Adventure Capital: Migration and the Making of an African Hub in Paris, by Julie Kleinman, University of California Press, 2019.
Reviewed by: Dr. Sara Özoğul, University of Amsterdam
In Western Europe, young men flocking together at major railway stations and occupying space with seemingly no discernible purpose, tend to personify threats to public order and safety. Julie Kleinman’s Adventure Capital: Migration and the Making of an African Hub in Paris provides a powerful counter-narrative. Kleinman’s ethnography is situated at the intersection of migration and race, nationalism and policing, infrastructure planning and (contested) public space. Her protagonists are self-proclaimed ‘adventurers’ who challenge conventional beliefs: they are young West African men, many of whom are undocumented, who frame their migration journeys as adventures and their stay in France as transient.
Throughout the book, Gare du Nord plays a physical and symbolic role. Kleinman skillfully intertwines the history and creation of this railway space with the establishment and transgression of societal boundaries, first and foremost, across race and class. Particularly the first part of the book focuses on nation-state building through railways. The latter part of the book focuses more on the social environment of the adventurers, and the methods and strategies they employ while interacting with police, station staff, passengers, and family.
As anthropologist and ethnographer, Kleinman does a fascinating job laying open conflicts and providing insights into context-specific processes affecting the adventurers. The convivial and conflictuous relations at the station that turn abstract into lived space make the book particularly interesting to urban anthropologists, sociologists, and geographers. A practice-oriented readership that focuses on urban policy and planning, on the other hand, will miss tangible recommendations, for example on how to include marginalized voices in a planning process. Having said that, with the right expectations in mind, the book can be interesting and thought-provoking for urban practitioners as well.
The full book review will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs.
The reviewer may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.