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CES Workshop. “Riot at a Railway Station: Space, Race, and the Politics of Infrastructure in France.”

Monday, February 23, 2015
12:00 AM
1644 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University

At the height of the French presidential election season in 2007, Paris’s Gare du Nord railway station erupted in what newspapers called a “riot” after the violent arrest of a Congolese man provoked confrontations between youth and police. The event staged the convergence of official and unofficial attempts to define and regulate spaces and subjects in Parisian public space. Drawing on media representations of the events, political speeches, and first person accounts, I show how station users engaged with and contested the official ideology of French social and spatial classifications. The “riot” brings to light competing ways of seeing and imagining this public site—as non-space or as socially meaningful place, as national emblem or as imperial legacy, as political or as apolitical, as peripheral margin or as a central hub. Proposing the analytic of a “theater of encounter” to understand this event and its representation, I suggest that mobility infrastructure helps us rethink how racial and cultural categories map onto the French urban landscape.

Julie Kleinman completed her PhD in Anthropology at Harvard University in 2013, and is now a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Oberlin College. She is currently working on her book manuscript, which examines immigration and the politics of difference in French public space through the lens of Paris’s Gare du Nord railway station. She has published on these topics in Ethnologie Française, Transition, and City & Society. Julie recently returned from Mali where she has been doing research for her second project on return migration and migrant rights activism in Bamako. In 2015, she will begin a position at Penn State University as assistant professor of French and African Studies.

Julie Kleinman, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities and visiting assistant professor of French, Oberlin College