Publicizing insecurity, privatizing security: Chinese wholesalers' surveillance cameras in a Paris suburb (Respond to this article at


  • Anne-Christine Trémon

    1. Director of the Laboratoire d'anthropologie culturelle et sociale (LACS) at the University of Lausanne. Her research examines Chinese globalization and the Chinese diaspora in an anthropological and historical perspective, including doctoral research in French Polynesia and, more recently, research on urban policies toward Chinese migrants in Paris.
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Since the early nineties, several hundreds of Chinese immigrants have settled in what has become known as the ‘Chinese wholesalers area’. For the past two years, Chinese wholesalers in Aubervilliers have been calling on public authorities to address the problem of street robberies and violent thefts, which they experience on a daily basis. Yet, they have been encouraged by the authorities to ensure their own protection, by – amongst other things – installing surveillance cameras to film the streets. This is illegal according to French legislation on camera surveillance. Knowing this, why have surveillance cameras been adopted as a solution? This question guides the ethnographic analysis presented here of a situation where the installation of surveillance cameras was locally negotiated by the main actors involved – namely, the wholesalers’ representatives and the police.