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Zone: the space of a life on the margins

Zone : l'espace d'une vie en marge

Zona: el espacio de una vida al margen

Espaces et sociétés

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Published on Friday, October 16, 2015


While the everyday of "suburban youth" occupies the attention of French sociologists, the other face of the youths that have been relegated to "dropouts" (“zonards”) remains virtually invisible in terms of the social sciences. This issue aims to provide a first synthesis of French work on “the zone” as an area of life on the margins, and a presentation of pioneering English-language research in this field of study. This will be explore the range or meanings of  experiments whose originality derives from a shared nomadic lifestyle, keeping a distance from institutions, as well as normative territories. The expected proposals will favor the investigation of spaces and the constituent cultures of dropouts (squatters, punks, ravers ...).



While the daily life of "suburban youth" does not cease to occupy the attention of French sociologists, another face, zonards, youth dropouts or drifters, remains virtually invisible in the social sciences. Rare indeed are the studies of these "nomades du vide" (Chobeaux, 2004 [1996]), young “wanderers” often accompanied by their dogs, who appear in the role of the “mancheur” claiming a piece of the pavement of city centers. Both a vernacular term and concept based on experience, the word zonard - like  traveller or guttersnipe in English – is used by many (Pimor  2014). Evoking the "zone" as an area and nomadic lifestyle, such a designation implies a route traced on the margins of society; from whence the terms “traceurs” or “routards” that are also used by some.

The "zone" is thus materialized in the movements of its constituent groups. While they often refuse to be reduced to the normativity of the structures of social intervention, zonards claim a form of resistance to what they see as sedentary, conformist society generally dominated by the logic of wages and consumption (Blanchard, 2009; Billion, 2014).  It remains to be seen what the the foundations of such resistance are, for which the daily experience takes the form of lifestyle largely considered deviant (Ferrell, 2001).  Is it auto-attribution or stigma; what exactly does the zonard label correspond to in the worlds of the margin and their territories, the city (the street, squatting) or beyond (on the road and at free parties - often as organized techno parties in open countryside)?   What are the codes and in what ways are they spread? If the territories of the zone constitute the sites of expression of different subcultural styles (Beauchez, 2014), can we therefore observe a "dynamics of the margins" (Tarrius, 1999) in the sense of interactions, meetings or oppositions between marginalized youth - zonards, banlieusards, locals ("gars du coin"; Renahy, 2006)?

Many questions that we propose to explore revisit the issue of homelessness and its socio-historical variations addressed by past issues of Espaces et Sociétés (see in particular the issue on  "Living Homelessness" (“Habiter sans logis” published in 2004). Here, these issues require closer attention to life immersed in the zone. Such a comprehensive approach will interest sociologists as well as geographers, historians or anthropologists.  By bringing them together, we want to produce a first synthesis of French work on the area as an space of  life on the margins, a synthesis we hope to expand to a comparative presentation of research in English that is known to have opened the field of study in Europe (eg Hebdige, 2008 [1979]; Hetherington, 2000). The proposals expected for this issue will therefore emphasize the investigation of the spaces and cultures of the constituent lifestyle of zonards. All aspects of this issue will be investigated, according to the following thematic guidelines:

  1. social history (“sociohistoire”) of the "zone", between past territories (Cannon, 2015) and current conceptions of a nomadic lifestyle where displacement is free of ties (family, obligations, work).
  2. The appropriation of public spaces, from everyday situations to more specific events, such as festivals dedicated to music and street art.
  3. Exploring more initimate zones that may be clans, squats (Bouillon, 2009), or other types of habitat that (re) invest rurality.

While a set of "survival skills" (Zeneidi-Henry, 2002) can be documented, both in terms of tactics –  begging, occupation of the street or ways of living -- and from representations of marginalinality as space of resistance to established normativities.

References Cited

Beauchez, J. 2014. « La rue comme héroïne : expériences punk et skinhead en France », Anthropologica, 56 (1) : 193-204.

Billion, J. 2014. « Les jeunes sans domicile et leurs pairs dans la rue », in Serge Paugam (dir.), L’intégration inégale. Force, fragilité et rupture des liens sociaux, Paris : PUF, pp. 227-242.

Blanchard, C. 2009. « Des routards prisonniers dans la ville », Sociétés & jeunesses en difficulté, 7, en ligne : http://sejed.revues.org/6292

Bouillon, F. 2009. Les mondes du squat. Anthropologie d’un habitat précaire, Paris : PUF.

Cannon, J. 2015. The Paris Zone: A Cultural History (1840-1944), Farnham & Burlington: Ashgate.

Chobeaux, F. 2004 [1996]. Les nomades du vide. Des jeunes en errance, de squats en festivals, de gares en lieux d’accueil, Paris : La Découverte.

Ferrell, J. 2001. Tearing Down the Streets: Adventures in Urban Anarchy, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hebdige, D. 2008 [1979]. Sous-culture, le sens du style. Paris : La Découverte/Zones.

Hetherington, K. 2000. New Age Travellers: Vanloads of Uproarious Humanity, London & New York: Cassell.

Pimor, T. 2014. Zonards. Une famille de rue, Paris : PUF.

Renahy, N. 2006. Les gars du coin. Enquête sur une jeunesse rurale, Paris : La Découverte.

Tarrius, A. 1999. « Économies souterraines, recompositions sociales et dynamiques des “marges” dans une ville moyenne française », Sociétés Contemporaines, 36 : 19-32.

Zeneidi-Henry, D. 2002. Les SDF et la ville. Géographie du savoir-survivre, Paris : Bréal.

Coordination of the issue

  • Jérôme Beauchez,
  • Djemila Zeneidi
  • Florence Bouillon

Submission guidelines

  • 1st april 2016: Deadline for submitting articles

  • 15 June 2016: Information to authors

Address for correspondence exclusively by email to the following three addresses:

  • jerome.beauchez@ish-lyon.cnrs.fr
  • djemila.zeneidi@cnrs.fr
  • florence.bouillon@gmail.com

Authors who are wondering about the relevance of their proposals may contact the coordinators


  • The magazine does not request proposals for articles, but submissions of articles directly
  • articles may not exceed 42 000 characters (including spaces) including: text, notes, bibliographic references, appendices, but excluding summaries.
  • Submission information is included in each number.
  • The standards of presentation and the advice to authors are available on the website of the journal

The journal reminds authors that they may submit, at any time, an article outside of the theme, if it concerns the relation between spaces, territories and populations in the broad sense and it complies with the standards of publication; in case of acceptance, these articles are published rapidly.


  • Friday, April 01, 2016


  • rue, déviance, marginalité, résistance, style de vie


  • Joëlle Jacquin
    courriel : Espacesetsocietes [at] msh-paris [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Joëlle Jacquin
    courriel : Espacesetsocietes [at] msh-paris [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Zone: the space of a life on the margins », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, October 16, 2015, https://calenda.org/342579

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