This article can be read in the continuity of a previous one, written on December 12, 2015 and published under the title, “State of Emergency in France: An Architectural Reading of the Police Perquisitions.”
It has now been 50 days that France is living in the state of emergency, declared in the wake of the November 13, 2015 attacks and voted in the form of a law by the Parliament on November 27. Although the duration of this state of exception was fixed to three months, and should therefore be ended by the end of this month, the government already announced its intention to push for an extension — “until we get rid of ISIS” even said Prime Minister Manuel Valls to the BBC a few days ago! — which should transform the exception into a rule as it is often the case in this kind of situations. A recent poll have shown that a majority of French citizens are in favor of such an extension. What this poll does not reflect in any way, is the extreme inequality of application of the state of emergency on different bodies. For many, the sole experience of this state of exception consists in seeing armed soldiers and police officers in the streets and accepting the search of bags at the entrance of large shops. Others who live in the various banlieues of the country (in large cities just like in small towns, on metropolitan territory just like on ultramarine territories) may experience the exceptional latitude given to the police forces in its racist violence. More than 3,000 individuals, families, companies and Muslim communities have thus seen their private space violated by the brutal intervention (50% of the time, at night) of police squads leading administrative perquisitions, sometimes breaking doors (see previous article) and turning the space ‘upside down’ to finally find nothing of interest in the overwhelming majority of cases.
If most of theses searches leads to no conclusive results, it is neither because people whose homes are searched would be too smart to leave tracks of potential relation with future attack projects, nor because the secret services would be incompetent: it is because most of these perquisitions does not aim at finding anything in particular. They are used as an intimidation method against persons and communities considered as practicing a radical interpretation of Islam — in the context of a quasi-religious republicanism and its secularism, such practice is considered as sociopathic, if not illegal, by the authorities — but, also, as a means to construct a police cartography of private spaces, which is an opportunity that only rises during the application of a state of exception.Read more
If I had composed this Atlas of the Israeli Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem a few years ago, I would have insisted that this inventory of colonial urban typologies constituted an evidence of the Israeli violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, I would have reminded the history of the invasion of the West Bank and East Jerusalem (as well as the Gaza Strip, the Sinai and the Golan Heights) in 1967 and the military rule that subjugated and continues to subjugate the Palestinian bodies since then, I would have referred to these colonized territories as “Palestinian land as recognized by the International Community,” etc. This is however not what I am going to do here, because I am convinced that this narrative and the imaginary it conveys is ultimately harmful to all Palestinians and, for the same reasons, to non-Zionist Israelis too. On the contrary (or, rather, in an apparent contradiction), I would like to undertake the rather perilous exercise of praising the Israeli settlements for the scenario of the post-apartheid future they accidentally allow.Read more
Illustration: Newly ‘built’ refugee camp in Calais’s “Jungle” (source of the photo)
Calais and Dunkerque are the two French cities closest to Dover in England. As such, they are are the main ferry ports towards England and the entrance to the Channel Tunnel is situated only a few kilometers away from the city center of Calais. The name of “Jungle” designates a large muddy vacant area of the Calais outskirts (see the OpenStreetMap drawn by students of the Belleville School of Architecture) where about 6,000 migrants and refugees are currently living, often waiting an opportunity to finish their long and tiresome journey in the United Kingdom (there are also two other similar sites near Dunkerque). This name is a distorted translation of the farsi term jangla (originally given by Afghani and Iranian refugees to the place) that, despite a common root with jungle refers more simply to a forest. The name of “jungle” was first spread by local associations helping its population, and we can already see here how humanitarian interventions can be problematic: in this case, it coins a term that triggers a primitive if not racist imaginary of a place, already antagonized by a part of the local and (bi)national population and politicians.
