Territorial stigmatisation of French housing estates : from internalisation to coping with stigma
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In this thesis I examine the ways in which residents of France's so-called 'banlieues' respond to everyday life in stigmatised neighbourhoods. Through a description of the processes at work in two housing estate neighbourhoods of the southern French city of Nîmes - Pissevin and Valdegour - and drawing upon an analysis of intensive interviews, I question the popular belief that residents of French banlieue-spaces come to internalise the stigmatic representations that are produced outside their place of residence. The overarching argument of the thesis is that, while it is clear that territorial stigmatisation has long-lasting and pervasive consequences for banlieue residents, affecting their sense of self and their capacity for collective action, there are a number of ways in which the 'blemish of place' is challenged and the marks of neighbourhood stigma resisted. It is important to recognise the attempts that are made within French housing estates to displace or negotiate stigmatising gazes and to confront the labels that affix themselves to place. This thesis argues that there are a variety of counter-discursive attempts to reframe and to reclaim the representations of France's housing estates that leads to the affirmation of banlieue-identities. Within the banlieues, there are solid links between residents and place, as well as between the residents themselves. Strong efforts are deployed by associations, neighbourhood committees and grassroots organisations to actively challenge the stigmatic scripts that are imposed upon stigmatised neighbourhoods. However, this thesis also draws attention to the everyday tactics that residents enact in order to cope with territorial stigmatisation and its effects. These everyday practices allow for some to cope with the heavy burden of stigma while taking control of the 'neighbourhood space'. All of these tactics challenge and 'speak back' to the labels, the stereotypes and the stigmatising language that is produced at the level of urban planning. This leads to the vital rethinking of policies that aim to displace and disperse residents in the name of social mixing, as well as urban policy initiatives that equate renovation to the demolition of housing estates within French banlieues.