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.
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