A “Capital of Hope and Disappointments”

North African Families in Marseille Shantytowns and Social Housing

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Dustin Alan Harris SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, York University, Canada harris.dustin86@gmail.com

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This article traces the history of specialized social housing for North African families living in shantytowns in Marseille from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s. During the Algerian War, social housing assistance formed part of a welfare network that exclusively sought to “integrate” Algerian migrants into French society. Through shantytown clearance and rehousing initiatives, government officials and social service providers encouraged shantytown-dwelling Algerian families to adopt the customs of France's majority White population. Following the Algerian War, France moved away from delivering Algerian-focused welfare and instead developed an expanded immigrant welfare network. Despite this shift, some officials and social service providers remained fixated on the presence and ethno-racial differences of Algerians and other North Africans in Marseille's shantytowns. Into the mid-1970s, this fixation shaped local social assistance and produced discord between the promise and implementation of specialized social housing that hindered shantytown-dwelling North African families’ incorporation into French society.

Contributor Notes

Dustin Harris is an SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at York University who specializes in the study of North African immigration and social welfare in modern France. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Toronto. Email: harris.dustin86@gmail.com

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