Last Monday, a camp made of a hundred steel containers opened to host 1,500 people after that local associations and other humanitarian organizations pushed for it. This camp reminds us of the Sangatte one that had been opened the Jospin government in 1999 and whose sanitary conditions had quickly reached a deplorable level because of a lack of fundings until it was shut down three years later by Nicolas Sarkozy when he became Minister of Interior. In an article published in Libération last October, Cyrille Hanappe who teaches the seminar that lead to the mapping referred above, regrets that the camp (then only planned) had been designed without any architect’s contribution and that the people in charge’s incompetence had lead to a design that “considers human as cattle” and only think of the camp “for bodies to be managed, to eat and defecate.” Hanappe insists that the camp should have integrated space of sociality and gathering, something that, according to him, many architects would have been able to proposed if asked to contribute.Read more
Informal Roma village of the Porte des Poissonniers in Paris (December 20, 2015) / Photograph by Léopold Lambert (all rights reserved)
So far, the totality of my photographs on this blog were licensed in creative commons, letting anyone use and share them, providing that they mentioned their author and do not financially profit from them. For the first time however, I feel the necessity to keep the copyrights of the ones presented here (above and below), in order to manually check the discourse that they would illustrate on other platforms. This technicality indicates the cautious tone of the following article, the latter being more about how we should speak about the new forms of informality that emerge in some European cities than about these neighborhoods themselves.
Sunday morning is the moment of the week when I undertake my research about the spatial politics of the Paris banlieues. This morning, I simply went at the limit of Paris municipality, not far from Saint Ouen, in order to visit the informal village that currently exists on the tracks of the Petite Ceinture between the gates — to enter Paris proper, one has to go through gates (see past article) — that constitute Porte de Clignancourt and Porte des Poissonniers. The Petite Ceinture is a 32-kilometer long railway that surrounds Paris, adding one more “belt” (that is the meaning of ceinture) to the two already existing ones surrounding “Fortress Paris”: the boulevards maréchaux and the boulevard périphérique (highway ring, see past article). The Petite Ceinture does not belong to the city of Paris but to the national railway company (SNCF) that used to transport goods around Paris between 1852 and 1934. It is now abandoned, and despite the interdiction to walk on it, many Parisians regularly enjoy its relative wilderness inside a highly controlled city. For people who regularly follow the work of architecture or urban planning students, seeing it as a chosen site for one of their projects is never a surprise. No later than two months ago, I gave a tour to Rhode Island architecture students who were going to design fictitious projects on it and, a few weeks later attended a thesis project investigating its Eastern parts.Read more
After a reinvigorating large meeting against islamophobia and the state of emergency in Saint Denis (Paris’ immediate Northern banlieue) yesterday, I want to attempt giving an architectural account of the 2,500 police perquisitions and the 400 house/town arrests that have been led since the promulgation of the State of Emergency following the November 13 attacks. Let’s start by reminding ourselves that only six parliamentary representatives out of 558 voted against the ratification of the state of emergency that is (for now) scheduled to end on February 26, 2016. What this essentially means is that these 552 representatives are more attached to the executive power and its police, than the legislative one they collectively form. Consequently, France is currently living in a society stripped from fundamental rights, as the government itself is willing to acknowledge since it wrote to the European Council on November 26 to officially declare that the country will not abide by the Human Rights European Convention during the time of the state of emergency — again we cannot be sure that it will ‘only’ last three months and we already know that something significant will forever remain from it. For many people, such a state does not involve a drastic change in their daily lives if we except the visual confrontation with the newly acquired police weaponry and the presence of armed soldiers in the street — until a few days ago, I had to systematically cross a police checkpoint to go home, with a different level of scrutiny depending on the officers’ mood/zeal.
