American Sociological Association

Multicultural Engagements in Lived Spaces: How Cultural Communities Intersect in Belleville, Paris

The need to contend with greater diversity in cities raises the question of the level and timbre of group interactions. This study examines how diversity at a small scale operates and the conditions under which it may lead to true engagement, parallel lives, detachment, or hostility. The site is the multicultural Parisian neighborhood of Belleville, with a focus on the behaviors and attitudes of merchants who work there. Data gathering comprised observation and examination of neighborhood dynamics, the distribution of various businesses, and the nature of customer and everyday traffic as well as 34 structured interviews. Our findings show the significant Chinese population and businesses separated from the rest of the district and the other businesses. This separation is reinforced with a large degree of mutual distrust. However, relations between Arabs and Jews, tense at larger scales, are harmonious though increasingly tinged by outside worries. Multicultural relations observed on the ground differ from those apparent at larger scales, reaffirming the importance of place and local circumstances.


David H. Kaplan





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