New paper in Cultural Anthropology: Underground inscriptions

Out now in Cultural Anthropology a powerful colloquy on “Gestures of Care”, of which I’m flattered to be part of, together with my friends Lauren Cubellis, Lisa Stevenson, Ken MacLeish and Zoë Wool.

In there, I expand on the politics of care in underground Bucharest, of which I’ve written recently in IJURR too.

Thanks to Lauren for the amazing work of putting this together!

Free at http://tiny.cc/ruz7jz

Underground inscriptions
This essay examines the politics of home in underground Bucharest, and the ways relationships of care among homeless drug users emerge amid everyday violence and exclusion, illuminating the unconventional practices of belonging that take shape in transient communal spaces such as underground electric, transportation, and waste-management systems. The traces of systemic exclusion in these experiences converge in makeshift forms of kinship and care, provoking questions of solidarity, fragility, and the political potential of recognizing such forms through ethnographic collaboration.

My piece on Il Manifesto on the UK elections (Il panino di Boris, i piedi di Jeremy e la pancia degli inglesi)

Published on the Italian communist newspaper Il Manifesto, on 16/12/19. The original piece can be found here.

 

Boris mangia un panino. Tiene un pesce in mano. Si fa ritrarre come se avesse appena finito tre pinte, e deve correre alla toilette. Boris mangia un panino…

L’altro, il socialista, sembra uno che cerca in tutti i modi di uscire da un pigiama troppo stretto. Ci prova, arranca. Non riesce: sta lì a guardarsi i piedi per cinque anni e non si muove. E certo, i piedi sono manifestamente belli, ma son sempre solo i suoi piedi. Uno pare un goffo pagliaccio di cui fidarsi poco.

L’altro un tizio che parla di cose che nessuno comprende in un linguaggio che affascina solo gli intellettuali upper class come me. Giustamente, Tim (il mio vicino di casa); Nigel (il mio plumber (idraulico ndr); ma anche Jenny (la mia amica che lavora alla Lloyds) e sotto sotto pure Vivian (una collega accademica che non mi saluta da tre mesi) hanno paura dell’ignoto. E l’ignoto: non è il ciccione che mangia il panino.

Sembra banalizzante, ma il voto di ieri ha molto a che fare con questi sentimenti di pancia. E noi Italiani questo lo sappiamo bene (Silvio anyone?).

Sappiamo anche che quei sentimenti di pancia da qualche parte arrivano. Saranno forse legati a quello che uno ha mangiato? Una delle letture popolari del voto legato alla Brexit si è concentrata sulle ragioni per cui intere regioni dello UK abbiano votato in massa per il YES, confermandolo ieri col voto ai Conservatori.

E giustamente si è fatto notare come i movimenti di pancia derivino da piatti indigesti come decadi di politica economica che hanno deprivato – letteralmente – intere parti del paese di una qualunque tipo di upward mobility; una segmentazione classista della società inscritta nei suoi più basici funzionamenti (come la scuola e l’università); la totale privatizzazione di strutture chiave, che ha portato al loro quotidiano e largamente accettato mal-funzionamento (mio padre, ex-operio Fiat, in visita a Sheffield un annetto fa: Ma cosa ci fanno coi treni a gasolio qui?!); e simili altre pietanze.

Ma il rimestio intestinale dei britannici ha radici più profonde, di cui si parla poco. Intorno al 1913, questa piccola isoletta era a capo di uno degli imperi più grandi di tutta la storia dell’umanità. La storia lo conferma: a suon di bastonate, schiavismo legalizzato di stampo marchiatamente razziale, tortura, stupri, totale dispossessamento di risorse economiche ed earl gray tea, i reali inglesi controllavano un territorio pari a un quarto di tutto il pianeta.