For some others however, the state of emergency corresponds to the last withdrawal of already challenged rights when it comes to encounters with the police. Manuel Valls’ government does not even try to disguise its abuse of power, made legitimate by the Parliament, when it arrests, searches and puts in house-arrest ecologist activists during the COP21 summit. Of course, the most concerned figures of the police state’s violence are however not the ecologists, but, rather, the French Muslim community (5 millions of people, i.e. 7.5% of the country’s population), predominantly originating from the former French colonial empire and that has been therefore historically the subject of the state violence for the last two hundreds years. Although the ‘socialist’ government is currently multiplying discourses against the stigmatization of this community — the second round of the regional elections are on Sunday and the Socialist Party needs the Muslim vote — this same government has barely differentiated itself from the previous decade of right wing governments (2002-2012) which had drastically accelerated institutional and structural islamophobia through the fetishist invocation of the so-called “Republican principles.” On the contrary, and despite the fact another state of emergency had been promulgated in 2005 during the banlieues revolt (see past article), these former governments never had “the chance” to exercises a quasi-absolute power on this community as it currently does through the state of emergency.Read more
This article is a sequel of the one written on October 26 about the weaponized architecture of police stations in Paris’ Northern banlieues. Now that the state of emergency has been declared (see previous article), the power granted to the police is even stronger and the imaginary created by their antagonism crystallized into architecture seems to be even more relevant. As described in the part 1 of this research, architecture, through its usual codes (material, spatiality, aesthetics, etc.) attempts to disguise with more or less success the militarized function that these eight police stations clearly fulfill. A future study should show that police stations in Paris Western banlieues, where most of the wealthiest municipalities are located, drastically differ from this weaponized paradigm of the Northern banlieues, where live the most economic precarious populations partially constituted by a stigmatized Black and Arab youth.
SITUATION MAP ///
North is on the right side / The length of the map is 20 kilometers / Red squares are the cités (see past map/article) / Blue squares are the photographed police stationsRead more
Tomorow, October 27, 2015, we will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of Bouna Traoré and Zyed Benna, two teenagers of Clichy sous Bois (North-Eastern Paris banlieue) who died in an electric transformer after being illegitimately chased by the police. For this reason, I chose this date to publish the second issue of The Funambulist Magazine, dedicated to suburban geographies (with significant contributions about the French banlieues). But, before tomorrow, I wanted to present a photographic report of a small investigation accomplished yesterday about the architecture of four police stations in the Northern banlieues.
For an important amount of the banlieues inhabitants, in particular the Black and Arab youth, the police incarnate a daily reminder of the structural antagonism at work against their neighborhood and their bodies. As explained in a past article entitled “The Banlieue Battleground: Designing the French Suburbs for Police/Military Interventions,” this antagonism reached its peak during the nine years of Nicolas Sarkozy’s executive mandates (four years as Minister of Interior and five as President) between 2003-2004, and 2005- (see the Karsher declaration, only a few days before the death of Bouna and Zyed) 2012, but it never really dissolved since then — the current Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, also formerly Minister of Interior shares a certain amount of similarities with Sarkozy’s politics, despite being part of the Socialist Party. The strategy of the State vis-a-vis the cités (high density public housing in a low density urban fabric) consists in a gradual withdrawal of its service and an increase of police control. The latter’s violence is characterized by disrespectful discourse, systematic identity control, random chase and/or arrests, and sometimes, the use of a potentially lethal arsenal coming from a prolific security market. The following photographs attempt to show that architecture as well constitutes a weapon both symbolic and effective reinforcing the strong antagonism developed by the police against the banlieue youth. The police stations’ architectures, through their spatiality, their aesthetics and the care in the materials used (brick for the Aubervilliers one, and even some marble imitation for the Pierrefitte one, see below) attempt to present them as authored works, designed by architecture offices that also conceive libraries, schools, housing, etc. However, the agenda of this architecture is fairly explicit to anyone who knows their antagonizing context: these police station are built to respond to the potentiality of a “siege” undertaken against them — a rather odd hypothesis when one knows the police arsenal — by what they imagine to be hordes of barbarian youth (paranoia is necessary to maintain the antagonism). The walls of these stations are thus opaque with various degrees of inclination (a well-known technique by 17th-century fortress architects!), the more transparent parts are elevated, out-of-reach, and the sidewalks in front of their entrances are made inaccessible for vehicles through the presence of metallic cones (ubiquitous on the Paris sidewalks). Architecture is weaponized here again, and architects should be held accountable for the responsibility of their contribution to the antagonism developed by the State and its police towards the banlieue inhabitants.Read more
Once again, I feel the absolute urge to write in order to join the voices gathered against the Apartheid imposed on Palestinian bodies by the Israeli government, and its recent tightening, in particular in Jerusalem itself (see recent article).
