A civil society in an uncivil territory? The participation of French suburban NGOs to local policymaking
Political Science - CERAL AgroParisTech - University of Paris 13 Paris, France
Law and Political Science - CERAL University of Paris 13 Villetaneuse, France
The French "banlieues" have acquired long before the unmatched riots of 2005 a reputation of a place outside regular politics. Ever since the first major riots at the beginning of the 1980s, the interpretation of such outbursts of violent protest as social movements in the making has faded to leave way to interpretations reading them as signs of a prevalent criminality or of ethno-religious tensions. Yet empirical evidence shows that the suburban civil society is rich and dense, and that far from being excluded from politics, it participates actively in the design and implementation of local policies, particularly in the fields of education, culture and the management of cultural diversity. The paper will examine how local NGOs frequently display a critical position vis-à-vis the ways suburban issues are framed in public discourses. Yet they are at the same moment obliged to cooperate with local authorities in a context in which the latter have gained considerable power in policymaking, which places the suburban civil society under tension.