When Ethnicity Is a Problem. French Commercial Polarities within Deprived Suburbs.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Nabil ZOUARI, Laboratory of Interdisciplinary Research City, Space, Society (R.I.V.E.S.), France
This paper will question current renewal of disadvantaged suburbs in France (Busquet, Hérouard and Saint-Macary 2016) and especially the lack of attention of the commercial infrastructures within these areas. Our hypothesis is that these commercial infrastructures are perceived as too strongly ethnicized and therefore, according to French republican philosophy (Favell, 2016), an obstacle to political and economic integration.

Since 2003, urban renewal of disadvantaged neighborhoods in France has been based on the principle of demolition and reconstruction. As these neighborhoods have become hosts to post-colonial immigration, many French politicians wish to de-ethnicize them. Ethnicization is often equated to ghettoization (Lapeyronnie 2008). This includes shopping facilities and commercial local infrastructures, which strongly contribute to ethnicizing the image of these neighborhoods (Rath 2009).

However, some of the commercial polarities threatened by demolition enjoy great economic vitality. This is particularly the case for Mas du Taureau in Vaulx-en-Velin, a city emblematic of French deprived suburbs. This paper will show that commercial polarity located in the heart of Mas du Taureau is highly dynamic and radiates on the metropolitan level. Moreover, this polarity approaches the standards of super diversity as defined by Steven Vertovec (2007), and then by Sharon Zukin (2015). We will question the inability of stakeholders engaged in the renewal of these neighborhoods to apprehend this economic dynamism as well as this super-diversity, and to focus instead on an ethnicity considered as closed on itself.

The paper will be based on a thesis undertaken since April 2015. A survey of a hundred interviews was carried out with public decision-makers, traders, consumers, residents and associations. In order to give a counterpoint to this French case, a survey of about twenty interviews was also conducted on a peripheral neighborhood of Montreal.