Ghettos, banlieues – is the difference disappearing?

International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition)

No.4, 2019


Ghettos, banlieues – is the difference disappearing? (Abstract)


Henri Rey


This article considers the use of references to the American ghettos in the history of the French working-class suburbs – the “banlieues”. When construction work first began on the new housing developments, concerns were voiced about the scale and isolation of their apartment blocks, in contrast to the model of individual houses. With the pauperisation of a section of the working classes and growth of the immigrant population, successive periods of rioting and the prevalence of an economy of drug dealing and other illicit trades among an element of the youth in these neighbourhoods, over a quarter of whom are unemployed, the comparison between ghettos and banlieues gained credibility. Also influential was public policy targeting the French banlieues, which reflected the dogma of republican equality, and fierce opposition to communalism. However, a section of the inhabitants of these neighbourhoods have gradually developed a subjective feeling of being separate from the rest of society and imprisoned in a ghetto with its own codes and laws, for example in the treatment of women. So the clear distinction established 20 years ago between the “black belt” and the “red belt” (Wacquant 2006) has greatly reduced.