Bondy Forest: Resistance from the Wooded Margins



In 2005, Clichy-Montfermeil became the emblematic site of a racialized youth revolting against the spatial exclusion they and their families have been experiencing for decades in France. In this text, Feda Wardak and Romain Rampillon describe the relationship between the large public housing neighborhoods and the adjacent Bondy forest, from where others resist in their own way, creating a space for themselves.

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Stills from Romain Rampillon and Feda Wardak’s film, Jusqu’où la forêt, started in 2019.

Twenty years ago, France launched a massive urban renewal project. The plan, spanning across the national territory, sought to act upon degraded urban areas and large public housing neighborhoods. This kind of urban transformation, in our understanding, means the renovation and partial destruction, but it also means the total demolition of certain architectures. Because the plan views radical urban transformation as a necessary step towards solving socio-economic problems, it specifically targets territories located on the margins. We recognize the margins as landlocked or isolated territories, such as hollowed out spaces, urban pockets, priority neighborhoods in city policies, and isolated rural areas. Margins include forgotten territories or those that the public authorities have long neglected before new development policies set their sights on reclaiming them.

Tending to these architectures is undoubtedly necessary given the state of degradation and, for many, their isolation. However, when placing the urban renewal plans in perspective with broader dynamics imposed by the Greater Paris project, it’s remarkably clear that these urban transformation projects hardly take into account the demands made by inhabitants in these working-class neighborhoods. As a result, urban renewal in the Paris region has become a tool that determines where people live and reinforces social class disparities and ethno-racial inequalities.