Yearning to Labor


Yearning to Labor

Youth, Unemployment, and Social Destiny in Urban France

John P. Murphy

294 pages
18 photographs, 1 chart, 2 maps, 3 tables, index


May 2017


$45.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2017


$45.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2017


$45.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, France underwent a particularly turbulent period during which urban riots in 2005 and labor protests in 2006 galvanized people across the country and brought the question of youth unemployment among its poorer, multiethnic outer cities into the national spotlight.

Drawing on more than a year of ethnographic field research in the housing projects of the French city of Limoges, Yearning to Labor chronicles the everyday struggles of a group of young people as they confront unemployment at more than triple the national rate—and the crushing despair it engenders. Against the background of this ethnographic context, John P. Murphy illuminates how the global spread of neoliberal ideologies and practices is experienced firsthand by contemporary urban youths in the process of constructing their identities. An original investigation of the social ties that produce this community, Yearning to Labor explores the ways these young men and women respond to the challenges of economic liberalization, deindustrialization, and social exclusion.

At its heart, Yearning to Labor asks if the French republican model of social integration, assimilation, and equality before the law remains viable in a context marked by severe economic exclusion in communities of ethnic and religious diversity. Yearning to Labor is both an ethnographic account of a certain group of French youths as they navigate a suffocating job market and an analysis of the mechanisms underlying the shifting economic inequalities at the beginning of the twenty-first century.


Author Bio

John P. Murphy is an assistant professor of French at Gettysburg College.


"Yearning to Labor presents a detailed account of issues faced in 2005–06 by youth living in Limoges's underserved outer city and the construction of their social identity in relation to economic insecurity."—Benjamin Sparks, French Review

"Yearning to Labor is an anguished cry, which is what spoke so directly to the ethnographer in me. It is a nuanced and powerful story of cultural dissonance, a political wake-up call, and a story of true citizens of la douce France."—Ricardo Ayala, Anthropology of Work Review

Yearning to Labor represents an original and important contribution to urban sociology and literature dealing with the social effects of economic decline and austerity as well as sociological studies of the labor market. . . . It reflects an acute sensitivity to social and economic dynamics.”—Mark Vail, associate professor in the Department of Political Science and Murphy Institute for Political Economy at Tulane University and the author of Recasting Welfare Capitalism: Economic Adjustment in Contemporary France and Germany

Yearning to Labor makes a major contribution to our understanding not only of contemporary France but also of the effects of persistent underemployment and short-term employment on youth identities and selfhood.”—Andrea L. Smith, professor of anthropology at Lafayette College and author of Colonial Memory and Postcolonial Europe: Maltese Settlers in Algeria and France 

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


List of Abbreviations


1. On Edge: (Un)Employment and the Bad Reputation of Limoges’s Outer City

2. Longing for Yesterday: The Social Uses of Nostalgia in a Climate of Job Insecurity

3. Jobs for At-Risk Youth: State Intervention, Solidarité, and the Fight against Exclusion

4. Burning Banlieues: Race, Economic Insecurity, and the 2005 Riots

5. Precariat Rising? Articulating Social Position around the 2006 CPE Protests

6. Banlieue Blues: Grappling with Galère





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