The intifada of the banlieues

Lentin, Alana (2005) The intifada of the banlieues. openDemocracy, 2005 (17/11).

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It is November 2005 and the banlieues of France are returning to troubled calm. For almost three weeks young men of “immigrant origin”, mainly black African and (Arab) north African, have taken to the streets in the poor suburbs surrounding France’s cities and engaged in an orgy of destruction – burning cars, buses and schools; vandalising libraries, factories and churches; injuring police officers with shotguns and Molotov cocktails. It has felt as if an intifada of rage was exploding across France.

The trigger of the anger on the night of 27 October is by now both familiar and – at this distance – already remote: the death of two young men, electrocuted as they hid in a power substation in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-bois. The police have denied the claim of a third teenager who survived by running away that the three were hiding from pursuit by the police.

The effect of this denial, to reject any link between the youths’ death and the subsequent violence, encapsulates the problem that France now faces. Each institution and current of thought has reacted to the explosion by selecting evidence from it that confirms its view. The focus on buzzwords or received ideas – integration and social cohesion, the alleged antidotes to the problems of the “disadvantaged areas”; poverty, unemployment and “exclusion”; the need for people in the banlieues to acquire a sense of local pride; the “zero tolerance” security approach of interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy – is understandable, but also sidesteps the heart of the matter, which is what France itself has become.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: europe; globalisation; institutions & government
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: Alana Lentin
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:19
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2012 08:16
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