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ABSTRACT

The French republican model has long promoted an individualist, universal and difference-blind conception of citizenship. Yet the sociological and historical reality of decolonization and immigration has strained the coherence of this conception and helped to reveal the tension between the universalism of republican principles and the particularistic application of such principles to a specific nation, defined in political and territorial terms. One limit of this model is particularly visible in the spatial management of immigration and segregation trends. Indeed, while French urban planning officially rejects any policies explicitly directed at ethnic minorities, preferring to address social inequalities in spatial terms, it has not prevented French society from pursuing a strict and enduring process of ethno-racial segregation. Recently, the traditional universalist position has faced a new dilemma with regard to the social and spatial treatment of the Romani populations that have settled in France since the early 2000s. Local authorities have adopted various measures to accommodate and “manage” these populations through specific spatial and administrative devices, some of which are called villages or inclusion villages (villages d'insertion). This article offers a spatial and political analysis of such local policies, focusing on three main ambiguities that characterize this urban device—security function, integrative role, and ethno-cultural component. The authors show that the villages d'insertion offer a paradigmatic situation in which the usual scales and frames of justice get blurred, and call for a new conception of citizenship, required to promote equal respect to all populations.