Cosmopolitism from below ? Immigrant Female Youth in French Banlieue As Powerful Agent of Change of Beauty Practices and Consumption

Friday, 20 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Virginie SILHOUETTE-DERCOURT, Université Paris XIII, CEPN, Centre Marc Bloch Berlin, France
Immigrants today constitute a growing share of Metropolitan youth in Western Europe and are helping to transform cities like Paris into world-cities. In a period of massive flows of transmigration, consumption and material culture become vehicles for the exchange of meaning between groups. They also perform, affirm, and manage the conception of the self in relation to others. For young adults with migrant background, the act of consuming is particularly important for beauty products. This is to be expected insofar as these products contribute strongly to “identity performance” across the intersectionality of the self’s experience of gender, race, and class.

The objective of this paper is to understand how young female migrant consumers living in French Banlieues are adjusting to these changes. Based on ethnographic interviews conducted with second-generation female youth and their mothers, it examines this particular dimension of the adaptation process. In today’s post-modern, globalized world, consumption has become an increasingly important medium through which society communicates. Everyday objects such as beauty products are embedded in a system of meaning that immigrant youth manipulate to express who they are. In turn, these immigrant female youth are transforming mainstream consumption in unexpected ways. This can be traced to their « in-between » identities that straddle two cultures--the surrounding culture and the culture of their parents. This double role (as European citizens and as global citizens connected to far-reaching diasporic networks) makes them powerful agents of change. It is argued that this new form of cosmopolitanism builds on the practices of the local, the everyday and the familiar. It nonetheless imbues a politics of hope that stretches the boundaries of the everyday in a variety of political directions. It is driven by the exigencies of exclusion rather than by the privileges of inclusion (Appadurai, 2011, p. 32)