‘Nothing’s changed’: 10 years after French riots, banlieues remain in crisis. Despite years of emergency assistance, residents of the suburbs that erupted into violence in 2005 are still waiting for things to improve
From a sufficient distance anything is poetic. Don’t get us wrong, we love this kind of thing but shouldn’t newspapers offer up incisive journalism about “crumbling” suburbs to go along with these photo essays?
A poetic vision of Paris’s crumbling suburban high-rises
And so we join UK writer, commentator and psychogeographer Will Self on foot, out and about, away from the centre of Paris.
Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle. Will Self takes a walk through the banlieues of Paris and is astonished by the prescience of Debord’s 1967 masterpiece, which so accurately describes ‘the shit we’re in’
Or you could also sit still with a place through the full cycle of day and night. Like this writer did for The Economist recently at a service centre off the M1 motorway.
The super elites of France, the EU’s second-largest economy, may have found a way to rest a little easier. Money! Rivers of it! The sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, the gas-rich and Sharia-ruled Persian Gulf state, is set to make major investments in France’s troubled suburban areas. The banlieue frequently erupt in rioting, are chronically short of jobs and can’t be said to represent the best of French life in really any way at all. Politicians to the right and the left seem to find reason to question to this new potentiality as many, not all but many, residents of the banlieue are muslim. Certainly there are many problems that can be solved by throwing money at them. Keeping people well housed and educated and healthy, for example. Economic opportunity might be a little trickier but if we are talking about the very character of a country perhaps this nuee ardente of Qatari cash will be just what the docteur ordered!
…who is your Daddy now, France?
Retrofitting seems to be the suburban-poverty theme of late. Here is a link to an article describing the benefit of changes to Plessis-Robinson. An outer suburb in southwest Paris, France. What is referred to as “smart growth” or “new urbanism” in North America was put in place there beginning in the 1990s. The article, like much discussion of suburban futures, is mainly about built form and resource usage. Again, who would argue with attractive buildings that conserve energy, greenspaces, walkability, public safety, advanced recycling, water saving efforts and so forth? Well, only an idiot. What is it then that retards such development in one place but not in another? See the results for yourself in the six minute video available at the link below.
It would seem to us that improvements to sustainability and general aesthetics might make a suburb more expensive and harder on those with less income. On the other hand, denser, more economically diverse places with better public transit and a variety of types of housing would make life easier for working people and those in social difficulty. How late is it to be putting in place a process of working out such issues in North America?
France and Spain are hosts to some fairly serious situations of suburban poverty. It is also increasingly difficult to see how they will improve upon these situations going forward. Bit of a shame when you think of the amazing cultural life, public spaces and social progress most western Europeans have been enjoying for some time now. The kind of anger and social difficulty once corralled on the urban fringes could become familiar to more and more of the populations of Spain and France if austerity is forced upon them. The links below are to articles from cafebabel.com. Hints of positive solutions coming from artists and social activists are found in both items, and that’s a good thing.
Better quality, less reactionary consideration of recent riots in England is starting to emerge. The first item for this posting is from The Guardian and it makes a reasonable connection to prolonged suburban rioting in France’s suburbs six years ago, examining the motives of actors in the street. The second, an older item from The Economist, …well, reading is believing.