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Abstract

My thesis aims to construct a historical narrative around the notion of the 'outsider' in France, in other words, those who consider themselves as part of the French Republic but to whom the Republic does not reciprocate this loyalty. These legal but ostracised citizens are relegated to a periphery of citizenry and rights in the everyday, while bearing witness to a theoretical political rhetoric of tolerance and inclusion. They comprise what we may term the 'Fifth Estate', brought together by their isolation from the facets of society associated with 'the norm'. Rap music in France, I argue, is in some ways a sample representative of this fifth estate, and their lyrics can provide a telescope into both their experience as secondary citizens of a very present nation-state, as well as to their vision of what the Republic should become. Despite an exponential increase in the popularity of Rap and its potential as a voice for the disadvantaged youth of France over the years, its rhetoric has landed on largely silent ears in the political system and beyond. This is reflected in the fact that the demands made of the French state (and system) by rappers expounding upon their experiences of exclusion have retained an essential continuity between 1991 (the inception of big commercial hits in French rap) and the end of Nicolas Sarkozy's time in power in 2012. The nuances of whether this is intentional on the part of the artists, sculpted by the music industry, a self-fulfilling stereotype, or is a genuine reflection of stagnant (or deteriorating) social circumstances, form the core of the discussion of the thesis.

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