Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Don Mitchell


judiciary, Paris, presence, territorialization, urban, violence

Subject Categories



This dissertation investigates the presence of the courts in the spaces of everyday life in social housing estates located in Seine-Saint-Denis (northeast of Paris). Since the 1990s the judiciary has actively sponsored the territorialization of the courts (la territorialisation de la Justice) as the most adept measure to respond to a series of problems often understood as essentially "local": crime, revolts, "incivilities," and insecurity. The dissertation examines the proliferation of new judicial structures in crime-prone areas, and the increasing involvement of judges in local partnerships to more efficiently fight crime and prevent collective violence among youths from immigrant origins. More specifically, the Houses of Justice and Law, or Maisons de Justice et du droit, and the Local Groups for the Treatment of Delinquency, or Groupes Locaux du Traitement de la Delinquance (GLTD), in Seine-Saint-Denis are analyzed in order to demonstrate the increasing role of the judiciary in the production of urban space.

Through the analysis of semi-structured interviews with local officials, policy documents, newspaper articles, and secondary sources the dissertation argues that the spatial reorganization of the judicial system reflects the state's necessity to be physically present in the everyday lives of the population of social housing estates. This physical presence, in turn, allows the French state to re-assert its authority and reclaim its legitimacy in places that continually challenge it. Moreover, the objective of the dissertation is to explain why that is so, how it has gone about becoming present, and what that means for the everyday lives of ("immigrant") youth of housing estates.

The dissertation contributes to state theories in the geographic literature by stressing that present-day state theories tend to accentuate the spatial reorganization of contemporary states according to the demands of capital accumulation. However, the dissertation argues that due attention is given to the construction of new penal spaces as these are becoming important sites where states exert their contested authority and expand their geographies of power. More specifically, the dissertation contributes to debates on the penal state by focusing attention to the territorialization of the courts rather than the police who have received significant attention in geographic debates. In other words, the dissertation seeks to depict the judiciary as a territorial institution, a point seldom highlighted in the social sciences.


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