The sans-papiers' struggle against exclusion: politics in the Parisian banlieue

Goode, Saul. 2004. The sans-papiers' struggle against exclusion: politics in the Parisian banlieue. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis addresses the way that 'politics' and 'ethnicity' appear to be mutually exclusive in the French context, where the Republican ideal of citizenship excludes ethnic identity. I investigate the concept of 'social exclusion' and its application to the banlieues - built-up suburbs of major cities, in this case Paris, where there is a concentration of non-white residents. The banlieues are seen as areas of 'social exclusion' associated with restructuring and deindustrialisation. I argue that 'colour-blind' policies aimed at combating 'social exclusion' ignore a significant part of the lives and identities of banlieue residents by denying the enmeshing of 'culture' and 'structure', and disregarding the history of colonialism and migration.

The existence of sans-papiers represents one of the omissions of 'social exclusion' policies. They are immigrants, and frequently banlieue residents, who have no legal right to be in France. The sans-papiers movement fights against the bureaucratic barriers to regularisation that the sans-papiers have encountered as individuals. My fieldwork with a sans-papiers organisation enabled me to observe and to take part in the interaction between French militants and immigrants from several different cultural backgrounds. The organisation offered an apt site for studying how 'politics' and 'ethnicity' interact in the French context. I give an account of the sans-papiers organisation during a six month occupation of an old Gendarmerie.

My analysis of the sans-papiers movement draws on the theoretical models of Agamben (1998,1999), Badiou (1988) and Zizek (1999). I discuss the emergence of the movement in the context of French universalism. Using interview material, I look at the experience of being a sans-papiers in France. In relation to the events of the occupation, I consider the relationship between the sans-papiers organisation and the authorities, and the relationship within the organisation between sans-papiers and French militants. I investigate group solidarity amongst the sans-papiers and the extent to which their voice was heard in public space, particularly in relation to 'the list' of occupants for whom they demanded regularisation.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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politics, ethnicity, sans-papiers, banlieue Residents, Agamben, Badiou, social exclusion

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Date Deposited:

01 Jul 2020 15:38

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:47


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