Kate Reutershan

Brown University

December 2008

 

Annotated Bibliography for

“Cultural Frequencies: Fostering Community and Promoting Diversity through Beur FM”

 

Abstract:           

The radio station Beur FM serves as a site of exchange dedicated to the sounds and ideas of many different music communities centered in France. Beur FM is headquartered in Paris, France and broadcasts through 17 different frequencies to regions throughout the country. The station’s website also provides listeners with broadcasts devoted specifically to Raï, Moroccan, “Oriental,” Kabyle, and even Ramadan music, in addition to live daily programming. Committed to creating a radio station for la France d’aujourd’hui (the France of today), Beur FM asserts a threefold goal in addressing its diverse audience: to inform, to entertain, and to cultivate community. In this way, the radio station acts as a means for generations young and old not only to learn about their multi-sited cultural heritage, but also to exchange ideas within the public sphere of contemporary French society.

In this paper, I will explore how Beur FM is significant to its listening community and to contemporary French society as a whole. With France’s complicated history of colonial relations, and the great influx of immigrants permanently settling within the country beginning in the 1970s, notions of citizenship and what it means ‘to be French’ are no longer easily defined. I will examine how this radio station serves as an active agent in these social debates concerning policies of inclusion/exclusion, and in the negotiation of identity among immigrant and other diverse communities in France. By engaging in discussion with listeners through the open forums available on the website, I will investigate their perceptions of the station’s role in society and the meanings they derive from its self-declared position as “the radio of the new generation.” I will also compare how Beur FM’s current commercial image and success relates to that of its predecessor, Radio Beur (a community station that was established in the early 1980s). Drawing on this comparative analysis, and combining it with current scholarship and listener input, I will show that Beur FM provides a unique space for forms of cultural expression and exchange based in France, both on the air and on the web.

 

 

References:

 

Bennett, Andy and Richard A. Peterson. 2004. Music scenes : local, translocal and virtual. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.

Music Scenes explores the various elements and contexts involved in belonging to a music community. The last third of the book, which deals with virtual music scenes, is of particular interest to my research. Together, the authors in this section of the book discuss how fans and listeners of music are linked through the Internet to form a “scene,” regardless of geographic location.

 

Beur FM. 2007. "Beur FM." Accessed 20 September 2008. http://beurfm.net

According to Beur FM publicity, this website represents the “modern” image of the station. The site provides many different options for listeners/users to interact, including live radio (and multiple stations to choose from), chat and forum functions, current news, and much more.

 

_____. 2007. "Beur FM: Dossier de Presse." 1-16. Accessed 24 October 2008. http://www.beurfm.net/dossier_de_presse.pdf

Beur FM’s press document establishes the station’s position as radio dedicated to diverse audiences and to developing an image of France for the future. In this document, a list of their programming is provided, in addition to general facts about their website and contact information.

 

Beur TV. 2008. "Beur TV, la Chaîne Méditerranée." Accessed 29 October 2008.

 http://beurtv.over-blog.com/

This television station was created in 2003 by the president of Beur FM, Nacer Kettane, and shares the radio station's goals to reach a diverse audience with subject matter concerning issues of immigration, maghrebine heritage, and life in France. They boast an astounding 4 million viewers per day in France and over 100 million worldwide.

 

Brettell, Caroline B. and Carolyn F. Sargent. 2006. "Migration, Identity, and Citizenship: Anthropological Perspectives." American Behavioral Scientist 50(3):3-8.

This introduction outlines important elements involved in the formation of immigrant identities and could be useful to interpreting discussion found on Beur FM’s forum pages. The authors emphasize the flexible and fluid nature of identity construction, which takes place between local communities and host countries and is often complicated by definitions imposed by the state.

 

Derderian, Richard L. 2004. North Africans in contemporary France : becoming visible. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

This book first introduced me to the many important cultural and social issues that concern North Africans living in France today. Derederian’s work approaches topics from a number of different angles, including useful discussions of minority cultural expression, legal rights and representation, national identities, and post-colonial relations. He also includes several interesting case-study examples of North African cultural expression. He begins firstly with an examination of the radio station Radio Beur (Beur FM’s predecessor), followed by an analysis of a museum exhibition at the Beaubourg, and concludes with a discussion of immigrant and multicultural representation on the television. Using these cultural forms as the basis of his study, Derderian examines how people of diverse backgrounds negotiate and assert their identity within the framework of French society. More importantly, he looks at how these forms serve as agents of social change and as a means for denouncing discriminatory policies that limit equal participation in French citizenship. This is an eloquent account of how history, politics, culture, and society all intersect for North Africans living in France, and what the implications of this intersection are for their identities and daily lives.

