Based on ethnographic research at one of the largest transit hubs in the world-Paris's Gare du Nord railway station-this article examines how the practices of West African migrants transform the French urban environment. I argue that migrants create social ties outside of kin and village networks by rerouting and combining the channels of two types of infrastructures: French transportation systems and West African systems of exchange and obligation. While this infrastructural practice relies on a shared cultural repertoire, it also helps create new channels that circumvent the pathways for social becoming prescribed by either the French state or their home communities. The Gare du Nord as a social environment shapes these practices but is also reshaped by them, a process I illuminate by examining how the station becomes an African hub: not an enclave of "Little Africa" but rather a node of communication and exchange. This process sheds light on how strategies for creating relations across difference and through infrastructure form transnational communities in urban spaces. [West Africa, Paris, migration, railway, transnationalism].
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Urban Studies