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Berghahn Monographs in French Studies
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Race, Culture, and Community in a State-Planned City in France
Beth S. Epstein
220 pages, 2 maps, 18 illus., bibliog., index
ISBN 978-0-85745-084-5 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (March 2011)
eISBN 978-0-85745-085-2 eBook
“… a well-written monograph that nicely reveals the dilemmas of community-making in situations where all residents are newcomers, but not all newcomers are equal…there is much to admire and learn from this lucid study, both about the villes nouvelles as particular socio-spatial environments, and about the heavily politicized field of culture talk in France.” · French Politics, Culture, and Society
“Through concrete and compelling examples, Collective Terms cleverly advances our understanding of the challenges faced by both immigrants and French institutions. Furthermore, the author is not afraid to ask the tough yet necessary questions about diversity, immigration, difference, and discrimination, and to bring to light fears of exclusion as well as anti-French feelings. And while she debates what it means to be French, by extension she forces its readers to question what it means to be American, Italian, Spanish, or even European.” · Contemporary French Civilization
"This is a wonderful work of ethnography on a topic of vital contemporary concern—the French banlieue . . . It offers a fresh look at what has become a rather paralyzed debate on race, culture, integration and difference in France . . . By studying social life in a New Town, rather than working with one particular immigrant community, the author moves us to a far richer depiction of urban France and is able to tackle these topics in a fresh new way." · Andrea Smith, Lafayette College
"This work is a clear and informative account of how various actors in a French New Town live and discuss differences of various kinds—racial, religion, and nationality. The author frames the study very nicely, as an effort to go beyond the alternatives of finding race and racism everywhere (the American tendency), or denying that race structures society (a frequent French response) . . . The book is one of the very few that show us town life." · John R. Bowen, Washington U. in St. Louis
The banlieue, the mostly poor and working-class suburbs located on the outskirts of major cities in France, gained international media attention in late 2005 when riots broke out in some 250 such towns across the country. Pitting first- and second-generation immigrant teenagers against the police, the riots were an expression of the multiplicity of troubles that have plagued these districts for decades. This study provides an ethnographic account of life in a Parisian banlieue and examines how the residents of this multiethnic city come together to build, define, and put into practice their collective life. The book focuses on the French ideal of integration and its consequences within the multicultural context of contemporary France. Based on research conducted in a state-planned ville nouvelle, or New Town, the book also provides a view on how the French state has used urban planning to shore up national priorities for social integration. Collective Terms proposes an alternative reading of French multiculturalism, suggesting fresh ways for thinking through the complex mix of race, class, nation, and culture that increasingly defines the modern urban experience.
Beth S. Epstein has lived and worked in France as a filmmaker and anthropologist since the early 1990s. She is Assistant Director for Academic Affairs at NYU in France.