 

Durand, Alain-Philippe. 2002. Black, blanc, beur : rap music and hip-hop culture in the francophone world. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press.

This book includes a series of essays on hip-hop culture specifically within French and francophone

countries. Several of its chapters discuss the social conditions in France, especially in the banlieues in Paris (where mainly immigrants or economically disadvantaged families live), which have influenced the development of rap music.

 

Echchaibi, Nabil. 2007. "Republican Betrayal: Beur FM and the Suburban Riots in France." Journal of Intercultural Studies 28(3):301-316.

In this article, the author analyzes Beur FM’s role in and reaction to the 2005 suburban riots in Paris. Since its conception in 1981 (then called Radio Beur), the station has been committed to broadening definitions of French identity and citizenship. Rather than being seen as an agent turned inward towards specific ethnic communities, Beur FM seeks to include all listeners within the broader framework of French society. The author brings to light several issues that contributed to the 2005 violence, among which were the unfair conflation of ethnic and religious identities, and the unequal application of the French republican ideals of “liberté, égalité, fraternité.” While the author believes that the main grievances of the rioters were economic and social, he notes how difficult it was for French officials and intellectuals to conceive of the riots in anything but religious or ethnic frameworks. The author connects this struggle of minority groups to the history of the radio station, stating that, “the story of Beur FM indicates an incessant attempt to belong as French, not an attempt to raise parallel societies that will inevitably clash with French secular values” (307). Beur FM therefore provides a space for listeners of different backgrounds to come together and to share their experiences and ideas of what it means to be French in today’s society.

 

Gross, Joan, David McMurray and Ted Swedenburg. 1992. "Rai, Rap, and Ramadan Nights: Franco-Maghribi Cultural Identities." Middle East Report (178):11-24.

The authors discuss the complicated and contradictory nature of North African identity in France and how it is constructed/negotiated through rai music. As a form of cultural expression, rai music has a hybridized character that allows immigrants to claim space between cultures and continents. The authors discuss the various social functions that rai music serves for listeners. In particular, Ramadan radio programming acts as a nostalgic return to a home country and helps to establish a mood of community closeness among listeners. Rai music also acquired a political character when it was used in the mid-1980s in Paris in anti-racism demonstrations. In this way, the music became associated with militant Beur populations and those committed to ending racism. Central to this article’s focus is the fact that North African music, like rai, represents an important outlet for marginalized groups to foster community. “Rai has been a means of articulating desires to belong to a collectivity within France that shares a tolerant Arab-Islamic ethnonational identity.” (14) In addition to rai music, rap has also played an important role in expressing the views of the next generation of Franco-Maghribis. In short, this article demonstrates the ways in which rap and rai music serve as vehicles for articulating complex states of identity caught between politics, geography, and culture.

 

Hare, Geoffrey. 1998. "The Digitisation of French Radio: Demassification or Hybridisation?" Web Journal of French Media Studies 1(1). Accessed 24 October 2008. http://wjfms.ncl.ac.uk/joed1.htm

This article provides a useful history and background of various developments in French radio. The author’s discussion of web-based radio formats, which offer listeners new ways to interact with the station and its programming, is particularly relevant to my research.

 

Hargreaves, Alec G. and Mark McKinney. 1997. Post-colonial cultures in France. London ; New York: Routledge.

Nearly every discussion in this book is pertinent to my topic, for it focuses on important historical, political, and social issues that shape today’s “post-colonial” France and specifically the lives of those living in France with diverse cultural backgrounds. Included in this book is a chapter (written by Richard Derderian) devoted specifically to minority ethnic radio stations like Beur FM. Derderian provides a useful history of radios communautaires in France and highlights the role of such stations as “spaces of free expression,” or places in which to voice opinions and discuss issues that might otherwise be underrepresented in the greater whole of French society.

 

Jazouli, Adil. 1992. Les anées banlieues. Paris: Éditions du seuil.

Jazouli’s book focuses on the contentious space of les banlieues in France. Les Banlieues, or suburbs, have become a kind of symbol for summarizing many of France’s current economic and social ills, hence why the author titles his book “the banlieue years.” Because les banlieues occupy a particular geographic space on the periphery of cities, and are characterized by low-income housing and/or delinquency, France’s immigrant communities often fall prey to negative stereotyping associated with the place that many of them call home. Such issues often figure prominently in Beur FM’s discussions and debate forums.

 

Kibby, Marjorie D. 2000. "Home on the Page: A Virtual Place of Music Community." Popular Music 19(1):91-100.

