Today I am turning 40, and I am in love with so many living things. A random mix to feed the algorithm.
Chickpeas, with lemon | kneading pasta | the colours Yellow, Purple | trees | the continuous struggle with my body, and feeling well dressed | elephants | dozens of glitterous Maneki-neko aligned on my library | books, words, texts, Oban & Poetry | leaves, for many | men women none whichever in emancipatory sweat & desire | the struggle that ensues | Linux | silence | Britney | feeling through a camera lens, but must be Pentax | the care of my father and my mother | NAS King’s diseases, its arrogance, its class affirmation, how I feel it | pissing off institutions, and then fight | riding fast shouting at people & dogs | caffé corretto | my OCD with calendars | waking up and being with Leo.
I also love the fact of being a vegetarian for 21 years. I never say anything really about this but eating meat and fish is wrong | and there is that.
The picture above, with my sis Silvia a few decades ago | and all that went through | including the sparkles of my nieces Laura & Bianca.
There is so much more in my ecologies of privilege, including incredible pain and effort in the past few years, but then also, so much of real radical care. I love that the words comrade, friend, brother, sister, lover, broker, and ‘struggle’, are all lexicons spoken throughout the days I walk into.
So, stupid algorithm, take all of this and then fuck you, and all the violence you are learning to replicate. I’ll keep on studying and trying to work otherwise.
I am now concluding the editing of the proofs of my forthcoming book, For a Liberatory Politics of Home, out with Duke University Press in November 2023.
I worked on this text on and off for more than ten years, from my Ph.D. to a number of other entanglements. In the book, I develop an argument around the impossible possibility of ‘home’ and the colonies of the homely, in order to construct a way of thinking beyond the violent epistemic and material entrapments of the binary home/homelessness. I work with processual, feminist, and autonomous thinking, and I ground the argument in my Italian ethnographic research but also in years of engagement with debates and struggles around housing justice across the Atlantic.
The book will be out in November 2023. I am extremely grateful to the people at Duke for their incredible editorial steer and dedication, to Ananya Roy and Katheryne Brickell for unparalleled insights, to my brother AbdouMaliq Simone and to Leo for pushing me to write this thing, and to many others, whom I thank in the volume itself.
CERTO – Coordinamento per l’Etica della Ricerca TOrino is a new group, which I helped co-found and of which I am part, made of academics from the University and the Polytechnic of Turin concerned with research ethics.
Here is a short report appeared on the Lab’s blog, on the beautiful week we just had the pleasure to attend, and to co-organise, in Paris on “Urban Life at the Extensions”.
Another situated intervention and collective study, masterfully steered by our co-director AbdouMaliq Simone with thanks to ULIP for hosting and supporting!
During the week of the 17-23 April, Beyond Inhabitation Lab’s members participated in “Urban Life at the Extensions”, a rich, week-long programme of seminars and panel discussions hosted by the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP), supported by the Lab and curated by its co-director AbdouMaliq Simone.
Steering committee members Cristina Cielo and Irene Peano opened the week on Monday 17th with their contributions to the panel “On Habitability – propositions beyond capture”. Drawing on their ethnographic work, and alongside other international scholars, they discussed the inevitable specificities of extensions and habitability as a process – one that reclaims inhabitation beyond capture and can extend unpredictability as a possibility for solidarity, but which remains in tension with dominant subjectivities, relationalities and dispossession. During the second panel of the day, “Extensions within and beyond home”, Lab co-director Michele Lancione and Hagar Kotef drew on postcolonial debates to discuss home as violence. Michele’s presentation focused on the role of expulsion and extraction not only in the historical making on the Italian “home” but as central ideas that underpin contemporary imaginaries and practices of home. These contributions were followed by presentations on the theme of “Home as intersection”, which included Lab researchers Chiara Cacciotti and Daniela Morpurgo’s talks unpacking the inherent relational spaces of being at home, respectively in the aftermath of displacement and in its intersections with sex work. In the same panel, Lab’s steering committee member Alana Osbourne shared a reflection on the intersection of race and home, and on the im/possibility of ‘home’ in family stories of the Afro-Caribbean diasporas.
For Tuesday’s seminars we were welcomed by organisers at La Station Gare de Mines, by la Porte d’Aubervilliers. Part I of the panel “Extensions of and beyond the notions of suburbs, peripheries and diasporas”, in the morning, included presentations by three Lab members. Steering committee member Margherita Grazioli drew on long term ethnographic work with squats belonging to Blocchi Precari Metropolitani movement in Rome, to show how marginalized neighborhoods can be read as spaces of ‘thrown-togetherness’ and as mobile commons of material and immaterial infrastructures that make peripheral spaces inhabitable. In the same panel, Lab’s Turin associate Silvia Aru used the writings, drawings, and narratives of ‘Eufemia’ — a project supporting migrants in a town at the border — to challenge dominant constructions of these locations as ‘views from nowhere’. Lab researcher Devra Waldman presented her study on the aftermath of extended urbanization in NOIDA, a place consistently positioned as the urban and housing future of Delhi, yet made, remade and unmade through different kinds of urban interventions, from mass demolitions to land occupations. On Tuesday afternoon, Lab’s Turin associate Camilo Boano contributed to the panel “Experiments on uncertain terrain: extensions as re-composition” by asking how to think urban extensions from the ‘futuring’ disciplines of design and architecture, as proposing forms of ‘destituent design’. Steering committee member Rupali Gupte discussed possibilities of corrosion, porosity and continuums in forms of inhabitation that are not neatly captured by the episteme of architecture and planning, and their statistical and cartographic tools.
On Wednesday morning, Lab’s member Mara Ferreri chaired Part II of the panel “Extensions of and beyond the notions of suburbs, peripheries and diasporas”. The panel brought together scholars, artists and activists working with excluded people and places, questioning the construction of ‘urban life’ in relation to peripheral geographies, specifically in France and its former colonies, and drawing on intersections of race and class, popular economies and situated research, art and action in precarious neighbourhoods, to ‘provincialize’ notions of the urban core. In the afternoon, steering committee members Äicha Diallo chaired Part I of the panel “Extensions of and beyond the concept of blackness”, which explored the concept of ‘extensions’ in relation to Black Studies through anthropology, literature and cultural practices.
Thursday began with Part II of the panel “Extensions of and beyond the concept of blackness”, chaired by Alana Osbourne and Äicha Diallo, with steering committee member Asha Best, which further extended theorizations and reflections on blackness as method with Black activists, artists, researchers and writers, working through and across postcolonial geographies. Finally, on Thursday afternoon, the Urban Extensions Collective – which includes Beyond Inhabitation Lab’s co-director AbdouMaliq Simone and researcher Rodrigo Castriota – presented a diverse array of conceptual propositions arising from grounded studies of urban life at the extensions. In their individual and collective reflections, as well as in the concluding remarks, was highlighted that urban extensions much more than spatial configurations, including the temporal, the existential and the corporeal, and the ways in which these can open up new, and unpredictable possibilities for life. The day ended with a dinner and fundraising party for the Coucou crew at La Station Gare de Mine.
Originally appeared at: https://blogs.law.ox.ac.uk/blog-post/2023/04/frontex-campus-interview-professor-michele-lancione
Thanks to Maurice Stierl for the care and support.
Frontex off Campus! An Interview with Professor Michele Lancione
Michele Lancione works as a Professor of Economic and Political Geography at the Polytechnic University of Turin. In July 2021, he discovered that his university had agreed to produce maps and infographics for Frontex in order ‘to support the activities’ of the agency. Since the foundation of the border agency in 2004, these ‘activities’ have been pivotal in securitising and militarising EU borders. Many have argued – including myself – that they have also relentlessly produced the ‘migration crises’ Frontex claims to combat.
Over recent years, Frontex has faced a series of investigations into its activities, not least for the agency’s implication in serious human rights violations at the EU’s external borders. When Professor Lancione approached the university after learning of the cooperation and asked to end its contract with the agency, he was told that the project was simply producing ‘harmless data’. In this interview, we speak about his struggle to get Frontex off campus.
Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS) Osnabrück University
Maurice Stierl: How did you find out about the collaboration between your university and Frontex, and what happened when you raised your concerns?
Michele Lancione: I first learned about this collaboration in a departmental meeting in July 2021. I had joined the department only four months earlier and was surprised. There was little reaction when I raised my concerns. Very few of my colleagues became allies in the fight to stop the agreement with Frontex. Some knew little about the EU border agency. Despite all existing evidence, including on Frontex’ cooperation with the so-called Libyan coastguard to violently intercept migrant boats, they seemed detached from the issue. For others, I suspect, it was simply easier to stay calm and let things go. Most academics in Italy don’t speak out against their institutions. And a solid critique takes time and energy. Some probably told themselves, ‘our colleagues are just doing harmless maps – what is wrong with that?’
Another issue is that this is not the university’s only problematic relationship. The Polytechnic University of Turin also works with defence contractors, for example. So, it is not just about Frontex. The agreement with the border agency needs to be understood as part of a larger cartography of militarisation in which my university, and the European academic sector at large, plays a role. The agreement with Frontex has persisted despite critique as the university is scared that if they end the agreement, this might open Pandora’s box, leading to other agreements, such as those with defence contractors, to be scrutinised and challenged.
Stierl: Was there no discussion about the potential harm that could result from collaboration between researchers and border enforcers?
