Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


An Address in Paris: Emplacement, Bureaucracy & Belonging in Hostels for West African Migrants

16 May 2024, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm

An address in Paris book cover and photo of Dr Aissatou Mbodj-Pouye

The sixth speaker in the UCL European Institute [Black Europe] series is Dr Aissatou Mbodj-Pouye (CNRS - IMAF Paris), introducing her newly published book 'An Address in Paris'.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Olivia Scher


Lecture Theatre 106
Roberts Building, Malet Place

This talk is jointly organised with UCL Anthropology and IAS Centre for French and Francophone ResearchLearn more about events in [Black Europe] workstream.

AN ADDRESS IN PARIS (https://doi.org/10.7312/mbod21142)

After West African migrants arrived in France in the 1960s, the authorities opened residences for them known as “foyers.” Initially intended to contain the West African population, these hostels for single men fostered the emergence of Black communities in the heart of Paris and other cities. More recently, however, a nationwide renovation program sought to replace the collective living arrangements of foyers with more individualized spaces by constructing new buildings or drastically reshaping existing ones—and casting the West African presence as a threat to French identity.

In this newly published book, Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye examines the changing roles that foyers have played in the lives of generations of West African migrants, weaving together rich ethnographic description with a critical historical account. She shows how migrants settled in foyers through kinship ties, making these buildings key parts of diasporic networks. Migrants also forged a sense of place in foyers, in an intricate relationship with bureaucratic requirements such as having an address. Mbodj-Pouye scrutinizes the physical and social evolution of foyers and the administrative dynamics that governed them. She argues that even though these buildings originated in state attempts to manage migrants along racial lines, the shared way of life that they encouraged helped spark a sense of political agency and belonging whose significance extends far beyond their walls.

Combining close attention to the social and cultural meanings of the foyers and keenly observed portraits of Black experiences in France across decades, An Address in Paris offers a new lens on the global African diaspora.


Dr Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye is a CNRS Research Fellow in anthropology, based at the Institut des mondes africains in Aubervilliers, France. She has conducted fieldwork in Mali and France, and more recently Senegal. Her first book explored how literacy practices and documentary transactions shaped subjectivities in rural Mali (Le fil de l’écrit, ENS-Editions, 2013)Based on ethnography and archival research, her second project studied the conflicting views on the future of hostels for West African migrants in Paris, where migrants’ experiences of the city intersected with state and municipality policies (An Address in Paris: Emplacement, Bureaucracy, and Belonging in Hostels for West African Migrants, Columbia University Press, 2023). In 2017-2019, based at Point Sud, Centre de recherche sur le savoir local in Bamako, she started a new project which examines how mobility is conceptualized and debated in the Malian town of Kayes, with a focus on a radio station and its infrastructural, political, and affective resonances. Together with the radio team, she is working on a digitizing project of their sound archives, to be published online in 2024.


Dr. Hélène Neveu-Kringelbach, Associate Professor of African Anthropology at University College London and Vice-Dean Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) for the Arts and Humanities Faculty.

Prof. Barbara Lipietz, Professor of Urban Development Planning at the Development Planning Unit and Vice Dean International of the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment.