Understanding the (Re)Definition of Nationhood in French Cities: A Case of Multiple States and Multiple Republics
By Joseph Downing
Volume 15, Issue 2, pages 336-351
Both theoretical and empirical accounts of the nation have neglected the city as an arena for the (re)definition of national belonging. This article analyses contemporary France to advance theoretical and empirical insights into this process. Rather than presenting France as characterized by a Republican, assimilationist position, this article argues France is better characterized by competing ‘multiple republics’ with numerous definitions of nationhood. This article identifies three mechanisms of the multiple Republic. In Marseille, the municipal administration acts to redefine the secular character of the nation by bringing religion directly into local politics. This use of religion to redefine nationhood is also present in Lyon, with the key difference that it occurs in symbiosis with European governance. Finally, the Nanterre suburb of Paris demonstrates that the local state also uses notions of ethnicity to redefine the French nation as compatible with ethnic difference.
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