France is most cosmopolitan where it is least central. If the City of Lights is a cosmopolis, it is far less so in Saint-Germain-des-Près or the Marais than in its disenfranchised banlieues (suburbs) and many an (ex) colonies on which its language was and continues to be imposed. Here an extraordinary brassage is at work—a mix and, at times, a linking of arms, a wealth of commentary and engaged political analysis—that speaks, as few words can, to the tangible reality of postcolonial France. Nowhere is this as evident as in the explosion of artistic activity taking place in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Douala, Cameroon, or, closer to “home,” Saint-Denis and Mantes-la-Jolie. Individual artists and collectives, activist art spaces and teaching hubs, some wholly ephemeral and few of which make it to the limelight of the city center, are located there, many in closer touch with the heartbeat of twenty-first-century global life than are the people and places au centre that attract international collectors, art aficionados, and pundits bent on telling us the state of the world.

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