Camille Cohen

Areas of Interest: 
transnational identities; art and aesthetics; the digital sphere; culture as diplomatic product; nationalism; postcolonialism; visual anthropology; neoliberalism; the European Union; material culture; Marseille; France; the Maghreb; the Euro-Mediterranean.

My research looks at how one of anthropology’s foundational concepts – culture – is instrumentalized to reimagine and reform the struggling port city of Marseille, France. As the European Capital of Culture in 2013, Marseille has put forth cultural projects as its strategy to alleviate the ills of everything from vagrancy, prostitution and crime to a slagging economic sector, unemployment and the draining of skilled labor. Cultural initiatives, from the building of new museums like the MuCEM to encouraging street performers along the waterfront, have become part of the branding strategy and regeneration plan of so many post-industrial cities. My work looks at how cultural projects are conceived and implemented and the effects that these projects have on the city’s residents, its visitors and the cultural producers and officials who administrate cultural work in the city. Changing the image of Marseille from dangerous, dirty, poor and peripheral to cosmopolitan is no small task and many have questioned whether or not more immediate concerns like public safety, cleanliness, and the rising right-wing influence in the city should not be addressed before spending on art, music and culture. Some argue that cultural programs meant to bring the people of the city together instead cordon areas off for touristic consumption. As culture-led urban renewal is presented as a silver bullet to transform one of Europe’s most malcontent cities into a cosmopolitan haven for the creative classes, my work examines how cultural policies are being conceived, implemented and understood by both those who create them and those who experience and contest them.
Camille Cohen
Graduate Student