Gender and Language, Vol 2, No 2 (2008)

La racaille: figuring gender, generation, and stigmatized space in a French cité

Chantal Tetreault
Issued Date: 2 Jun 2008


Dominant French discourses stigmatize la racaille (‘male street toughs’) in a national moral panic about cités (‘subsidized housing projects’). This paper examines how these discourses influence everyday talk and experiences of public space in Chemin de l’Ile, a cité west of Paris. In both national and local discourses, la racaille symbolizes stigmatized public spaces, particularly la rue (‘the street’). However, inhabitants in Chemin de l’Ile mobilize the symbol of la racaille to evoke a set of moralizing discourses that are inflected with cultural, gendered, and generational prescriptions. Specifically, la racaille is constructed as morally threatening to culturally respectful spaces, such as Muslim weddings, and the respect of certain persons including adolescent girls. Adolescent girls’ own perspectives are analyzed to show that through narratives about la racaille they elaborate and resist normative prescriptions for gendered uses of public space in their cité.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.v2i2.141


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