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Part 1 Dissertation 2014
Yannick Scott
University of Plymouth | UK
Peripheral French suburbs have emerged in hegemonic discourse as sites of both social and physical degradation, synonymous with recent rioting and residual imagery pertaining to criminality and violence. Prevailing notions of what it means to be French, founded upon the Republican ideology of a nation ‘equal regardless of their social, ethnic, religious or other backgrounds’[1] have only served to augment the social marginalisation of banlieue residents. Rather than celebrating multiculturalism, such policies of integration only provide a disguise for the implicit rejection of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Requisite to the formation of a homogenous nation-state, is the construction of ‘standard French’, a hermetically sealed lexicon controlled by L'Académie française. An exploration of this standardisation demonstrates how the refusal to accept linguistic diversity can be intelligibly positioned alongside the widespread recognition of cultural pluralism as a threat to societal order. Within this context, second and third generation ‘immigrants’ have been further ostracised through an inherent disposition which contradicts both their parent's cultural values and those of the hegemonic state. This provides a setting from which these youths have struggled to negotiate their hybrid identity in recent years.

Subcultural discourses have provided a means to challenge mainstream perceptions whilst bringing the use of slang, specifically verlan, to the forefront of the public imaginary. Verlan implicates the dismantling and reconfiguration of the French language and as such, appropriates it as a means to engage with ethics of racial and cultural multiplicity pertinent to these subaltern youth. In this way, verlan empowers the marginal communities of the banlieue to speak in an enunciatory third space, advocating for a France that, ‘accepts linguistic and, ultimately, social diversity’.[2]

This essay follows an analytical enquiry into prevailing notions of alterity in peripheral suburbs, the construction of a national French identity and explores how slang may be used as a linguistic device towards cultural hybridisation in France.

[1] Unknown, ‘French Republic’, France Républicaine, [, 04 May 2013].
[2] Westphal, K, ‘Teuf Love: Verlan in French Rap and Beyond’, (Berkeley Underground Journal, Vol. 25, No. 3, 2012)

Yannick Scott

Richard Bower
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