Lancione: No. Instead, the collaboration was presented as proof of the department’s ‘research excellence’. But what my colleagues are doing is not research. It is essentially service provision. Frontex asked for maps, my department agreed to deliver maps using data that is either open source or provided by Frontex. The problem is that maps are never neutral. Indeed data, any kind of data, is never harmless. Frontex’s maps commonly show big red arrows that point from Africa to Europe. These supposedly indicate migration flows, but they produce a sense that we are under siege by threatening migrants landing on Italian shores.
Clearly, Frontex has a vested interest in generating this feeling. It depends on the political legitimisation it receives from EU member states, which is rooted in the idea that Europe must be defended against unregulated migration flows. When a university like mine assists in creating such maps, it gives them scientific credibility and legitimacy.
Stierl: You’ve written that a campaign is emerging in response to Frontex coming ‘onto campus’. What has happened so far?
Lancione: The department was a tense place for me after I released a public statement and gave some interviews in autumn and winter of 2021. But I also received positive reactions and solidarity. Some colleagues joined me in taking a public stance against the collaboration. Students also voiced their strong opposition, and many groups fighting against Frontex across Italy and Europe got in touch. I used this moment to get in touch with European campaigners trying to abolish Frontex, and to learn more on the agency’s activities.
One of the most memorable encounters was with workers from the port of Genoa and their union. For a very long time, they have struggled against companies whose ships offload weapons in the port. At times they have even blocked ships from landing. To them, fighting against Frontex means fighting against the militarisation of our societies. This is a struggle that must unite workers across economic sectors, because the military – as a form of industry and culture – cuts across multiple domains of life.
Stierl: Were there any risks for you to engage in this sort of campaign against your employer? Is there a potential price to pay for being an ‘outspoken scholar’?
Lancione: Not really. As a full professor, I can ‘afford’ to take a stance. But I have received my fair share of negative reaction. Some colleagues are not talking to me anymore. The head of department is not responding to me. Very high-ranking members of my university have expressed the need – in private university meetings – to ‘get rid of that anarchist’. I am fine in being labelled as such. But they won’t get rid of me, or of the others fighting for a more just university, very easily.
Stierl: On your blog, you wondered: “Can I carry [out] ‘ethical’ research work, if my Institution is doing affairs with a third party who is involved in the systematic violation of human rights?” Have you found an answer to this difficult question?
Lancione: Unfortunately, and I said this to my students recently, being an academic nowadays means being an institutionalised being. One has to, evoking AbdouMaliq Simone, work within and beyond the capture of the institution. For me it’s important to show our students that we are not just here accepting everything. That we don’t just talk about critical thinking in our seminars, but that we take active stances out there in the world and within our institutions. It is too easy to claim to be an activist ‘out there’, but to fail to look at the structures that you work within.
Working within an institution such as a university – any university, not just mine – is clearly a compromise. But it allows us to use the privileges that come with the job for political purposes. Doing so doesn’t constitute a deviation of what the academy should be – it is the essence of being a public intellectual. The work must start within. The classroom is a fantastic place to fight for the betterment of our world. To use one’s voice to imagine and create more just futures.
Stierl: What are the next steps?
Lancione: There are no major next steps in the campaign at the moment, because I think the agreement is sealed. It will be very hard to get the university to vote against it, since they already voted twice to maintain it. Personally, I am shifting this campaign into my own teaching. I hope to engage with students about the role of universities in militarisation. I also have a book coming out in July that is specifically addressed to students. Hopefully it will be seen as a guide on how to deconstruct universities’ problematic relationships. I hope it inspires them to start organising once more, with renewed energy an awareness.
How to cite this blog post (Harvard style):
M. Stierl. (2023) Frontex off Campus! An Interview with Professor Michele Lancione. Available at:https://blogs.law.ox.ac.uk/blog-post/2023/04/frontex-campus-interview-professor-michele-lancione. Accessed on: 28/04/2023
One year ago his day, out of nowhere, from the semi-periphery with love, with AbdouMaliq Simone we launched the Beyond Inhabitation Lab.
9 ERC post-doc researchers
1 Urban Studies Foundation Fellow
1 FARE post-doc researcher
… plus 10 steering committee members, a number of Turin affiliates and PhD scholars. All engaging in public seminars (available on our website), extended conversations, writing and the intricacies of doing international research and committed engagement from a fold in Turin.
Thanks to everyone making this possible with care, with an invitation to all to check our forthcoming events in May and June at www.beyondinhabitation.org
Today, AbdouMaliq Simone and I are pleased to announce the Beyond Inhabitation Lab’s 2023 Spring-Summer Seminar Series, as well as my ERC Inhabiting Radical Housing project conference.
All events are free to attend in person in Turin, or online by registering at the links below, and all sessions will be recorded and made available on our website. For more details and the individual events’ posters, check our events page at: https://beyondinhabitation.org/events/