Badlands of the Republic?

Abstract : Badlands of the Republic? Revolts, the French state, and the question of banlieues Why did they happen? This question was remarkably absent in the aftermath of the recent series of revolts in the French banlieues (suburbs). For many activists, social workers, and researchers, the relevant question was why such revolts have not occurred more often given the state of many social housing neighbourhoods in banlieues. Having done practically nothing to alleviate inequalities, prevent discriminatory practices and police violenceödisproportionately felt by banlieue inhabitants, youth in particularöthe repressive government set up by Chirac was more surprised by the magnitude and persistence of revolts than by the fact that they happened at all. Like previous revolts, the revolts of autumn 2005 were triggered by the deaths of young inhabitants, in which the police, once again, were implicated. Like previous revolts, they were spontaneousönot organisedöuprisings. Like previous revolts, they took place mainly in the disadvantaged social housing neighbourhoods of banlieues. Unlike previous revolts, however, they were suppressed by exceptionally repressive measures by the French state. They not only revealed once again the geographical dimension of inequalities, discrimination, and police violence, but also the contemporary transformations of the French state along increasingly authoritarian and exclusionary lines. Geographies of revolts On 27 October 2005 three young men in Clichy-sous-Bois, a banlieue to the northeast of Paris, took refuge in an electricity substation in order to escape identity checks by the policeöa form of daily harassment not uncommon in the banlieues towards youths, especially if they have a dark complexion. Two of them were electrocuted and one was seriously wounded. That the police actually chased them was officially denied, although the surviving young man stated the contrary. This was the triggering incident for the revolts, which first started on 28 October in Clichy-sous-Bois, and quickly spread to other social housing neighbourhoods of nearly 300 towns, lasting for about two weeks. More than 10 000 vehicles were set alight, and more than 3000 people were placed under police custody, of which one third were indicted. Similar incidents had occurred in the banlieues, as early as the 1970s. However, two major series of revolts were most influential in shaping political debate around banlieues. The first took place in the so-called hot summer' of 1981, a few months after the arrival of the Left in power. By the end of the summer, some 250 cars had been stolen and set alight in the peripheral social housing neighbourhoods of Lyons, Marseilles, Roubaix, Nancy, and Paris. The second occurred a decade later, taking the Socialist government once again by surprise. On 6 October 1990 the social housing neighbourhoods of Vaulx-en-Velinöa banlieue of Lyons seen as exemplary under urban policy's rehabilitation programme öwere the sites of revolts, following the killing of a young inhabitant in an accident in which the police was implicated. Incidents occurred in other banlieues as well in the following months and years, and the decade saw forty-eightöcompared with five in the 1980sölarge-scale revolts in French banlieues, in addition to some 250 of a smaller scale. The revolts of the 1990s shared two common features, which are also true for the 2005 revolts. First, virtually all of them took place in social housing neighbourhoods in banlieues. Second, such neighbourhoods had followed a similar pattern of Guest editorial
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Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, SAGE Publications, 2006, 〈10.1068/d2402ed〉
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Mustafa Dikec. Badlands of the Republic?. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, SAGE Publications, 2006, 〈10.1068/d2402ed〉. 〈hal-01274385〉

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