Courses available in French


On ne naît pas femme, on le devient.

— de Beauvoir

French 265B: Modern Studies — Precarity and the (Post-)Modern City


The final list of literary texts and films will be announced soon. This list will most likely include a selection among the following writers and filmmakers such as Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Zola, Céline, Volodine and Razane for literature; Pialat, Pontecorvo, Godard, Mambéty, and Benguigui for film.

Course Description:

In this “Modern Studies” seminar, we will trace the genealogy of a seemingly contemporary question—that of urban precarity—from the vantage point of its literary and cinematic figurations. To elaborate such genealogy of our precarious present, we will study films and read literary texts written between the 1850s and the 2000s that allow us to comprehend the major landmarks in a spatial history of precarity. To articulate the relations these works create between their aesthetic logics and the social instabilities to which they give form, /we will place them in critical dialogue with analyses coming from a variety of other disciplines: urban theory and town planning (Le Corbusier, Lefebvre, Harvey, Wright), colonial and post-colonial studies (Fanon, Mbembe), sociology (Wacquant, Bourdieu), critical theory (Balibar, Rancière, Butler, Agamben) and theories of labor (Moullier-Boutang, Castel). Central to our materials and discussions will be the social and figurative tensions between Paris and “its” banlieues, from the 19th century to the present moment. We will notably study these tensions through the dis/continuities we can identify between the governmental production of French banlieues and the colonial city (especially Algiers) in the 19th century, which will lead us to interrogate the status of the contemporary peripheries vis-à-vis the history of colonialism. By articulating these spaces as “precarious” we will finally explore their most recent iterations and study the political potentials opened up in sites such as the “Zones à Défendre” and the refugee camps. Across the semester, we will conceptualize the notion of “precarious spaces” in its spatial, economic, temporal, (bio)political and ecological dimensions, while also taking it as a locus for the encounter between aesthetic practices and major events in the history of urban planning and social movements (from the Commune to the 2005 uprisings in the banlieues).

Additional Information:

This seminar will be taught in English. Readings will be in French.



Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes