Glossary of Terms



the twenty districts of Paris that spiral out from the center city like a snail shell are called the arrondissements. Each of these districts has a reputation that is historically and culturally derived. For example the 7th, 16th, and 17th arrondissements have reputations for being wealthy and aristocratic while the 18th, 19th, and 20th have reputations for being working class and havens for different immigrant populations


The municipalities surrounding a French city, in this case Paris, that are a part of its metropolitan region. It can be translated as suburb but many of these municipalities are former factory towns or farms with high concentrations of social housing such as the cities of Montreuil or Aubervilliers. However there are also very wealthy banlieues, like Neuilly-sur-Seine where former presidents have retired.


Short for Bourgeois-Bohème, an upwardly mobile individual with socio-economic and/or cultural cachet, often used as the boogieman of gentrification. They can also be seen as the French version of hipsters.


A wealthy or upper middle class person

Charlie Hebdo

A controversial cartoon magazine founded in the 70s. Charlie Hedbo rose to international attention when on January 7th 2015, two muslim extremists stormed their offices and murdered twelve people who were cartoonists and staff members for the magazine.

Departments of the Paris Metro Region

These are areas surrounding Paris that group together multiple banlieues into administrative boundaries. The three immediately surrounding the city are called called Hauts-de-Seine (also called the nine two, for its administrative number 92), Seine-Saint-Denis (the nine three), and Val-de-Marne (the nine four).  

Est-Ouest Paris

East and West Paris, there is an invisible dividing line between the two drawn by both politics and socio-economic status. East Paris, which is more working class and was once a stronghold for communist politics, tends to lean to the left. West Paris where bankers, lawyers, and the aristocracy have traditionally lived tends to vote conservative.

Grands Ensembles (les cités, les tours, etc.)

Types of low income and affordable housing. Often these different names refer to different building typologies such as towers or large building blocks. The architecture of social housing in Paris is highly varied. Many of these projects were inspired by different ideologies of architectural modernism. Throughout Paris and in the banlieues around Paris you can see architecture inspired by or designed by architects like Le Corbusier, Jacques- Henri Labourdette, Renée Gailhoustet, and Jean Renaudie. Since many of these projects were built they have fallen in disrepair and are often have poor reputations in the public opinion.  


A French equivalent term for diversity that focuses more on discussions of economic class than race. Mixité has been a central tenet of housing policy in Paris since the 90s. This goal is vaguely defined at the government level and is sought after through top-down policy interventions.


The ring road highway that separates what is considered Paris proper (Paris intramuros) from the banlieues surrounding Paris.


Translates to scum but is the cultural equivalent to the word thug in English. Politically associated with Sarkozy’s zero tolerance policing initiatives in populaire neighborhoods


Stands for Réseau Express Régional (express regional network), and it is made up of five commuter rail lines lettered A through E. Each line connects the banlieues to Paris. Some lines have reputations for being unsafe depending on the banlieues they run through. Three of these lines (A,B, and D) pass through the enormous transit hub les Halles-Chatelet.

State of Emergency

A policy written in the 1950s under General Charles de Gaulle’s presidency. It was meant to expand police power by setting curfews and authorizing extralegal search and seizure. An early use of the state of emergency was to quell the activities of FLN protesters (activists for the liberation of the former colony Algeria) during the 50s and 60s.

Titi Parisien

Local slang for a working-class person born in Paris in the late 19th and early 20th century. Titi Parisiens have a particular style and way of speaking that makes them immediately identifiable in film and literature. The actress Arletty famously depicted Titi Parisien women in films of the 30s and 40s, like Marcel Carné’s Hotel du Nord.

Le plan Vigipirate

Translates to "watch out for pirates." It is the French terror warning system.