Workshop 1 : The Contribution of Immigrants to the Diversification of Services: Ethnic Businesses in the New Towns
Speaker: Vasoden Vuddamalay (researcher in geography, member of the SLAM research lab, University of Evry - University of Paris Saclay)
The influence of the mercantile activities of such Parisian immigrant neighborhoods as Little Africa (stretching from Château Rouge down to Château d’Eau), Little India (at La Chapelle), Chinatown (in the 13th district), and Médina (in the Goutte d’Or) on the regional socio-spatial installation and integration of their residents has been amply studied. However, the relations between the geography of the Greater Paris new towns and immigrant trading activities have been less so (Ba 2016). Yet, urgent research is required in the context of the ongoing territorial and administrative reorganization of these communes, as in the examples of the Agglomeration Community and the fusion of Evry with the adjacent town of Courcouronnes.
The pioneering debates on ethnic trade carried out by the Migrinter (international migrations) laboratory of the University of Poitiers in 1980 need to be developed from a political angle. Are the lobbys (power-brokers or minority middlemen) which represent these immigrant merchants, and which constitute an emerging social group, powerful enough to affect local policy in these new towns?
Questions for debate
– How should we analyze the evolution of immigrant trading in the new towns (for example, the presence of Turkish and Kurdish merchants in Evry)?
– Are the new towns faced with trade competition between the different immigrant groups (for example, in Evry, between Turkish and Kurdish merchants and Chinese, Indo-Pakastani, African-West Indian and merchants from the Sahel or North Africa)?
– How are the decisions made when it comes to the choice of activities in the new towns and their urban spaces (for example, Place Jules Vallès in Evry)?
– Do the various activities affect the symbolic links between religion, food and clothing-esthetics?
– How might religious structures act as a theater for trade competition between the groups involved (for example, the Evry-Courcouronnes mosque)?
– How do the public powers react to the sometimes-conflictual coexistence of the various immigrant communities?
Workshop 2 : The Role of Migrants in Local and Associative Life
Speaker: Didier Desponds, researcher in geography, member of the MRTE research lab, University of Cergy-Pontoise
From the start, the new towns have represented particularly dynamic areas for associations and cultural life, the inhabitants sometimes referred to as "pioneers" during the 1970s. This inventiveness also involved the descendants of immigrants residing there. These associations could choose to work toward integration "in the host territory," or to consolidate relations between the "host and home territories."
Migrant associations do generally work toward the integration of a population which is often isolated due to a lack of knowledge about the host country. To do so, these associations carry out actions such as language courses, professional guidance and training, social assistance, and citizenship paperwork, all of which favor access to basic rights and autonomy.
Migrant associations are also very effective when it comes to setting up networks for exchanges between the communes of the new towns, or the inter-municipalities, on the one hand, and the cities and villages of North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia on the other. The ties that develop may be traditional ones (sending school supplies, student exchanges), but they may also give rise to more innovative initiatives (cultural mediation, economic projects) which may be seen as accelerating change in the relations between the territories and as ways to connect the populations concerned.
New towns should be considered as "test territories" for questions of citizenship and cultural policy, and for the challenges of solidarity, just as they once were for questions of inter-municipality.
Questions for debate
– The factors behind the launching of associative actions: what are the respective roles of the descendants of immigrants and of local political actors?
– How do the missions behind these associative actions change over time, on the cultural, economic, and other levels?
– Does the rapid development of associations linked to immigration constitute a response to the lack of access to civic rights for immigrants and foreigners?
– What are the particularities - in terms of what is undertaken and the duration - of new town initiatives?
– What are the effects of these initiatives, both on the initiator and on the target of the action?
Workshop 3 : Cultural and Religious Diversity: Emerging Hybrid Cultures in Cities of Immigration
Speaker: Abdoul Hameth BA (researcher in geography, member of the IDHES research lab, University of Evry - University of Paris Saclay)
The concept of cultural citizenship was popularized following the recognition (by UNESCO) that humanity is comprised of a variety of cultures. Each one deserves universal respect. In reality, the rights associated with citizenship (the right to vote, to be eligible for office, etc.) vary according to the period and to the country. The concept of citizenship has evolved from a legal notion to a social and cultural one. The importance of immigration in the world has evolved over time and has become long-lasting or permanent. But becoming rooted in a territory does not imply a severing of ties with the country of origin. "Diasporic" communities continue to show their attachment to their culture of origin in various forms. Migration makes the migrant see his/her country, culture and identity in a new way. Although the construction of a primary cultural identity remains attached to the place of departure, the migrant is permeable to the spaces he/she travels through, and is welcomed to, and which offer other ways of acting, thinking and representing oneself. This workshop will grapple with several questions, on the basis of concrete examples of immigrants and their descendants living in European new towns.
Questions for debate
– Is contemporary immigration a factor of cultural reconstruction or of the construction of hybrid cultures?
– What filters or halts the transmission of cultures of immigration?
– How can the prism of migration help us to understand the link between trans-culturality and cultural territoriality?