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The banlieue refers to the area surrounding a French city, commonly used in reference to Paris. The word faubourg also means “lying outside the city,” but now it commonly refers to areas in central Paris that were incorporated early into the city. There is an implicit tendency to compare the banlieues with the American suburbs, but there are important differences. In the United States the word suburb carries a positive connotation associated with private property, middle-class ease, low-density population, and an overall high quality of life. In contrast, the immediate connotation of the French banlieue and its inhabitants, the banlieue-sards, is one of overcrowded public housing, people of color, new immigrants, and crime. It is something closer to the stereotype of the ghetto in the ...

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