Stigmatization and the social construction of a normal identity in the Parisian banlieues

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2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper explores stigma-responsive identity work amongst youths in Bondy, a town in the highly stigmatized suburbs of Paris. Within France, youths living in these banlieues are seen as an exceptional group, as deviant from ‘the norm’ that is based on the traditional French Republican values, and as a threat to the French unity and thereby to the Republic. Their ‘abnormality’ is institutionalized in their stigmatization. A common interpretation of identity construction of stigmatized people is the internalization of the attributed identity; a stigma in this case. However, both the variety of possible responses to stigma and the embeddedness of identities within a relational network of overlapping and contesting narratives suggest that identity construction within the banlieues and amongst its diverse youth population is more complex than straight internalization. In the Bondy case, reformulating the stigmatized identity by normalization proves to be the main form of stigma-responsive identity work. Rather than internalizing their stigma, the Bondy youths show an externalization of stigma: employing normalizing strategies that vary across age and gender they actively exclude the discourse of stigmatization and ‘abnormality’ from their self-identifications by redefining what the banlieue and banlieue identity means to them: normalcy. The Bondy youths do not reproduce dominant understandings of normalcy and deviance, but rework the existing norm by articulating a different understanding of ‘normalcy’ as a new reality of France inclusive of their diverse but shared banlieue identity. By researching identification processes within the banlieues, this paper illustrates that ‘deviant’ groups concentrated at the urban margins should not be oversimplified as homogeneous, and as passive victims that are subjected to a norm. To understand the lives of these urban youths, they should rather be approached as a diverse population “living together in diversity”, that can maneuver within the social structures of society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalGeoforum
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • stigmatization
  • normalization
  • youth identity
  • national identity
  • diversity
  • social exclusion
  • spatial segregation
  • banlieues
  • france

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