SOAS University of London

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

Touring the ‘ghetto’: Social mixing, distance, and white discomfort in Paris

Dr Carrie Benjamin (SOAS)

Date: 21 February 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 21 February 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar

Paris’s multicultural Goutte d’Or neighbourhood is popularly known as ‘Little Africa’ for both its residential population and the high concentration of commerce catering to West African and black French clientele. But the neighbourhood occupies a dual position within popular, political and media discourse—derisively labelled a ‘ghetto’ and romanticised as an ‘exotic’ and 'colourful' locale within the capital. Recently, urban walking tours have become a popular staple in Paris’s multicultural neighbourhoods, and the allure of adventure and the chance of danger can be a major attraction for local and foreign tourists with a voyeuristic desire to encounter the ‘exotic’ Other or ‘discover’ a new part of ‘their’ city. For many (mostly white) Parisians, these walking tours offer a comfortable entry into an unknown neighbourhood without feeling ‘strange’ or ‘out of place’. Based upon fieldwork conducted in Paris, I will explore how African residents and visitors are both blamed for the Goutte d'Or's ‘ghetto’ reputation while also touted as a way to attract tourists, improve the neighbourhood’s image, and to restore the comfort of white, middle-class Parisian residents and visitors. Drawing on observations from two walking tours in the Goutte d’Or, I argue that it is a particular manifestation of whiteness, which I term ‘white discomfort’, that both propagates the ‘ghetto’ stereotype and reproduces social distance in the neighbourhood.

About the speaker

Carrie Benjamin is an ethnographer and urban anthropologist interested in the role of urban public space in reshaping local and national debates on inequality, immigration and ‘race’ in France. She is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Anthropology & Sociology at SOAS, where she completed her PhD in 2017, and Research Assistant for the Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies.

Organiser: Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

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