Theaters as places of hospitality? The changing role of cultural infrastructures in the social life of French cities

Authors: Severin Guillard*, Université Paris Est - Lab'Urba, Anne Hertzog, Université Cery-Pontoise, Elizabeth Auclair, Université Cergy-Pontoise
Topics: Cultural Geography, Urban Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: Theater, arts, city, policies, community, minority
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Blue Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In response to the increase of social and spatial inequalities and renewed issues of “living together”, cultural institutions have recently re-questioned their role and impact in urban spaces. While this issue is a concern for many major institutions, it is particularly sensitive for public-funded theaters located in the marginalized neighborhoods of French cities. Created from the 1950s, with the goal of providing an equal access to “high brow” culture across the nation, these facilities have been criticized for being transplanted “elite” institutions disconnected from the needs and values of their surrounding residents. Therefore, in the last decade, a new generation of cultural stakeholders has developed new types of cultural policies to reinforce the “inclusiveness” of these facilities. How are these ideals put into action in a national context where the ideas of “cosmopolitanism” and “communities” are not directly addressed? To what extent these actions encourage new social mixes and encounters in local urban spaces? How can we measure the effects of these policies on their surrounding environment? This paper will be based on a research-action project carried out in two theaters located in the Parisian region. First, it will trace the genealogy of the new model of public-funded theaters, showing how it follows a French history of urban and cultural policies. Secondly, it will observe the concrete actions taken by the theaters to revamp themselves as places of “hospitality”, and propose a critical analysis on the impact of these policies on the social life of each local community.

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