8) Marginality and Social Cohesion


Reality of Paris

In Montmartre, where Amélie was, there are cobblestones and traces of what was there before. There are many picture-perfect scenes found in the city. But, this is a very different story compared with the suburbs and outskirts of the city. For example, Boulevard Ornano is very much associated with crime and immigration, which are also associated with each other. In one area of Montmartre, a whole road is shut every Friday for Islamic Friday prayers on the cobblestones.

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The Metro

Paris is connected by the Metro, an underground rail network. But, it serves a double function. It facilitates interconnectedness and transport. It is devoid of meaning, but should it be a mythology of Paris? Marc Augé argues that it is a 'non-lieux' (non-place):

‘the word “non-place” designates two complementary but distinct realities: spaces formed in relation to certain ends (transport, transit, commerce, leisure), and the relations that individuals have to these spaces.’

'Metro, boulot, dodo' - metro, work, sleep. This is a common phrase that concerns the rhythm of everyday life.

The Metro also gives life to another view of Paris, the unseen Paris. Aspects of Paris are contested in the Metro in things like graffiti in which many of the artists are very political.

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Race in Paris

Paris is also defined by its margins as well as its centrality, both in a geographical sense and a social sense, which includes all the races living in Paris in its definition. But, despite the number of non-white immigrant communities living in Paris, politics has failed to keep up.

The anti-racism movement did gather pace at the same time as the racism movement. This makes it hard to accept Paris as the 'colour-blind' city it was in the 1920s in the modern day. There are two Parises, the traditional white, Catholic Paris and that of the suburbs and margins. Mathieu Kassovitz's 'La Haine' (1995) shows the fraternity among immigrant communities and highlights the problem with modern Paris concerning the accepatance of different races.

Following the deaths of Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, 2 young boys from the city of Clichy-sous-Bois in 2005, riots started. They'd been chased by the police after a football game and ended up being electrocuted in a substation. The riots spread and led to burning of vehicles and much violence. A similar event happened in 2007, when following the deaths of 2 more teenagers, Moushin S. and Larami S., after their motorcycle collided with a police car, more riots broke out. Their families claimed the police car rammed into the boys' motorcycle and left them for dead. So, all the discontent experienced by these communities came out in these riots.

There are still ongoing tensions between immigrants and the centre of Paris/the government.

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Terrorist Attacks

The recent terrorist attacks in France has brought the community together to some degree. The art produced following these attacks use the mythologies of Paris, re-tooling them. For example, the Eiffel Tower was used as a peace sign, and the colours blue, white and red have been used a lot.

There is still an ongoing state of emergence happening in Paris concerning the immigrant communities and terrorist activity. For example, the gilets jeunes 'yellow vest' riots.

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