From the Red Belt to the Brown Belt? About the declining political relevance of the city/suburbs division in France.

Authors: Eric Charmes*, UMR EVS-RIVES, University of Lyon (ENTPE)
Topics: Urban Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: Post-suburbs, periurbs, France, electoral geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In France, the political relevance of the city/suburbs division has long been associated with the Red Belt, that is blue-collar suburbs ruled by the communist party. Now the communist party has lost most, if not all, of its influence and significant territorial divisions have taken new political forms. Within the public sphere of debate, a division that recently raised a lot of attention opposes large metropolitan centres and "peripheral France", on the basis of analysis analogous to those developed about Trump or Brexit votes. For that matter, the old-time suburbs are clearly associated with the city centres. This is consistent with the post-suburbs hypothesis. Yet, within French large metropolitan areas, another division emerged since the beginning of the 2000s. This division opposes central agglomerations (including suburbs) with periurban rings (that is rural areas directly under the functional influence of metropolitan centres), since the latter are the places where Marine Le Pen and the National Front get their best electoral results, while the former are the places where they get their lower score. In that sense, a Brown Belt has succeeded to the Red Belt. This paper will discuss the origins and causes of the success of the National Front in periurban rings of French large metropolitan areas. It will discuss also how far this does reactivate the city/suburbs division and its political relevance. It will especially discuss how “right to the city” may be redefined through the move from the suburbs to the periurbs.

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