apartment buildings old and new
Lecture by Zsuzsanna Fagyal: "Stylistic innovations in language as ‘place-making’ among the multiethnic working-class urban youth in Paris"
5:10 PM - 6:30 PM
French Department Library, 4229 Dwinelle Hall

Stylistic innovations in language, especially words and expressions attributed to the urban youth in France, are sometimes claimed by adolescents themselves as new and authentic local expressions invented in their own neighborhoods (cf. Fagyal 2004, 2010). In this presentation, I will argue that such discourses reveal instances of ‘place-making’, i.e., symbolic acts of demarcation and appropriation of the urban space in which 20th-century post-colonial immigration in Paris took root. Borrowed from urban studies, the concept of ‘place-making’ through language is to be understood as a collaborative discursive process channeled through countless performative acts in interaction between speakers creating and contesting public spaces by assigning them social-indexical values and behavior, including authentic language use (cf. Busse 2019, 2021). Based on my own fieldwork interviews and other interview corpora collected in multiethnic working-class suburbs of Paris over the last fifteen years (cf. Gardner-Chloros et al. 2014-2018), I will place some of these semiotic processes in a larger context of urban development in Paris and show how adolescents interviewed about their language use in the early 2000s projected themselves early on into an evolving social landscape that, today, shows unmistakable signs of gentrification.