Démantlement as domicide: Managing (urban) “undesirables” in Paris, 2015-2020

Authors: Melora Koepke*, Simon Fraser University, Muriel Froment Meurice, Université Paris Nanterre
Topics: Urban Geography, Political Geography, Europe
Keywords: urban migration; urban margins; Europe; informality; démantlement
Session Type: Virtual Paper
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Démantlement is a term used in French to describe the process by which informal camps and shelters built by vulnerable people are removed from public space. It has been instigated over the past decade in the famed jungle de Calais on the France-U.K. border, among other places, where several iterations of a large migrants’ settlement have been destroyed as a geographical strategy of border control and securitization on the coastal frontiers of “Fortress Europe”. In Northern Paris, since 2015, over 60 provisional camps and other survival structures built by unhoused populations in interstitial public spaces have also been destroyed by démantlement in the northeast of the French capital (les portes de Paris). In this paper, we consider this extended and ongoing process of démantlement as domicide in Paris from 2015-2019, arguing that in this case démantlement refers to a mode of material spatial governance of “undesirable” bodies and their traces in urban space. Based on ethnographic research conducted by the authors with inhabitants of these provisional shelters and their citizen advocates, as well as municipal workers and city officials, we further investigate the material politics of démantlement as highly performative spectacles of control where tent-breaking and egregious destruction of property belonging to both migrants and French citizens, coupled with corporeal evacuation and provisional mise à l’abri (emergency shelter) valorize the politics and practices by which vulnerable people already marginalized to the very edges of Parisian public space are further precaritized and progressively abandoned by the State.

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