Enzo Vellin

"Structural Racism in the age of French Neo-Colonialism"

Section MS3, Ariel Caine

Keywords: moving image, model-making, borders/boundaries, body, colonialism

The following interests lie in the capacities of urban spaces to connect but also remain separate, it seeks to understanding the processes forming limits and boundaries along with their social and cultural context. Furthermore, how the built environment in the metropolis witnesses and testifies to the ongoing changes of identity and behavioural authority.

Overlooked or even denied sometimes by French societies in urban contexts, structural racism has been part of many social and political debates around the city of Paris and its suburbs. Structural racism refers to the proliferation by the System's apparatus of "whiteness" privileges while diminishing "coloured" population of their civil rights and advantages. That condition is even more denied when it comes to peripheral neighbourhoods around the city, which could be explained by exclusive use of the space by segregated populations.

Situated along the very few over ground metro stops in the city of Paris, the project intends to question the dialectics between two extremely contrasting but adjoining neighbourhoods, i.e. Barbes in the 18th arrondissement and Rochechouart in the 10th arrondissement. Barbes, in the 1950s and 1980s has witness a considerable increase of migrants from Sub-Saharan and North African ex-colonies. At the metropolitan level, the commercial endeavours of recent migrants created an African centrality to the neighbourhood. The 1983 rehabilitation program aimed to relocate those migrants in the 800 social housing developed around this new centrality in the very conservative architectonic of Paris.

The metro stop Barbes-Rochechouart situated at the edge of both 18th and 10th arrondisements defines an ambiguous transitional space. Not belonging to one nor the other, this space is purely an instrument of separation. This common ground however is a very brief moment of passiveness between conflicts.

Awareness of trespassing the boundary even suggest the automatic identification of intruders within hostile environments. Social and cultural rules suddenly change embodying formal contrasting codes of behaviour. Red lining individuals crossing the boundary, in both conditions of "whiteness" from one side and "otherness" in the latter. Space not only becomes the mediator of this dialectic; it witnesses social and cultural segregation.

The project intends to comprehend and formalize the border. By staging and romanticizing that duality, it aims to question the long cultural history and confrontations of these neighbourhoods in a very controversial era of the French identity. A reconstitution of events in between two main protagonists, Marianne and "La Beurette" testify of this condition during a particular morning of spring 2010. Both living on different sides of the border, they meet within the only common ground they share, the metro, furthermore intensifying this condition through its unilateral movements. The protagonists embody extreme characters personifying the socio-political positions share by their "community". However, their encounter demonstrates the radical alteration of migrants' beliefs under the influence of frenchness. Ironically defined by a secular society ideally thinking beyond races and religions.