Participatory Storytelling of the Local History of Migration: The Challenge of a Shared Memory, between Urban Project and Political Mobilization

Special Report: Varia
By Morane Chavanon

Located in the suburbs of Lyon, the community of Villeurbanne’s highlighting of its industrial heritage is a key element of a local strategy to distinguish the area. The notion of memory is at the core of its public policies, with a special interest taken in workers’ and immigrants’ past to demonstrate the specificity of its collective identity. The local council seeks legitimacy for this local affiliation through the participation of its inhabitants. Indeed, they are invited to play an active part in writing the history of the city. In this article, we are especially interested in the narratives erased from the local past—and that could almost be seen as taboo—such as the arrival and the living conditions of immigrants. Since the issue of immigration still provokes heated debate in France, we ask to what extent this institutionalized participation in the writing of local history actually tolerates conflict and allows subversion.


  • heritage
  • memory
  • immigration
  • participation
  • conflict
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