France's Street Violence Ascribed to Decades of State Inattention to High Unemployment and Poverty Among Immigrants
Interview with Paul Silverstein, associate professor of anthropology at Reed College, conducted by Scott Harris
Two teenagers, believing that French police were pursuing them, hid in a power substation and were accidentally electrocuted to death. Their deaths on Oct. 27 set off almost two weeks of street violence by minority and immigrant youth, that has resulted in thousands of cars burned and millions of dollars in property destruction. Many non-European and Muslim youth in France fear the police, whom they accuse of bigoted and brutal behavior.
Poverty and high unemployment rates among North African immigrants, unaddressed by the French state for decades, are believed by many observers to have contributed to the unrest. In his first address to the nation since the rioting began, French President Jacques Chirac asked parliament to extend a state of emergency until February and establish a youth training and employment program over the next two years.
France's predominately Muslim minority population, many of them immigrants from former colonies, have virtually no political representation in the national or local government, underscoring their lack of integration in the country. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Paul Silverstein, associate professor of anthropology at Reed College. Silverstein, whose research focuses on North African immigration, religion and politics in France, examines the root causes of the French riots.
Paul Silverstein is the author of "Algeria in France: Islam, Berberity and the French Nation State."
"Why is France Burning?", by Doug Ireland, The Nation, Nov. 28, 2005
"Assimilate or Die," by Mark Levine, TomDispatch.com, Nov. 14, 2005
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