Locating Belleville: World City Systems and Spatial Agency

In fulfillment of my Bachelors of Arts in Social Theory & Practice at University of Michigan, I conducted original research on a Parisian neighbourhood where I lived in 2017. This neighbourhood, Belleville, is located in northeast Paris and is home to residents of multicultural, immigrant, and working-class backgrounds. At the time, I was living with a host family on Rue de Savies and taking courses at Middlebury College’s school in France and Université de Paris VII. I knew I wanted to do research in Paris while there; after struggling to choose a topic for a couple months, studying my neighbourhood became clear. I already developed relationships in the quarter, and was transfixed by Belleville’s ethnic diversity, strong neighbourhood identity, and continuing history of social justice militancy. At the same time, I became fascinated by the idea of the ‘world city,’ and challenges to the idea that world cities have to be made in line with capitalism and imperialism. I started to wonder, Aren’t my neighbours in Belleville also making world cities of their own?

To get to the root of this question, I began reading literature by foundational world city theorists like John Friedmann, Saskia Sassen, Doreen Massey, Neil Brenner, and Jennifer Robinson. Then–as an avid reader of Henri Lefebvre, Guy Debord, and David Harvey–I thought a conversation between world cities and critical geographies would be a constructive analysis. By centering my methodology on everyday life and social struggle, I hoped to approach the world city in ways that value and reflect the worlding work that common people do each day & throughout our lives. I started conducted ethnographic observations seated in public space and moving through streets, interviewing friends and other residents, going to neighbourhood events, and reading as much as I could about Belleville. The result of this mixed-methods, phenomenological approach is a paper divided in 4 parts: 1) a synthesis of foundational literature and explanation of methodology; 2) an interrogation of globality, locality, the City, and the Neighbourhood; 3) an emerging theory on how Bellevillois.es locate (imagine-perform-(re)construct) world cities and their worldly neighbourhood; and 4) conclusions regarding quotidien spatial agency, translocality, and the more equitable visions of world cities. Additionally, I co-produced a gallery exhibition of this research with friend, musician, and performance technologist, Clem Turner.

An electronic version of my written thesis is provided below!

(featured image description: street scene at the intersection of Rue de Belleville and Rue Rampal, depicting pedestrians, a cyclist, and a restaurant)

By Darian Razdar

Writer, researcher, and artist with an activist bent.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s