04. The future of Villa Biron

Despite the fact that Villa Biron has had and sometimes still has a stigma attached to it: because of its location, the status of its dwellers. It offers a space that can be lived and becomes a sign of resistance and resilience in an era that still challenges people if they do not conform to behavioral e aesthetic standards. Giovanna, Samantha, Tabata, Vania, Nathaly and Luna are just a few examples of people who just want to live their lives as everybody else, they should be seen not as gender-non-conforming males, transsexuals, transvestites, prostitutes, women, men, illegal migrants. They are people and thus should not have to endure extra challenges and go through the hardships they have to simply survive.

Fassin (2005)[1] discusses how societies are becoming insensitive to questions pertinent to its inequalities, stories of those who struggle become so common place that the term coined by Herzfeld (1992) could epitomize it, that there currently is a social production of indifference[2].

Refugees, whatever definition one might give them, in the end of the day they are people just like those who were responsible for writing this and you who might be reading this. They had people who brought them into this world, they laughed, they cried, they had to go through the same emotions we all did. They arrived in Saint-Ouen through the intertwinement of networks; some would just see them through a fragment of what happens in their lives: their migration and legal and health status; prostitution; refugees; or simply Latin Americans.

Among themselves as people who live there, they have ties of solidarity and create what some could understand as a family, with less stigmatization about who they are or aim to be if compared to our regular society, but as a supportive space from which they can endeavor into what they hope to achieve in the future. A few of them would like to go back to their countries and have their families around them. Like all people, they aspire to achieve whatever they consider to be happiness.

Policies, politicians and people in power seem to turn a blind eye to those who do not economically correspond to their interests. Graham (2003)[3], as quoted by Fassin, talks about how emotions are eroded when civil servants listen to all those dramatic, yet distant stories from people. That reflects on the way LGBTI people who migrate have to deal with other cultures, they end up unsupported both where they come from and where they migrate too. Their migration is also marked by the absence of opportunities many may have to obtain a different visa or a refugee status. In France people could go to rejoin their families, as skilled workers, as students, or any other category that is officially envisaged.

In the case of Villa Biron, those who lived there came from poor backgrounds and had to struggle with what they had, oblivious to the language barrier they have to face when they move, some of them had to resort to people that may take advantage of them and exploit their precarity. Agamben says that the refugee as a polemic topic would be just a proof of the artificiality of modern sovereignty.[4] As it comes to the future of the place mentioned here, the aspect of transit is a constant in the minds of those who live there, they found a place where they can stay, but that place is far from becoming somewhere they would call a real home. Their home could be in a different city, back home. There is a bittersweet tone in the voice of those who live there. Where they are has been there for decades and will probably remain like that for quite a while. The LGBTI spacialization in that place, meaning the way they take the place to themselves is a symbol of some progress from their former status, is illusory, for they will keep on pursuing their goals and trying to get a better lives. However Villa Biron was there and will probably still be there in case they still have a connection that could bring them back in.



[1]   Fassin, Didier. (2005), Compassion and Repression: The Moral Economy of Immigration Policies in France. Cultural Anthropology, 20: 362–387. doi:10.1525/can.2005.20.3.362

[2] Herzfeld, Michael (1992) The Social Production of Indifference. Exploring the Symbolic Roots of Western Bureaucracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[3] Graham, Mark 2003 Emotional Bureaucracies: Emotions, Civil Servants, and Immigrants in the Swedish Welfare State. Ethos 30(3):199–226.

[4] Agamben, Giorgio 1997 Homo sacer. I. Le pouvoir souverain et la vie nue. Paris: Seuil.


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