Poi le cose sono andate declinando. Perdi un pezzo qui, perdi un pezzo lì, la disgregazione del dominio coloniale si è protratta per quasi tutto il ‘900, con strascichi che hanno ripercussioni chiare ancora oggi (si pensi a Hong Kong). In altre parole, dopo un secolo e mezzo buono di totale euforia imperialista – che aveva le sue radici culturali anche nell’enorme senso di sicurezza garantito dai successi (sempre violenti) della rivoluzione industriale – John & Jane Bloggs si sono trovati rinchiusi nel giardino di casa. E il giardino è stretto per un ego tanto grande.

Da quell’angolo John & Jane non sono stati a guardare. Da un lato si sono affannati nella capitalizzazione del loro dominio culturale (attraverso la marchetizzazione della lingua e dell’educazione terziaria, soprattutto verso la Cina) e dell’altro hanno scavato una buca dove tutti da ognidove possono nascondere e riciclare i loro profitti sporchi (la buca è la quinta città Italiana, London).

Ma questi sono business per pochi. I più sono rimasti lì, nella parte del giardinetto dove piove sempre, le galline fanno la cacca e l’unica tettoia disponibile cade a pezzi. Mentre fuori tutto cambia e corre – inclusa l’enorme espansione culturale ed economica di molte ex colonie, in primis l’India – l’isola rimane la stessa, piccola, decadente. Fondamentalmente, triste. La gente guarda al buco (Londra), ma il resto rimane oscuro: che cos’è esattamente l’Inghilterra, se non un’ernome distesa di sandwich precotti, moquette e belly beers?

Confrontati con tale decadenza, il senso di pancia degli inglesi è stato quello di reagire, di provare a dirsi che no, in fondo non è proprio così.

Nelle ultime tre decadi il discorso politico e culturale di questo paese è stato interamente centrato intorno alla riaffermazione del proprio senso di superiorità e unicità. A partire dal discorso cool di Blair fino ad arrivare al panico intestinale mal gestito del disgraziato Cameroon, e della sua Brexit, il paese è pervaso da un senso di inadeguatezza colmato con l’illusione di poter ancora, ancora una volta!, contare qualcosa.

E di poterlo fare con marcata arroganza, nella sicurezza anonima di una cabina elettorale. I più – di tutte le estrazioni e classi sociali – si sono eccitati al pensiero della Brexitall’idea di una ritrovata autonomia decisionale che li porterà a sentirsi autonomamente fieri nel grande Regno Unito.

Il fatto che i maggiori successi cinematografici degli ultimi cinque anni, in the UK, siano tutti legati a mistificare la recente storia del paese è un segno chiaro di dove sia la confort zone di John & Jane (la serie The Crown, i film DunkirkThe Darkest HourThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – senza contare quella porcata-capolavoro, neocolonialista e razzista, di Victoria and Abdul).

L’uomo col panino, nella sua completa imbecillità, è un grande politico del nostro tempo. Perché rappresenta alla perfezione il sentimento di un paese che ha mangiato troppo, per troppo tempo, e ora è tutto intasato di sé che può solo scorreggiare uno così.

La direzione presa dal peto è disarmante, perché porterà al collasso certo di intere infrastrutture pubbliche (inclusa l’NHS, ma non solo) e porterà quindi i moltissimi John & Jane di questo paese a soffrire. Non c’è molta speranza da questa parte della manica. Mentre l’isola affonda e un’intero ciclo imperiale volge al termine, spero che da Sud altri possano apprendere la lezione: chiudersi nel proprio giardino, attanagliati dalla paura, è un suicidio collettivo.

Joining the KU Leuven CADES seminar series

If there is one seminar series in urban anthropology that has attracted lots of attention in recent years, this is the CADES (Advanced Master of Cultural Anthropology and Development Studies) at KU Leuven. Thanks to the work of the wonderful Filip De Boeck and Ann Cassiman (and their colleagues!) the series has really become a point of reference for many thinking cities from below and from within, across geographies.

