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
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 37
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Démantlement is a term used in French to describe the process by which informal camps and shelters built by vulnerable people are removed and destroyed as a strategy of invisibilization. For example, in the famed jungle de Calais on the France-U.K. border, several iterations of a large migrants’ settlement have been destroyed by forces of order as a geographical strategy of border control and securitization on the coastal frontiers of “Fortress Europe”. Similarly, over 70 provisional encampments installed in interstitial public spaces in Northeastern Paris that have provided temporary infrastructures of survival for precarious unhoused populations have also been destroyed by démantlement since 2015. In this paper, we consider this extended and ongoing process as a form of domicide, arguing that in this case démantlement refers to a mode of material spatial governance of “undesirable” bodies and their vestigal occupations of urban space. Based on ethnographic research conducted 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 affective and material 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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