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Social Mobility in the French Urban Peripheries (NeMLA Annual Convention )

Boston, MA
Organization: NeMLA
Event: NeMLA Annual Convention
Categories: French, Popular Culture, Film, TV, & Media
Event Date: 2020-03-05 to 2020-03-08 Abstract Due: 2019-09-30

Media depictions of the French cité often present these peripheral areas as spaces in which multiethnic, multiracial youth are hopelessly confined; crime, drugs, violence, and poverty are depicted as inescapable conditions of their daily lives. Youth are portrayed as unable to penetrate beyond the boundaries of their neighborhoods and assimilate into the rest of middle-class, majority white France. Yet, concurrently, these residents of the cité are also characterized by their mobility and itinerancy, in opposition to the “Français de souche” who are firmly anchored in the terroir. Transnational markers of class and racial difference suggest that the ability to move around and resettle is an inescapable trait. By looking at this paradox, we can understand the ways race and migration are connected, as well as the coexisting stratifications that emerge through the racialization of “immigrants” in France.

This panel seeks to explore the selective fluidity of racialized people in French popular culture, especially in hip-hop and the Internet, forms of media that best describe and represent contemporary racial identities in French culture. We will consider how rap music and popular culture emanating from the cité challenge these depictions by demonstrating the socially constructed nature of race.


Chong (CJ) Bretillon