28 January 2019

Plural cultures and spatial politics: Situating the Institut des Cultures d’Islam in the postcolonial landscape of Paris

A special issue of Francosphères edited by Anna-Louise Milne brings a conclusion to ULIP’s British Academy-funded project in collaboration with the ICI. 

This collaborative project first began back in 2014, building on a series of encounters ULIP had been developing since 2010 with the team at the ICI within the framework of the MA in Paris Studies. Students and ULIP faculty had already seen the ICI expand its activities significantly from a local community centre first visited in a dis-used prefab school building in the Goutte d’Or, where a local restaurant hosted hugely popular events throughout the Ramadan period in particular. Our aim with the frame of the Plural Cultures-Plural Spaces project was to accompany the ICI’s development into two new buildings, both of which were to include a mosque and spaces for educational and cultural activities. When Anne Hildago’s Office decided to cancel the second building in early 2016 and to consolidate the project within its existing buildings, including the original ‘prefab’ site, this collaborative project also therefore underwent a significant re-configuration. 

Although not the subject of this collective issue as such, the mairie de Paris decision in 2016 was further evidence of the ICI project’s complexity. How to answer the combined objectives of provision of prayer space, initiatives for social inclusion in one of the densest districts of social precarity, largely shaped by past and recent immigration, and innovative cultural programming in a context of hard-pressed urban resources? Through a series of research articles written by scholars from both sides of the Channel, as well as interviews with some of the key people involved in the ICI on a daily basis, including the Institute’s Director, the imam of the Mosque that shares the ICI premises, and a number of local community actors who run a range of different projects in the Goutte d’Or in partial partnership with the ICI, this special issue of Francosphères sheds important light on this complexity. 

The ICI makes a very substantial claim to being unique in the landscape, not just of French publicly funded institutions, but more broadly in Europe. The claim, in turn, of this special issue is that it offers the opportunity to explore the interplay within the contemporary city between national models of integration and their historical determinations, as well as local modes of organization, particularly in the form of increasingly affirmative Muslim observance, without losing sight of broader postcolonial strategies for redress and recognition.

Read the special issue here.


Image by Jeanne Menjoulet