Dangerous Encounters: Riots, Railways, and the Politics of Difference in French Public Space (1860-2012)

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Dangerous Encounters: Riots, Railways, and the Politics of Difference in French Public Space (1860-2012)

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Title: Dangerous Encounters: Riots, Railways, and the Politics of Difference in French Public Space (1860-2012)
Author: Kleinman, Julie O'Brien
Citation: Kleinman, Julie O'Brien. 2013. Dangerous Encounters: Riots, Railways, and the Politics of Difference in French Public Space (1860-2012). Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation builds a socio-cultural biography of Paris's Gare du Nord, Europe's largest railway station, from its transnational aims to connect Europe in the nineteenth century, to early twentieth century strikes, to twenty-first century immigration and riots. It shows how the formation of subjects, boundaries, and the "dangerous classes" in France were linked to infrastructural development. Through this examination, I argue that official French rhetoric and policies around the so-called "dangerous classes" created ideologies of contact that played out in concrete public space and came to be challenged by subjects and groups represented as dangerously different. Through encounter, overlapping boundaries--beyond the foreigner/citizen divide--became significant in the Gare du Nord, as marginalized subjects created new ways of relating spaces and bodies in this heterogeneous arena. My dissertation examines the connection between four processes that govern the station’s socio-political trajectory: 1) the government’s elaboration of the "dangerous classes" paradigm that led to expanding technologies of policing and surveillance; 2) the development of transportation infrastructure that brought migrants and goods to the capital; 3) the emergence of a railroad labor economy that created a new class of workers; and 4) the arrival and settling of immigrant groups from former colonies. I show how "dangerous" social archetypes, from the nineteenth century provincial migrant, to the early twentieth century railway worker on strike, to the African-Muslim immigrant, were summoned and reconfigured in events at the Gare du Nord and shaped the future configuration of political subjects and their struggles. I focus ethnographically on the trajectories of African immigrants at the station, the contemporary "dangerous classes." I argue that through their trans-regional networks and practices, the Gare du Nord has become a unique site of political contestation as it transforms into a node that connects the station to immigration pathways through sub-Saharan and North Africa. By offering an ethnographic approach to multidisciplinary conversations on transnational cities and postcolonial history, my dissertation builds a framework and methodology to analyze proliferating "theaters of encounter:" sites suffused with conflicting idioms, grounded in structures of human and capital circulation, and traversed by histories of struggle.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11110431
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