European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Violence in the City: the northern suburbs of Marseille

There took place a debate about violence in the city on the 15th of October in the Villa Mediterreanea.


In this space of modernity with escalators going up way up

reminding of the importance given to people to ascend and descend stairs

in expensive shops

it is a matter of wondering

whether or not wonder

is being trapped



as commodity of life.

While one exhibition shows how you can tag a wall with little stickers to be marked

within a booth imitating election time

the result is

to contrast it with modern furniture

which like Bauhaus and Le Corbusier

would deem it necessary

to reflect upon


as prime category for introducing


on how living is made possible

or impossible

in the private sphere

now on public display.

It is this confusion about private and public

which has become the rivot of society

or of new skyscrapers called dreams of a city.


hatto fischer

Marseille 17.10.2013


Le Forum d'Action Modernités 
vous invite à son prochain débat mini On/Off :

Produire autrement le bien commun
Affaires, entre-soi, violence : dégager l'horizon !

A Marseille, le 15 octobre


Une métropole comme Marseille pourrait devenir le laboratoire, le creuset, d’une France plus riche, plus diverse, plus tissée, plus cosmopolite. Au lieu de cela, et en pleine année où la ville est capitale européenne de la culture, l’actualité est celle des meurtres et des règlements de compte. Comment comprendre ce qui se passe et comment le surmonter ?
Poursuivant son cycle de débats sur le thème
"Dégager l'horizon", le Forum d'Action Modernités a décidé d'ouvrir le débat sur ces questions à Marseille même, avec des intervenants "locaux" engagés.

La problématique :
Tandis que l’avenir s’écrit autour des réseaux, de la collaboration et de la transversalité, Marseille peine à se dégager d’obstacles lourds : verticalité, allégeance, cloisonnement… Mais en quoi s’agit-il d’éléments spécifiques et y a-t-il des racines culturelles et historiques qui expliqueraient, là plus qu’ailleurs, les phénomènes de caïdat, de protection et de passe-droits ? Faut-il ne considérer tout cela que comme des survivances du passé ou n’y a-t-il pas de facteurs qui amèneraient plutôt à craindre que ce que l’on constate ici ne soit que la préfiguration de tendances qui pourraient se généraliser dans le pays ? Et finalement, comment faire en sorte que chacun se sente réellement citoyen, c'est-à-dire qu’il soit conscient de ses droits et de ses devoirs, seul, par lui-même, sans courber l’échine devant des puissants ?


Some first comments and impressions

The fact that everything took place in French may be self understood but as a European Capital of Culture it could be expected that translations would be provided.

The debate itself had one moderator and four panel speakers, two women, two men. One of the men was an ethnologist even though he argued like a sociologist while the other came from Luxembourg where the European institutions provide for quite another level of employment than what is the case in Marseille.One of the two women was well articulated and critical of the political forces at work, while the other woman came from the northern suburbs where all the heavy violence in the city seems to be located.

The northern suburb presents a new polarity within the city which has invested heavily in upgrading the southern part. In a way Marseille presents the reverse of the usual Southern-Northern discrepancies within Europe.

One prime impression the debate conveyed is that the very structure of the debate was self centred and only upon Marseille. A video of a rapper singing his song about Marseille was presented. It follows the course of becoming nice for the one year when the city is the European Capital of Culture, and when everything is done to make sure that culture becomes representative of reality. It is, however, a neutralized representation just as being sucked into the system makes anything said within that context harmless. Criticism can be even expressed in such panel discussions but it does not effect the very structure which underlines the entire problem. Repeatedly complaints were made about the bad governance of the city.

More needs to be found out about how poverty and crime is being dealt with. For the Southern part the entire clean up operation meant as well expelling the Romas who now live as well in the Northern Suburbs and there begin to swell up new sources of conflicts. Some Algerians use a discriminatory language which reflects the overall discrimination being systematically reinforced by models assumed to integrate. There is a saying that the human impulse to integrate has been lost in Marseille. The old spirit behind the founding of the charite has died or weakened so much that the feeling is much of the same is being repeated as discussed in the first edition of International New York Times - good-bye Herald Tribune: the transition took place Oct.14 to Oct. 15 - by Joseph E. Stiglitz speaking about "Inequality is a choice" (International New York Times, Tuesday, October 15, 2013, p. 17). Inequality can also be felt by people not being honest to each other as the cheating goes on practically day by day in small and big doses. It becomes evident when a piece of pizza costs 1,60 the first time it is bought, but the second piece only ,90 - it just depends who happens to be at the cashier and also gets away with not giving a receipt. That is very much like Greece used to be and still is a place where tax evasion means also this: the real taxes no one can really afford to pay.

Ferdinand Richard pointed out in a later discussion with him that the only big employer in the city is the city's administration while there are but few large companies. The rest of the business is family business and that means the culture of these socially entrenched businesses does not allow especially women to strive for further excellence. They do not go to university to become lawyers or professors themselves. He sees in the Northern Suburbs more or less a pattern being created by how recruitment runs in poor areas. The young men are enlisted first in drug related activities and once that is withdrawn they have no base within society. They end up going for training in Afghanistan or Sudan by al Quaeda.

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