The fall 2005 riots in France unveiled a war of representation about France’s past and present, and also sparked the reference to imperial legacies to examine current social disqualification and racial discrimination in France. This essay examines the close relationship between banlieues and memory in contemporary France, with a special emphasis on the analogy between the outskirts of major French cities populated mainly by the heirs of African migrations to Europe and the colonies. This reading of the banlieues that builds on the war of memories contends that present ideologies in France are part of an emerging global belief in the ‘clash of civilizations’. Ultimately, this paper argues that it is urgent that the banlieues cease to be perceived as lawless zones to become real lieux de mémoire that can constitute a site where both the French State and its citizens of African heritage can converge around a healed common memory.
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