the French Urban Periphery: Interdisciplinary Conference Organised by Banlieue Network

The Banlieue Far from the Clichés : New Voices, Images and Identities Emerging from the French Urban Periphery

Interdisciplinary Conference Organised by Banlieue Network

Oxford Brookes University, 3-4-5 April 2014

Call for Papers

Over the past few decades, the term “banlieue” has become synonymous with pockets of exclusion on the peripheries of most major French cities. Suburban areas have been the scene of urban violence since the early 1980s, but the riots which occurred in 2005, 2007 and 2010, have reached an unprecedented scale. In the wake of these outbreaks, media accounts and social commentators have highlighted the extent of the social divide in France between residents of disadvantaged urban peripheries and those of more affluent areas. Excluded and marginalised, suburban communities are located at the limits of French society, both literally and metaphorically. In mainstream society, the media-constructed image of the banlieues frequently provides the only insight into life in these underprivileged neighbourhoods. However, the prism of the media often tends to present a distorted image of reality. Focusing on issues of violence, immigration, integration, religion and identity, media and political discourses tend to favour the consolidation of negative stereotypes commonly associated with the suburbs.

However, in recent years, a new type of discourse has emerged that presents images of diversity, vitality and creativity, to counter the clichés of violence and delinquency. Projects which aim to introduce young people to writing, or to other forms of artistic creation, such as “Bondy Blog” or “Les Gars de Villiers”, seek to help them forge out a space in public and media arenas, as “to write is to exist” (Nordine Nabili). The publishing and film industries have also witnessed an explosion of stories referring to the suburbs. Some critics refer to a new literary and cinematic force, while others note the emergence of an urban culture that thrives on the creativity of residents from the suburbs. The resounding success of recent films such as “L’Esquive” (“Games of Love and Chance”) (Kechiche, 2003) or “The Untouchables” (Toldeano, Nakache, 2011), shows that the suburbs now occupies an important place in the minds of the majority of French people.

This conference is the second in a series seeking to promote exchange of knowledge around the subject of the suburbs. Organised by Banlieue Network, it aims to follow up the discussions that took place at the first conference “Communities at the Periphery: Perceptions and Representations of the French Banlieues”, which was held on 4-5 April 2013 at the Institut Français in London. Having explored the negative image of the suburbs that is presented in media and political discourses, we now invite researchers, artists and professionals to explore representations of the suburbs produced by artists from suburban housing estates, urban collectives, residents, elected officials and other urban actors, taking multi- and interdisciplinary perspectives, with the aim of challenging the prevailing stereotypes. We are particularly interested in, but not limited to, the following aspects:

–        The representations and self-representations of communities

–        The authenticity, real or perceived, of the “voice of the suburbs”

–        Memory, individual or collective, of suburban housing estates

–        Images of diversity versus clichés

–        Collective voices and group initiatives

–        The emergence of urban culture and its different forms

–        The imagination of the suburbs and its absorption into the French popular culture

The conference will encourage comparative approaches and adopt an innovative stance to contemporary problems attached to the suburbs by combining theoretical and practical research in order to provide new insights into the mechanisms of social exclusion and spatial segregation. We invite contributions that question and problematise external perceptions and representations in the suburbs, including in the context of the following research fields:

–        French Studies

–        Urban Studies

–        Postcolonial Studies

–        Architecture

–        Cinema

–        History

–        Literature

–        Information Science

–        Geography

–        Sociology

–        Planning

We also invite submissions from people who are not part of the world of academic research but have personal experience or expertise and wish to participate in an exchange of knowledge.

The Exhibition

The dates of the conference will coincide with the inauguration of the exhibition “Perceptions of the Banlieue”. The images, texts and audiovisual works that make up the exhibition are the results of the Summer School organized by Banlieue Network in July 2013 in the municipalities of Saint-Denis, Bondy and Drancy. The works that will be on show are the result of the collaboration of a group of international researchers and some ten artists (photographers, drawers, writers and theatre directors), including Mish Aminoff, Jean-Michel Delage, Liza Dimbleby, Ibrahim Kaba (Kalou), Fabienne Kanor, Mamadou Mahmoud Ndongo, Samuel Nja-Kwa, John Perivolaris, Dianne Regisford and Sophie Tonneau who, during the week of 8-12 July 2013, ran creative workshops and urban walks in the Paris suburbs.

About us

Banlieue Network ( is an international research network funded by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) which aims to connect international scholars from a broad range of disciplines with urban practitioners, artists, stakeholders, associations of residents, activists and policy makers and create opportunities for debate, knowledge transfer and sharing expertise and good practice. Although our primary focus is on disadvantaged neighbourhoods in France, we expect the network to extend in the long term to include comparative studies of disadvantaged communities in other European cities. The Network’s key objective is to address urban stigmatisation and fight negative clichés by creating a forum for cross-disciplinary debates about future visions of the city and pathways for sustainable communities. Exploring the ways in which communities are represented in narratives, political and media discourses and popular culture and studying the alternative identities residents develop in response to mainstream discourses will help us learn from the shortcomings of previous urban policies and improve the effectiveness of future strategic planning. By involving a broad range of partners and by stimulating comparative approaches, we aim to contribute to new thinking about future ethical, cultural and social landscapes and future directions for society.

Organising Committee:

Juliet Carpenter, Oxford Brookes University

Christina Horvath, Oxford Brookes University

Scientific Committee:

Marie-Madeleine Bertucci, Linguistics

Juliet Carpenter, Urban Geography / Planning

Peter Coles, Photography

Christina Horvath, French Literature

Jörg Knieling, Urban Governance

Bruno Levasseur, French Studies


Deadline for abstracts:  31st October 2013.

Abstracts in English or French (title + 300 words summary + 150 words bio) are to be sent to by 31st October 2013.

The organising committee will examine all the proposals and inform the participants of its decisions before 30th November 2013.

The working languages of the conference are French and English. Translation services will not be provided.

The conference is supported by the Research Network programme of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Dr Juliet Carpenter
Senior Research Fellow
Department of Planning
Oxford Brookes University
Chercheur Marie Curie (2012-2014)
Institut d’Urbanisme de Lyon – Université Lyon 2
ENS de Lyon – Laboratoire Triangle: CNRS UMR 5206

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