La Haine: Framing the ‘Urban Outcasts’

  • Amy Siciliano Department of Geography, University of Toronto
Keywords: Parisian banlieues, political-economic crisis, La Haine, hegemonic conceptions, hegemony, terra incognita, urban, suburban, neo-racism, cinema, outcasts

Abstract

The Parisian banlieues, long absent from the dominant French imaginary, have materialized as spatialized, racialized markers of political-economic crisis, social fragmentation, crime and violence. In this paper I consider how the film La Haine (1995) confronts this contemporary spatialized and historicized anxiety by critiquing assumptions behind such dominant representations. I begin by situating La Haine alongside other ‘banlieue films’ that have challenged hegemonic conceptions of France’s imagined geographic identity. I then outline some of the key historical moments that transformed the banlieues from ‘terra incognita’ into the ‘fractures at the end of the 20th century’. I go on to examine La Haine’s combined narrative style and cinematic form to argue that the film’s attention to spatiality – or the social relations shaping the boundaries between the ‘urban’ and ‘suburban’ – explicitly confronts the hidden foundations of neo-racism in France. The film, through both content and form, exposes historical and emergent forces framing banlieues and youth, offering a critical reflection on the many levels of mediation between the film itself and the material conditions which gave rise to its production.
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Themed Section - Media Spaces, Mediated Places (Guest Edited by Jim Craine)