Working Paper: Chapdelaine P., Dutheil E., Figueiredo L., Potasiak M. and Victor, P.T., «Houseboat living on the Seine», 2015

7 septembre 2015

Chapdelaine P., Dutheil E., Figueiredo L., Potasiak M. and Victor, P.T., « Houseboat living on the Seine », Cahiers de recherche du Programme Cities are Back in Town, n° 2015-1, Paris, Sciences Po



A stroll along the Seine will alert even the most casual observer to the unique presence of houseboats moored along the river’s banks, many of them clustered in small ports and canals. Examining closer, one might even feel a twinge of jealousy at the sight of normally hurried Parisians using the Seine as their own personal backyard — hosting family barbecues, making quick excursions down the river, or simply enjoying long, carefree conversations with their neighbors. However, a real understanding of the linkages between these houseboats — and the people who make their life on them, the houseboaters — requires a more structured process of investigation. We ask ourselves, then, the following research question: How might the conditions of houseboat living on the Seine shape relations between houseboat owners? We hypothesize that houseboaters share practices, produce a specific body of knowledge, and form a sense of common identity in a manner that creates houseboat communities on the Seine. Our paper is organized as follows. We start by presenting a brief account of three classical approaches to community in sociology. Then we introduce the case study of the Port de l’Arsenal (as well as a narrower case study of the Port des Champs-Élysées) to discuss the conditions that give rise to a community in this area. Finally, we present a typology of houseboat spaces as a way to problematize the concept of “community,” finding that different locations and lifestyles among houseboaters foster a sense of community in some cases, but not others.