Accepted Paper:

Construction of an 'internal enemy' and affirmative action: the 'good' and the 'bad' cités young people  


Nuria Alvarez Agüí (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the construction of 'cités young people' as a French Republic's 'internal enemy' after the 2005 civil unrest. Nevertheless, the state has encouraged affirmative action policies to reward some ´good´ individuals among visible minorities living in the cités (social housing areas).

Paper long abstract:

According to Carl Schmitt, the State can determine an 'internal enemy' to which confer a specific treatment by means of special laws, exclusion, or ostracism. Through different episodes as those of cité des Quatre Mille, 2005 civil unrest or the 'Great Debate about National Identity', French government has contributed to the discursive construction of the 'cités young people'. This construction has been made by the aggregation of stereotyped images as 'the racaille' (scum), 'the young boy wearing a baseball cap and talking the local slang', 'those who whistled at the Marsellesa', etc.

Furthermore, the government has approved specific laws for this group, as the 2006 'Law for Equal Chances' and, to a lesser extent, the 2008 'Hope for Suburbs Plan'. Some of these laws aim to reward the outstanding performances amongst people marked as belonging to the 'visible minorities'. An analysis of the best seller Parisian newspaper from September 2009 to march 2010 shows that affirmative action measures from government or enterprises are the most common subject of the news about 'cité young people'.

These two kinds of discourses superimpose to design a 'moral frontier' that divides in half the stigmatized group. Its members are then obligated to continually prove in which side they are of this 'moral frontier'. It is necessary to take into account this implicit demand in order to understand the spectrum of strategies displayed by the stigmatized subjects.

Panel W076
Anxious sovereignties