The Western mainstream Press, as usual, is preparing the appropriate conditions for the Israeli army to deploy its violence without a strong reaction from their respective governments. It does so through a verbal and pictorial narrative that depicts violent, masked and uncontrollable Palestinian youth throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and vehicles. A few other media have been providing the violence of the conditions in which these scenes have occurred, but this is not what I would like to do here. Instead, I would like to reflect on this very act of throwing stones: what does this act reveal about the state of Apartheid, and the role of Palestinians within it?
A series of new measures executed by the Netanyahu administration recently significantly increased punishment (up to four years in prisons and substantial fines) towards Palestinian that throw stones against its army. But it also constructs the legal conditions in which the Israeli army could use live fire (0.22 caliber live rounds) on stone throwers — sometimes through undercover agents as we saw yesterday — in an absolutely literal manifestation of the asymmetrical antagonism we are describing here, echoing the voluntarily “disproportionate” military response of the loose rockets launched from Gaza by heavy, precise and dreadful bombardments. Asymmetry is the most obvious way of looking at the fighting forces in presence. Nevertheless, reading the situation only through this filter constitute a mistake in the assessment of these forces through their means, and not through their very reason to fight: while the Israeli soldiers fight to enforce order in a state of Apatheid, Palestinians fight for their life as Amira Hass points out in a column yesterday in Haaretz.Read more
Map below created by Léopold Lambert for The Funambulist (2015) / license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0 / A similar map, more focused on the center of Jerusalem itself was published in The Funambulist Magazine‘s first issue to illustrate the article “Jerusalem: Dismantling Phantasmagorias, Constructing Imaginaries” by Nora Akawi.Read more
Map created for the purpose of this article (see the full version below) / Download it here in high resolution (8 MB) / (license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0)
This article and map are in the continuity of the five others made in the past year (cf. “The Banlieue Archipelago,” “Another Paris,” and “15-minute walk from a train station” maps) and, more generally, to the on-going series of articles about the Paris banlieues (suburbs).
On October 26, 2005, recently re-nominated Minister of Interior Affairs (i.e. chief of the police), Nicolas Sarkozy, who will be elected President two years later, was visiting the banlieue of Argenteuil when he addressed a person at her window: “You’re tired of this scum [racaille], aren’t you? Well, we’re going to get rid of it for you!” (see video). The next day, Bouna Traoré and Zyed Benna, two teenagers from Clichy-sous-Bois, died of electrocution while they were trying to run away from the BAC (Brigade Anti-Criminalité, i.e. a particularly aggressive branch of the police in the banlieues), chasing them illegitimately (see past article). These two events sparked the important revolts of the banlieues that were only responded with a state of emergency and more police control. Although Sarkozy’s policies and speeches have been consistently relying on fundamentally racist and colonial principles — many of uf will remember the 2010 speech of Grenoble about immigration or the 2007 one in Dakar about “Africa, not having yet entered history” — we can give him the benefit of the doubt that his definition of scum (racaille) consists in people despising the law and arrogantly disobeying it, regardless of their race.
Let’s thus keep this definition in mind while introducing a piece of legislation that directly addresses the social (and by extension, racial) segregation that spatially organizes Paris and its banlieues: The SRU Law (Solidarity and Urban Renewal), voted in December 2000, obliges each municipality counting more than 3,500 inhabitants — other exemptions include the impossibility for a municipality to build more on its land — to comply with the ratio of 20% of its total housing to be social housing. The map presented below shows the quasi-totality of Paris’s urban area and its municipalities, including the 20 arrondissements that compose Paris proper. Municipalities showed in green are compliant with this legislation, and those in bright green even includes more than 25% of social housing — the 95 cités showed on the map in white are, of course, almost exclusively in these municipalities. On the contrary, the map shows no less than 149 municipalities that are not compliant with the law, including 60 that do not even reach a percentage of 10% (in red). For instance, Sarkozy’s city, Neuilly-sur-Seine — he was its mayor between 1983 and 2002 — counts less than 5% (1,435 out of 30,448) of social housing. Hence the question that gives its title to this article: “Who is the scum now?”Read more