La Jeune Sociologie Urbaine Francophone. Retour Sur la Tradition et Exploration De Nouveaux Champs [New French-Language Urban Sociology: A Return to Tradition and an Exploration of New Fields]

By Chavin, Marc Antoine | Population, October 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

La Jeune Sociologie Urbaine Francophone. Retour Sur la Tradition et Exploration De Nouveaux Champs [New French-Language Urban Sociology: A Return to Tradition and an Exploration of New Fields]


Chavin, Marc Antoine, Population


Jean-Yves authier, Alain Bourdin, Marie-Pierre leFeuVre, eds., La jeune sociologie urbaine francophone. Retour sur la tradition et exploration de nouveaux champs [New French-language urban sociology: a return to tradition and an exploration of new fields], Lyon, Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 2014, 244 p.

Published just a few months after an article by sociologist Christian Topalov that "retrospectively assessed" several decades of urban sociology in France,(2) this work gives the floor to young urban researchers, offering them an opportunity to call into question some of the observations made by their elder in that article. Topalov, a representative of the sociological approach that developed in the wake of the 1960s, used to say that urban sociology had acquired a "new youth" in France, moved to this by the thinking of certain political scientists. This collective work-a compilation of papers from a conference held in Lyon in 2010 under the egis of the International association of French-speaking sociologists-sketches out some of the contours of that new youth, confirming the overall "instability" of the discipline"(3) and providing the reader with a glimpse of the new fields under exploration. No need to reproduce the highly informative overview presented by the three editors in their afterword; here I wish merely to highlight some of the epistemological and methodological biases of the authors and a few salient features of their contributions. From an Istanbul business centre to "enclosed condominiums" in Buenos Aires by way of "lofts" in lower Montreuil or two-storey houses in a new district of Sétif, the reader is invited to take a sociological journey conducive to comparativist reasoning and the inventorying of different approaches developed in response to urban change.

Also at the centre of this collection of conference papers is a combined analysis of residential mobility and modes of inhabiting. Observing modes of inhabiting proves an effective way of analysing an entire set of differentiated symbolic relations. Those modes include not just the different sequences that make up "the career of vacationers settling in" at a seaside resort on the Atlantic (Aurélien Gentil) but also the differentiated attitudes to their origins experienced by immigrants' descendants during vacations in Algeria (Jennifer Bidet). Dubbed "being together with friends," "second home" or "place of memory," these modes of inhabiting are apprehended in their symbolic dimension by way of material indications of inhabitants' appropriation of place; also by respondents' social characteristics. In turn, modes of inhabiting can be made intelligible through study of mobility practices. In his doctoral dissertation, Nicolas Oppenchaim worked to analyse the socializing effects of daily mobility on adolescents living in ZUSes (officially designated "sensitive urban zones" or tough neighbourhoods) in Ile-de-France. These practices, particularly important to individual socialization, turn out to be determined by a set of acquired dispositions to mobility and the socioeconomic or territorial constraints here brought to light. The work also confirms that the working class in its various forms is once again a central intellectual preoccupation of French sociologists. Working in the wake of Olivier Schwartz and Michel Pialoux, these French sociologists offer a detailed description of the heterogeneity of this class in France and its processes of internal differentiation. Holidaymakers, young vacationers "back" in their immigrant parents' villages in North Africa, girls living in ZUSes and skilled manual workers living in urban outskirts are also actors whose practices in physical and symbolic space need to be methodically dissected. Violaine Girard's contribution probes the way the working class has been recomposed, offering an interpretation of the French "dream of living in a free-standing house"(4) and an "analysis of social stratification at the local level. …

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La Jeune Sociologie Urbaine Francophone. Retour Sur la Tradition et Exploration De Nouveaux Champs [New French-Language Urban Sociology: A Return to Tradition and an Exploration of New Fields]
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