David Lepoutre

At the Heart of the Suburbs Codes, Rites and Languages Publication date : April 1, 1997

In the last 15 years, the social disease of suburban youth has been on the front pages of newspapers, feeding fear and encouraging a certain social and political discourse centered around the notions of crisis, disorder, desocialization ... Coming from a direct experience, this book opposes the "problematic of the social vacuum" with a resolutely ethnological approach to relations between the adolescents of large urban settings. The author also enlightens us as to the logical and symbolic coherence of the behaviours and practices that are the foundation of a very original system of social relations. In this day-to-day chronicle, we explore the spatial, social and ethnic frames of large groups. We hear "street talk", treated from two points of view, linguistic (slang, "verlan", obscenities, diction) and functional, of its interactions (jokes, insults, rumours, lies). We are naturally led to study the different forms of violent exchanges : through sports and play or through clear expressions of confict (vengeance etc...). In the end, we ask ourselves important questions concerning the values of this "sub-culture" : of which honor is a constant worry seen in most of these behaviours and conflicts. The recent and massive diffusion of certain traits of this French street culture in France means that we can undoubtedy envisage the positive integration of a category of youth which has, until today, been widely stigmatized.

David Lepoutre is a professor of History and Geography in the second degree and gives courses in Ethnology at the Universities of Paris XIII and Lille II. He lived for seven years in the Quatre-Mille suburban complex at La Courneuve and taught for seven years at a school in this community.