03 Mai Flaneur #9 Boulevard Peripherique – Paris
Surprise Subscription #29
After months and months of dark and cold and a general feeling of “meh”, we here at do you read me?! are happy to report that spring has arrived. Let’s celebrate, let’s hit the road, let’s go to Paris! After having focused on cities as far-ranging as Taipei and São Paulo, Flaneur–the legendary travel publication, and this month’s Surprise Subscription pick–is taking on the City of Lights, and the results are honestly exceptional.
Each issue of Flaneur has a simple and ingenious approach: selecting one major street in a city, exploring it from as many aesthetic and cultural angles as possible, and then using these different perspectives to present a picture of the place as a whole and to “tell global stories on a micro-local scale”.
So which street has Flaneur chosen from the many elegant avenues haussmanniennes? Francophiles, prepare to be shocked; because the focus of this issue is none other than the Boulevard Périphérique–the gritty, traffic-choked, horn-roaring, ring road that separates wealthy inner Paris from its more down-at-the-heel suburbs. But with a bit of distance the reasoning behind this radical choice becomes crystal clear: for although Paris is among the most visited places in the world–containing treasure troves of art, gastronomy, music, and fashion–it is also the most densely populated city in the West, on par with Mumbai for how many people are crammed into its metropolitan area. Heaving with people from all over the world, it is a place that has still not made a clear reckoning with its violent colonialist past; and the difference between the Paris one sees on postcards and that one sees on “the Périph” could not be more stark.
The current protests that are still taking place in the French capital only make this choice more apt. For as we see in the stories that traverse this issue–whether they be about the communities forged in the cités near the ring road, or the clubs that are opening in its shadow, or the artists trying to re-contextualize it as a site for artistic experimentation–this aging road is being stripped of its divisive power thanks to the very same solidarity and collective action for which the city is also so rightfully renowned.
To enrich your reading experience, the editors of Flaneur have offered a Spotify playlist–a perfect antidote for the next time you find yourself stuck in a massive track jam on an outdated urban highway.