Patches of Dystopia Within Democratic Space

Fabien Jobard, CNRS
Dominique Linhardt, Ecole des Mines

ABSTRACT
In contrast with u-topia, a place existing nowhere, there are actual locations that exemplify the features of a policing dystopia. This paper bears on two kinds of such places. Belonging to the first one are international airports, which we shall study through the French airport of Orly. Particularly after September 2001, airports are being maximum security zones where persons perceived as having no legitimate business are expelled or arrested and questioned and where suspicious objects are destroyed. The second kind of places are "legal no man's land", that is violent pockets within urban space where relationships are governed by unbridled power. Social housing projects located in the suburbs of French cities are such danger zones. Both kinds of places -- airports and legal no man's lands -- share common features in respect to space, such as their closure. Their time-features, however, are opposed: people briefly pass through airports where relationships are kept at an impersonal minimum, whereas the population of a legal no man's land is made of "permanent transients" pinned down by a shared fate of which there seems no escape. The paper will explore what is common and contrasting in these patches of dystopia.

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Updated 05/20/2006