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Marseille's Not for Burning: Comparative Networks of Integration and Exclusion in Two French Cities

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Many scholarly studies focus on the historical processes that lead to rioting and war, but few examine the forces that produce peace. This article is a broad, comparative examination of three variables that were important in the relative lack of ethnic conflict in Marseille, France, during an intense period of national rioting and tension in 2005. The three processes highlighted in the research are (1) Marseille's particular form of transnational, highly networked, ethnicity-based capitalism; (2) the specific geography, public infrastructure, and social organization of the city; and (3) the communitarian (difference-oriented) cultural approach of local officials. The case for Marseille's unique position is made through a comparative investigation of the economic and cultural development of Paris. Although both cities are globally integrated, they have developed in quite different ways in these three areas. I argue that these differences are important in explaining the dissimilar outcomes for the two cities during the October and November riots of 2005. Although the particular constellation of these three historical processes might not continue through time, it is worthwhile to consider why and how certain historical moments and places can become shelters of tolerance in violent times.

Keywords: Marseille; ethnic; networks; peace; space

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Washington,

Publication date: March 1, 2011


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