Julie KleinmanJan 14, 2022
Migration and the Making of an African Hub in Paris
University of California Press 2019
Every day, hundreds of thousands of people move through the Gare du Nord train station in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, the largest train station in Europe. Julie Kleinman's Adventure Capital: Migration and the Making of an African Hub in Paris (University of California Press, 2019) delves into the contemporary life of the station, and especially the lives and social world of the West African migrants who congregate there daily. The project makes connections between twentieth and twenty-first-century stories and politics and the longer-term of the Gare du Nord as a transportation hub and a crossroads for French histories of urban infrastructure, labour and class, mobility, racial inequality, and identity (African and French primarily in this case).
Drawing on a decade of archival and fieldwork that included the investigation of state and police archives, an internship at the Société nationale des chemins de fer français (SNCF-the French national railway company), as well as in-depth interviews and interactions with a group of (mostly male) West African migrants who spend time regularly at the station, the book is a fascinating exploration of the community and life strategies of migrants in and around this practical and social hub where issues of labour, employment, surveillance, violence, resistance, family, and friendship meet. Informed by a deep knowledge of the broader historical and contemporary culture and politics of France and empire, the book stays close to the perspectives, stories, and analyses of the West African "adventurers" at the heart of the project. In doing so, it also offers a compelling and illuminating view of the Gare du Nord and all that its busy spaces lead to and from within and beyond the borders of France.
Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada who specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century France and its empire. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send her an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).