Tonight I will join the series, sharing the floor with Michel Agier (!). We will discuss our respective take on the ‘right to the city’ in our respective works in Bucharest (myself), Brazil and the African continent (Michel).

I very much look forward to this opportunity and to the conversation with CADES colleagues and students! The program of this year’s seminar series is below.

 

New seminar series: Dwelling in Liminalities

The Life at the Margins and Urban Human research group at the Urban Institute invite you to our new seminar series, “Dwelling in Liminalities: Uncanny conversations”, which I am organising with my colleague AbdouMaliq Simone.

The series will start in Spring 2020, and will include 5 seminars with ten scholars coming from Geography, Visual Studies, Sociology and Anthropology Departments from both sides of the Atlantic. This amazing – and uncanny! – cohort of people will come to Sheffield to discuss with us around issues of marginality, urban entanglements, race, hustling methodologies, techno-imperialism and more.

You can find the program below as well as here: http://urbaninstitute.group.shef.ac.uk/dwelling-in-liminalities-uncanny-conversations/

Please feel free to distribute the news around, and of course feel free to join us when the time comes!


 

PRECIS

What is the meaning of dwelling in liminalities? In urban times when life becomes reconfigured by all sorts of densities and calculations, new and old forms of liminalities intersect to produce spaces of inhabitation that encompass traditional notions of margins, exclusions or expulsions. These processes become reconfigured in the larger restructuring of what urban life is and means in today’s machinic cities.

We have invited scholars working through a number of critical approaches, and we have asked them to provide their reading of the economies of inhabitation in uninhabitable times. What is the political in rethinking life through the liminal assemblage of the urban?

This emerging conversation will cut across geographies and fields of enquiry to provide an orientation to our collective critical labour.

 

PROGRAM

On hustling, density and tracing

with Tatiana Thieme (UCL) and Colin McFarlane (Durham)
Wednesday, 5th February, 2020
3-5PM, ICOSS Boardroom (Portobello St)

On pathology, sounds and the black radical tradition

with Dhanveer Singh Brar and Ramon Amaro (Goldsmiths)
Wednesday, 4th March, 2020
3-5PM, ICOSS Boardroom (Portobello St)

On bordering 

with Suzi Hall (LSE) and Antonis Vradis (Loughborough)
Wednesday, 1st April, 2020
3-5PM, Geography Building, Teaching Room 2 (Winter St)

On techno-imperialism, race and the value of life

with Erin McElroy (NYU) and Andrea Gibbons (Solford)
Wednesday, 20th May, 2020
3-5PM, Geography Building, Teaching Room 2 (Winter St)

Of past lives and displacement

with Caroline Bressey (UCL) and Katherine Brickell (RHol)
Wednesday, 3rd June, 2020
3-5PM, ICOSS Boardroom  (Portobello St)

Launching 2019/20 Early Career Researchers Urban Studies support network

The Early Career Researchers (ECRs) Urban Studies Network is an Urban Institute (UI) and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (USP) initiative, supported by the Faculty of Social Science at Sheffield (FoSS).

It has been designed to provide a supportive space where to discuss issues and opportunities related to career development. It has been created and managed by myself – and I’m very happy to run it for the second consecutive year (after very positive feedback from the 2018/19 cohort).

The program for 2019/20 includes:

  • Seven two-hour training workshops
  • Two ECRs away-days
  • One writing retreat
  • The organisation of an ECRs-led event
  • 1-to-1 support with the network’s Director

Calendar 2019/2020

The program can be found here, and also on the image below.

For info on the network: m.lancione@sheffield.ac.uk
ECRs mailing list: ecrsurban-group@sheffield.ac.uk

 

Our FCDL-Antipode collective book on the fight for housing is out!

After more than three years of plotting, planning, working and sharing our collective book on the fight for the right to housing and the city in Romania is finally available. This is a Common Front for the Right to Housing (FCDL) project supported by the Antipode Foundation (info on the project, here: https://antipodeonline.org/201718-recipients/sapa-1718-lancione/).