The author explores in this article the way a musical community is formed and connected virtually through use of a fan website. While she uses John Prine fans as her example, the ideas she presents concerning “virtual music communities” and the ways in which members communicate are particularly relevant to my discussion of Beur FM fans and their use of the station’s website. Kibby underscores the important function that chat pages and websites can have for listeners, because they offer a place for them to gather, regardless of geographic location, and to discuss their shared experiences. In this way, fans feel they are connected to each other through common interests. They form what the author calls a “virtual community,” which is essentially defined by the space of the web page (96). It becomes clear, therefore, that participants’ identities are bound by this sharing of information to one another and to the site itself, all connected through their common musical interests. In short, Kibby emphasizes the important place that the Internet now holds for forming music communities, much like those found on Beur FM’s website.

 

Knapper, Bridget. 2003. "Beur FM, agent of integration or ghettoisation?" Web Journal of French Media Studies 6(1). Accessed 24 October 2008. http://wjfms.ncl.ac.uk/joed.htm

Knapper’s research notes are extremely relevant to my topic. Not only does she provide a history of the station since its conception in the 1980s as Radio Beur, but also (thanks to interviews with the staff) she outlines in detail the fundamental aims and major challenges of the station in addressing its audiences. She makes clear BeurFM’s unique position as a station not for the margins/minorities, but rather for all who live in France, thus calling for a re-evaluation of notions of French-ness.

 

Lefkowitz, Natalie J. 1989. "Verlan: Talking Backwards in French." The French Review 63(2): 312-322.

This article is a useful summary of the construction and use of French slang, known as verlan. The author’s explanation of the term beur is particularly relevant to understanding the implications of its use in French society, and in this case, as the name for a radio station.

 

McMurray, David and Ted Swedenburg. 1991. "Rai Tide Rising." Middle East Report(169): 39-42.

This article provides a valuable introduction to Rai music (one of the channels featured on BeurFM’s website). The authors mention several Rai artists and discs that exemplify the style. They also note Rai’s position as a “hybrid cultural form,” between cultures and countries, which is constantly undergoing change.

 

_____. 2008. "Médiamétrie." Accessed 29 October 2008. http://www.mediametrie.fr/

This is a French company, created in 1985, that specializes in measuring audiences of audiovisual and interactive medias in France. It was developed, in part, in order to determine audience sizes of private FM radio stations in France (like Beur FM). (It must be noted, of course, that companies like Médiamétrie are not without their research limitations or biases, so their numbers are only one representative sample of audience size.)

 

Radio France Internationle. 2008. "RFI musique." Accessed 29 October 2008. http://www.rfimusique.com/musiquefr/statiques/accueil.asp

RFI musique is a useful site for getting acquainted with francophone music from around the world. The

site includes artist biographies, discographies, music news, concert information, and much more. It is very accessible because it can be used in many different languages.

 

Radio Gazelle. 2007. "Radio Gazelle." Accessed 29 October 2008. http://www.radiogazelle.net/

This is a community radio station based in Marseille, France that follows a similar platform as Beur FM. While its audience is perhaps not as broad, Radio Gazelle began in 1981 and is also committed to its diverse programming, helping listeners to become more familiar with and to understand their culture and identity. Programming is not limited to the French language.

 

Rosello, Mireille and Richard Bjornson. 1993. "The "Beur Nation": Toward a Theory of "Departenance"." Research in African Literatures 24(3):13-24.

This article focuses on definitions of ‘Beur’ culture within France.   The author seeks to deconstruct the notion of culture as a bounded entity to which individuals “belong.” She states that the Beur identity is inaccurately conceptualized in terms of duality—half French, half Arab- and now requires reconsideration. While the word appartenance signifies ‘belonging’ in French, the author proposes a new term, ‘departenance,’ which would offer a new way of looking at how communities are defined. Rather than attempting to ‘belong’ within existing frameworks, the author believes that the frameworks themselves should adapt to accept fluctuating identities and cultures (a départ from appartenance). She also notes how definitions of the word beur itself are unstable because they are framed in terms of substitution and replacement (‘Beur means Arab backwards in French slang’). These discussions provide a useful alternate view of the complicated processes involved in defining belonging and Beur identity/culture within France.

 

Sargent, Carolyn F. and Stéphanie Larchanché-Kim. 2006. "Liminal Lives: Immigration Status, Gender, and the Construction of Identities Among Malian Migrants in Paris." American Behavioral Scientist 50(1): 9-26.

This is a helpful article for understanding how identities are formed in transnational contexts, specifically concerning North African immigrants in Paris. The authors also include a history of restrictive immigration legislation in France, which is closely tied to discourses of exclusion and narrow definitions of ‘Frenchness.’ As a result, identities often emerge in a state of liminality and in conflict between cultures.