Clichy is a suburban area at the northern edge of Paris, a world away from the Eiffel Tower. In 2005, it was still recovering from the stigma left by the recent riots that had shaken the entire area. There, in a café in the city centre, I met Lahcen, a former singer in a Kabyle folk band, former factory worker, unionist, volunteer in a literacy centre and member of the hometown organisation (HTO) of Ouled Ali,1 his home village. The café itself did not differ from any of its kind: same fake leather benches, same Formica tables and the usual rank of bottles of spirits behind the bar. Only a poster of Matoub Lounès, the popular Kabyle singer, was here to remind the customer that we were in a Kabyle café. Lahcen and I talked for two hours. We talked about his hometown fellows and the project they wanted to set up for the village but also of what had become of French unionism and the place of immigrants, about the policy of the Chirac government and the feats of Zidane in the French football team. On the one hand, Lahcen is an archetypal product of the poly-cultural French working class, fashioned by a century of successive immigration waves and moulded by a history of industrial actions, associational engagements, de-industrialisation and the slow disintegration of working-class structures.
KeywordsAgency Approach Philanthropic Activity Global Village Migrant Organisation Collective Mobilisation
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