Locating Belleville

Darian Razdar / 2018

Locating Belleville is a mixed-methods research and creation project Darian Razdar pursued in fulfillment of his Bachelors of Arts in Social Theory & Practice at University of Michigan. He conducted original research on a Parisian neighbourhood, Belleville, where he lived in 2017. Belleville is located in northeast Paris and home to multicultural, immigrant, and working-class communities.

I already developed relationships in the quarter, and was transfixed by Belleville’s ethnic diversity, strong neighbourhood identity, and continuing history of social justice militancy. At the same time as he was inspired by the neighbourhood, Darian became fascinated by the idea of the ‘world city.’ He wanted to challenge the idea that world cities are products of capitalism, starting with this neighbourhood.

With a methodology centred on everyday life and social struggle, Locating Belleville approaches the world city in ways that value and reflect the worlding work that common people do each day. Beyond theory, Locating Belleville is an ethnographic investigation -- using methods such as interview, photography, walking, audio recording, and observation in public space. 

The result is a paper divided in four parts: 1) literature review and synthesis; 2) exploration of globality, locality, the City, and the Neighbourhood; 3) an emerging theory on how Bellevillois.es locate (imagine-perform-construct) world cities; and 4) conclusions regarding everyday spatial agency, translocality, and a more equitable world city.

An electronic version of the paper is provided below:


Darian Razdar and Clement Turner / 2018

“Locating Belleville” mounted as a gallery installation in May 2018 at the Residential College Gallery at the University of Michigan.

This exhibition communicated mixed-methods research to a larger public, engaging them in the sights, sounds, and textures of Belleville

The contents of the gallery included:
  • Photographic prints of Belleville streetscapes,
  • Video montage installation juxtaposing scenes from Belleville and Parisian monuments (you can watch the video here),
  • Print ephemera retrieved from Belleville cafés, restaurants, galleries, libraries, and other community centres, as well as small photographic prints of Belleville streetscapes,
  • Annotated maps of Paris by Belleville residents,
  • Interactive maps of Belleville that transmitted audio interviews with Belleville residents and ambient sounds from the neighborhood by pressing geo-located buttons on an etched acrylic sheet

Locating Belleville ran from May 3 to May 27, 2018, with events held in the gallery on topics ranging from local activism to art and technology.