10:54:02 pmCategories: Anthropological notes, Paris

What is it with Paris?

“I can see right away if people are from Paris or from the suburbs,” said a playground & park warden to me. “It’s a different mentality, and they behave and move differently. People from Paris are proud of their city.”

The central interrogation of my thesis draws in several directions: It’s the slam poetry scene, of course, and particularly how such an open and cosmopolitan community is created. Then there is French society as seen through the slam phenomenon, and particularly the processes that makes society more open and cosmopolitan. I think of the binding notion between the two levels of analysis as that of re-appropriation (réappropration), of a postcolonial taking back of both history and space. North-eastern Paris with its long and distinct history of immigration and resistance and where slam first started and still flourish, is an intermediate analytical level, between the localised slam and the ideological or abstract level of France, the republic and all that. But I realise that that’s not all. Perhaps I’ve focused too narrowly on the interesting fact that slam is so concentrated in particular areas of the city, and forgotten that the whole of the city has a role to play in the phenomenon I’m looking at.

Paris has its own soul or spirit. It’s definitely Belleville and the popular eastern parts that keep on seducing me every time I set my foot here, but the city – its history, its density, its function as crossroads, its architecture and beauty… - must play an important role in creating the realities and atmospheres of these districts. Although I haven’t been totally blind to the attraction of Paris before, I haven’t been thinking about the city in that way. And that is even despite how the locals talk. I’ve heard (in my opinion very unlikely) people praise the romantic charms of watching the sun rise from (what I would think of as touristy) Pont des Arts. And people from the (deprived) suburbs talk about when they started going into Paris, and about how many people there never think about that opportunity. So, it is something particular about Paris also for the locals, not only for the tens of millions of tourists that come here every year. Of course.

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