different approaches in a a variety of disciplines including sociology (Kepel, Lapeyronnie, Kokoreff, Stébé, Marchall, Vieillard-Baron), linguistics (Goudailler, Lepoutre, Bertucci, Turpin), politics (Dikeç, Tissot), urban geography (Desponds, Bergel, Carpenter) and cultural studies (Levasseur, Auclair) as well as media studies (Sedel, Berthaut), literature (Laronde, Hargreaves, Horvath), film (Tarr, Wagner) and rap music (Ghio, Hammou).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of French Politics and Culture
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


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