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Didier Fassin - Is There Life Between Riots? The Everyday Policing of French 'Banlieues'

Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 7:30 p.m.

La Maison française, 16 Washington Mews


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This lecture is part of The State in Contention series

Didier Fassin is the James D. Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He is the author of La force de l'ordre: une anthropologie de la police des quartiers (Seuil, 2011), forthcoming in English with Polity Press as Enforcing Order. An Ethnography of Urban Policing.

Abstract:  Most incidents of urban unrest over the past decades in Western countries have followed lethal interactions between the youth and the police in disadvantaged neighborhoods generally composed of working-class families of immigrant origin or belonging to minorities. But beyond these tragic events, abundantly covered by the media, little is known about the everyday of urban policing.
Over the course of 15 months, at the time of the 2005 riots, Didier Fassin has conducted an ethnographic study, the first of its kind in France, in one of the largest precincts in the Paris region, sharing the life of a police station and cruising with the patrols, in particular the dreaded anti-crime squads. Far from the imagination nourishing television series and action movies, his study reveals the inactivity and boredom of eventless days and nights where minor infractions give rise to spectacular displays of force, uncovers invisible expressions of violence and unrecognized forms of discrimination against minority youngsters, undocumented immigrants and Roma people, and explores the social conditions that make them possible and tolerable, notably decades of policies of urban segregation, racial stigmatization and economic marginalization.