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A banlieue (from French, bɑ̃ljø) is a suburb of a large city in France. They are divided into autonomous administrative entities and do not constitute part of the city proper. In the Paris area, 80% of the inhabitants live outside the city of Paris. Some contain poverty traps of social housing (HLMs).
Like the city centre, suburbs may be rich, middle-class or poor; Versailles, Le Vésinet, Maisons-Laffitte and Neuilly-sur-Seine are affluent banlieues of Paris, while Clichy-sous-Bois, Bondy and Corbeil-Essonnes are poor ones.
Since the 1970s and 1980s, in European French, the phrase les banlieues has been increasingly used to describe suburban low-income housing projects (HLM) in which mainly French of foreign descent or foreign immigrants reside.
In France, since the establishment of the Third Republic at the beginning of the 1870s, communities beyond the city centre essentially stopped spreading their own boundaries, as a result of the extension of the larger Paris urban agglomeration. The city — which in France corresponds to the concept of the "urban unit" – does not necessarily have a correspondence with a single administrative location, and instead includes other communities that link themselves to the city centre and form the banlieues.
Since annexing (rather than incorporating) the banlieues of major French cities during the Second Empire period (Lyon in 1852, Lille in 1858, Paris in 1860, Bordeaux in 1865), the French communities have in effect extended their boundaries very little beyond their delimitations, and have not followed the development of the urban unit existing prior to 1870 as well as almost all large and mid-sized cities in France having a banlieue develop a couronne pėriurbaine (in English: near-urban ring).
Communities in the countryside beyond the near-urban ring are regarded as being outside the city's strongest social and economic sphere of influence, and are termed communes périurbaines. In either case, they are divided into numerous autonomous administrative entities.
The word banlieue is, in formal use, a socially neutral term, designating the urbanized zone located around the city centre, comprising both sparsely and heavily populated areas. Therefore, in the Parisian metropolitan area, for example, Neuilly-sur-Seine may be referred to as a banlieue the same as La Courneuve. To distinguish them, Parisians refer to a banlieue aisée (in English: comfortable suburb) for Neuilly, and to a banlieue défavorisée (in English: disadvantaged suburb) for Clichy-sous-Bois.
The Paris region can be divided into several zones. In the northwest and the northeast, many areas are vestiges of former working-class and industrial zones, in the case of Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-d'Oise. In the west, the population is generally middle class, and the centre of business and finance, La Défense, is also located there.
The southeast banlieues are less homogenous. Close to Paris, there are many communities that are considered "sensitive" or unsafe (Bagneux, Malakoff, Massy, Les Ulis), divided by residential zones with a better reputation (Verrières-le-Buisson, Bourg-la-Reine, Antony, Fontenay-aux-Roses, Sceaux).
The farther away from the Paris city centre, the more the banlieues of the south of Paris can be divided into two zones. On one side, there are the banks of the Seine River where in the past working-class residents lived — still today, there are pockets of disadvantaged areas — but also other areas that are especially well-off. Also to be found are large cities close to Paris, such as Chanteloup-les-Vignes, Sartrouville, Les Mureaux, Mantes-la-Jolie, Poissy, Achères, Limay, Trappes, Aubergenville Évry, Courcouronnes, Grigny, Corbeil-Essonnes and Fleury-Mérogis.
Small communities that are socially disparate can be found in the Yvelines department with Villennes-sur-Seine, Chatou, Croissy-sur-Seine, Le Pecq, Maisons-Laffitte, but also in the Essonne and Seine-et-Marne departments: Etiolles, Draveil, Soisy-sur-Seine, Saint-Pierre-du-Perray or Seine-Port. The social divide occurs on both sides of the Seine. On the other hand, there are commuter areas where residents are comfortable: Bièvre and Chevreuse.
The banlieues rouges ("red banlieues") are the outskirt districts of Paris where, traditionally, the French Communist Party held mayorships and other elected positions. Examples of these include Ivry-sur-Seine, and Malakoff. Such communities often named streets after Soviet personalities, such as rue Youri Gagarine.
The banlieues of large cities like Lyon and Marseille, and especially those around Paris (with a metropolitan area population of 12 223 100 inhabitants), are severely criticized and forgotten by the country's territorial spatial planning administration. Ever since the French Commune government of 1871, they were and are still often ostracized, considered by other residents as places that are "lawless" or "outside the law", "outside the Republic", as opposed to "deep France", or "authentic France" associated with the provinces. However, it is in the banlieues that the young working households are found, that raise children and pay taxes, yet are lacking in public services, in transportation, education, sports, as well as employment opportunities.
Since the 1980s, petty crime has increased in France, much of it blamed on juvenile delinquency fostered within the banlieues. As a result, the banlieues are perceived to have become unsafe places to live, and youths from the banlieues are perceived to be one important source of increased petty crimes and uncivil behavior. As a result of this criminality, the Front National, a far-right political party led by Jean-Marie Le Pen rose to prominence during the early 1990s on a platform of tougher law enforcement and immigration control.
In the summer of 1981, dramatic events involving young Franco-Maghrebis brought about many different reactions from the French public. Within the banlieues, events called rodeos would occur, where young "banlieusards" would steal cars and perform stunts as well as race them. Then, before the police could catch them, they would abandon the cars and set them on fire.
During July and August 1981, around 250 cars were vandalized. Shortly after this incident, grass-roots groups began to demonstrate in public in 1983–1984 to publicize the problems of the Beurs and immigrants in France. In doing so, Arabs — specifically Algerians, Moroccans, and Tunisians — in France began to develop a stronger identity unified by the problems that have been imposed on them economically and politically. The banlieue became a unifying point for the marginalized immigrants of France, despite the fact that there are various identities that constitute these individual groups. "We don't consider ourselves completely French... Our parents were Arabs... We were born in France (and only visited Algeria a few times)... So what are we? French? Arab? In the eyes of the French we are Arabs... but when we visit Algeria some people call us immigrants and say we've rejected our culture. We've even had stones thrown at us." Overall the displacement of identities that Franco-Maghrebis feel becomes a unifying factor in French society and assimilation is particularly difficult because of their placement in the banlieue, and the French's refusal to assimilate due to the violence portrayed at events such as in the summer of 1981.
Violent clashes between hundreds of youths and French police in the Paris banlieue of Clichy-sous-Bois began on 27 October 2005 and continued for more than seventeen nights. The 2005 Paris suburb riots were triggered by the deaths of two teenagers who were, allegedly, attempting to hide from police in an electrical substation and were electrocuted.
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