Algeria in France 10/26

I have found Silverstein to be a hard author to follow and his chapters very dense so in this post I will focus mainly on chapter 3. In in this chapter of Algeria in France the focus is on the spaces people inhabit, the way these spaces are formed and the statements these spaces make. By this I mean the political statements that these spaces are seen to have and the parallel statements of identity these spaces form. In the opening story the reader is given a glimpse into the life of Mounir who lives in a cité in the banlieue (suburb) Northwestern of Paris. His account of his housing situation is given and one can see his frustration with the poor transportation to the city, the vandalism and crime and lack places to buy basic goods. In his home you can also see how in many ways he “inhabit(s) multiple spaces between Algeria and France simultaneously” in how his home is laid out and decorated.

The author describes some of the theories behind this type of housing in France focusing on the work of Bourdieu. Bourdieu describes the symbolism of these houses leaving two main motivations behind their construction. First is the “myth of return” or the attempt to keep a connection to their former villages with the plans to return one day and the second is the symbolism of success the axxam represents to their original communities. The most interesting theory behind why the home is taken to be so culturally important in retaining a connection to the village is because the lack of a unifying social institution in these new communities, such as the mosque.

This chapter was also very interesting and informative in the information it gave regarding the urban planning of Paris or more factually the lack of planning. I have studied this in relation to French populations  but the perspective of the immigrant was very fascinating to me. It is not so different from the rising population of the proletariat and the author hints at this in the text. To me this seems not only to be a problem of immigration but a problem of urbanization. We are still seeing this today in cities like Mexico City and Tashkent. What was interesting though in this perspective was the way that the housing crisis allowed villages to be recreated in hotels and bidonvilles with communal kitchens and cafes. The nostalgia of this period is not surprising to me even though it is for a time of severe hardship. I wonder though what form this nostalgia takes.

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