„Communities at the Periphery: Perceptions and Representations of the French Banlieues”

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Institut Français, London


 „Communities at the Periphery: Perceptions and Representations of the French Banlieues”

Thursday 4th and Friday 5th April 2013

Institut Français, London


Dr Christina Horvath (English and Modern Languages) has initiated an interdisciplinary conference in collaboration with Dr Bruno Levasseur (Roehampton University) and Dr Matthew Moran (King’s College) as part of the Oxford Brookes-based project „Banlieue Network” funded by the AHRC Networking Scheme.

The conference „Communities at the Periphery: Perceptions and Representations of the French Banlieues” aims to bring together scholars and practitioners interested in the phenomenon of urban segregation. In recent years, the term 'banlieue' has become synonymous with pockets of exclusion on the peripheries of most major French cities. Built in the 1950s and 1960s to address the housing shortage, many banlieues suffer from insufficient social services and high unemployment and delinquency rates. Suburban areas have been the scene of urban violence since the early 1980s but the riots which occurred in 2005, 2007 and 2010, reached an unprecedented scale. In the wake of these outbreaks, media accounts and social commentators 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 exist 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, public discourses have contributed to the consolidation of negative clichés associated with the banlieues.

At a time when disadvantaged communities constitute an unprecedented challenge for urban societies, this conference wishes to tackle the issue of urban segregation in France through a critical analysis of the negative images attached to the banlieues in political and media discourses and different art forms. The conference proposes to explore representations of disadvantaged suburban areas in various public discourses from a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspective. It will take a novel approach to contemporary issues associated with banlieues by linking theoretical research with practical, hands-on approaches in order to provide insights into the mechanisms of social exclusion and spatial segregation. The conference aims to question the external perceptions and representations of the banlieues in the context of various fields of study including French Studies, Urban Studies, Postcolonial Studies, Architecture, Film Studies, History, Literature, Media Studies, Urban Geography, Sociology and Urban Planning.

Scheduled in 2014, the next conference organised by Banlieue Network will address self-representation in the banlieues and alternative discourses that challenge the mainstream.