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Adventure Capital: Migration, Public Space, and the Making of an African Hub in Paris

Nádor u. 15.
Monday, January 27, 2020, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

Paris’s Gare du Nord is the busiest railway hub in Europe, and one of the most diverse: high-speed international rail intersects with commuter lines from Paris’s banlieues. Since its construction in the nineteenth century, the station has been a symbol of urban ills and state efforts to police and surveille the so-called “dangerous classes” in public space. In the last three decades, West African migrant workers—who fashion themselves as “adventurers”—have turned to the station to get by when faced with economic hardship, discrimination, police harassment, and the threat of deportation. Taking the perspective of adventurers at the Gare du Nord, I will examine how racial inequality has long been built into the order of Parisian public space, and explore how West African adventurers challenge that order. I show that they use the Gare du Nord to retool French transit infrastructure and construct their own pathway toward integration where state institutions have failed.