Wednesday, 22 December 2010

"Badlands of the Republic" - three quotes

Mustafa Dikeç's Badlands of the Republic: Space, Politics and Urban Policy (Oxford: Blackwell 2007) is a really excellent work for understanding the revolts in the banlieus in France. I don't have time here to dwell on all its strong points. Let me just quote three passages I liked particularly much:

Firstly, I was happy to see that he is courageous enough to see the revolts as something deserving of the same respect as ordinary social movements, although they are not social movements in the conventional sense.
They are neither pre-conceived nor organized, and they are not articulated as collective efforts aimed at transforming the established order. However, […] they are not intrinsic acts of violence either. They all mobilize with a demand for justice and as reactions against perceived injustices. ‘Let justice be done’ or ‘J’ai la haine’, as was heard – again – during the revolts of autumn 2005. (Dikec 2007:152f)
Secondly, he points out that what motivates the revolts are inequality, discrimination and repression - not religion.
[S]tating that the revolts were ‘ethnic’ (dark skin) or religious (Islam) is almost as absurd as stating that the May 1968 uprisings were ‘ethnic’ (white) or religious (Christian). There was nothing to suggest that the revolts were ‘ethnic’ or religious. (ibid 176)
Thirdly, a penetrating remark on the meaning of republicanism.
The problem is not that republicanism is inherently incompatible with diversity. The problem is that the republican imaginary is so white and so Christian that any manifestation of discontent […] quickly evokes concerns about the values and principles of the republic. This is the paradox of actually existing republicanism in France. When those who do not quite fit in the republican imaginary mobilize, the principle of equality – otherwise strongly defended – gets displaced by a preoccupation with ‘ethnic’ origins and religious affiliations - otherwise strongly criticized. Rather than a defence of the equality of all its members regardless of ethnicity or religion, republicanism becomes a denial of diversity. (ibid 177).

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