This dissertation examines a lively lower-middle-class, immigrant neighborhood in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, the Faubourg Saint-Denis, from 1950 into the twenty-first century, and explores the history of everyday life in its streets and public spaces. It connects the neighborhood's evolution to larger changes in urban redevelopment policies and municipal politics in Paris. This study challenges a core assumption held by scholars about urban neighborhoods: that everyday life and communities are shaped primarily by residents.
Residents have historically been the focus of neighborhood scholarship because they are easily accessible to scholars in most archival sources and because they have been viewed as the stabilizing force that keeps chaotic cities civilized. Since the 1950s and even during the nineteenth-century, however, non-residents have been found at the core of local communities in Paris, especially in its busiest neighborhoods. These parts of the city, often centered around marketplaces and market streets, such as Les Halles, have remained vibrant due to the important role played by non-residents, many of whom have commuted long distances to them every day not only to work, but also to shop, and to socialize. Scholars, however, have neglected their important role in shaping community life in cities.
This dissertation is about these everyday users of Paris's city center and its vibrant neighborhoods, many of whom have contributed to the life of a neighborhood far from where they sleep. These users do not leave many traces of their impact, though through the examination of a wide variety of sources, including tax records, television news reports, police records, classified ads, transportation statistics, and oral interviews, it is possible to find hints of their significant presence. Daily mobility in Paris has been crucial to the creation of community life.
With the rise of municipal democracy in Paris since 1977 and increasing political decentralization across France since the mid-1980s, residents in Paris have gained significant new power in shaping the outcome of their neighborhood's public space by working with their local government. As these residents have increasingly become homeowners, often taking out expensive mortgages for their apartments, they have sought to use their lobbying and voting power to shape public space to cater more to their desires. Although many of these residents who moved to the Faubourg Saint-Denis between 1998 and 2012--a period of gentrification and a substantial rise in real estate prices in Paris--chose it because they liked its diversity and energy, their actions to make their neighborhood more green, livable, and pedestrian-friendly have often unwittingly worked against their desire to live in a vibrant area of the city. Despite this pressure to quiet the neighborhood's public spaces, the Faubourg Saint-Denis has remained the daytime or nighttime home of its non-resident users who generally live in suburbs of Paris, where housing is more affordable and life is calmer. The city center of Paris continues to function as it has since the nineteenth century, animated and invigorated every day by people who live far from it.