Publication Date

April 2017


Yamil Velez




English (United States)


The French city of Marseille has been mythologized as either a multicultural haven of tolerance or a dangerous slum, but both portrayals are incomplete. The urban governance institutions of Marseille are structured analogously to those of Lyon, and cities in France are given similar frameworks with which to address socioeconomic inequities. Theoretically, the cities had the same opportunities to adjust to economic change and succeed in the latter half of the 20th century, but today, while inequities between European-origin white French and ethnic minorities persist in both cities, they are far more pronounced in Marseille. Why is this so? Using an interdisciplinary social science approach, this thesis considers the factors that contribute to institutional development, as well as the ways in which context influences how rules, norms, and practices are institutionalized over time. I argue that the nation-building project and colonial expansion, key aspects of national institutional development, created the constraints under which local institutions operate. Postwar transformations and decentralization devolved responsibility to local institutions, leading to increased variation in local policy implementation. I conclude that local institutional practices derive from local context and are institutionalized over time, but certain segments of society, namely ethnic minority immigrant populations, are excluded from the institutionalization process. Local institutions maintain the status quo by creating a responsive and inclusive image but not actually realizing inclusion.



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