The book is titled “Jurnal din Vulturilor 50: Povestea unei lupte pentru dreptate locative”, which means “Diary of Vulturilor: The story of a fight for housing justice”. The core of the book consist of a diary written by Nicoleta Visan, a member of the community of Vulturilor 50 in Bucharest. This was a community of about 150 people, who were evicted in 2014 from their homes but decided to dwell on the street for two years to fight for their right to housing and the city.

Nicoleta began to work on her diary in 2014, with my support and that of other FCDL comrades. Together we produced the first blog of the community (www.jurnaldinvulturilor50.org), which then evolved into our freely available political documentary around housing restitution and housing struggles in Bucharest (www.ainceputploaia.com).

In 2018 we were awarded the Scholar-Activist Antipode Award and with that support we were able to renew our commitment to a collective, grassroot and politically meaningful way of narrating housing struggles. We decided therefore to produce this book as a testament of that fight, but also as a document that can inspire others to move, organise and resist racialised and neoliberal forms of displacement. The book is composed of four parts: there is Nico’s diary (edited by Carolina Vozian), a text contextualizing the history of restitution and housing privatisation in Romania (by Veda Popovici and FCLD), a guide for communities that are likely to face evictions, but also for journalist that are writing about evictions (by Ioana Vlad) and final photographic essay about the Vulturilor eviction and resistance camp by myself. The whole project was complemented by the help of Ioana Florea and Erin Mc El Roy (who is curating the on-line maps that we will launch soon), and many other too! It is published by a joint effort from HECATE and IDEA publishing houses. A translation into English is also on the way and we’ll see light in 2020.

I am so proud of this project, because it shows how it is possible to work meaningfully with communities affected by evictions, without ‘extracting’ knowledge but by co-producing it in a collective form that trespass the remit of the neoliberal academia we live in. This is a wonderful, timely and so important book, coming from a Roma woman and a group of feminist activists that have fought hard to bring it to the fore. If you are in Romania, enjoy the launches (see the poster below). Otherwise, just stay tuned for the English version.

You will be able to buy it in any major Romanian bookstore in a few weeks time; on the IDEA website (http://www.idea.ro/editura/) and also you can come to the launches — just follow Frontul Comun pentru Dreptul la Locuire for the events (Bucharest: https://www.facebook.com/events/770866283370561/)

In solidarity!

 

Joining IJURR as Corresponding Editor for Europe

It’s a privilege for me to join the Editorial Board of IJURR as their new Corresponding Editor for Europe.

According to the Editorial Board: “Corresponding Editors are very important to IJURR. We see them as our eyes and ears across the world. While we do have a number of full board members who are based in Europe, we do not have a strong expertise in housing rights activism, visual methodologies and the politics and generative power of urban life at the margins. We hope you will be able to help us in strengthening IJURR’s presence in these and other critical urban debates by encouraging promising authors to submit their work to the
journal.”

This will add on my editorial work at City and at the Radical Housing Journal — more collective labour, more sharing and more solidarity. If you have critical and politically relevant research to share, fire it in this direction!

Awarded: European Research Council Starting Grant on ‘Radical Housing’

I am so happy to share that I am one of the 2019 recipients of the European Research Council Starting Grant, with my project “Radical Housing: Cities and the global fight against housing precarity

This has been such a humbling experience and an honour!

I couldn’t have done it without the support received from the Faculty of Social Science at Sheffield. A huge thanks to my colleagues at the Urban Institute (now it’s two ERC recipients there with the wonderful Vanesa Castan Broto) and to my colleagues at USP (in particular John Flint and Ryan Powell). And also many others indeed — including the wonderful
Colin McFarlane and Paolo Boccagni who shared their projects and advised on how to go about this whole ERC business! Also a continuining thank you to my comrades of the Radical Housing Journal and of the Frontul Comun pentru Dreptul la Locuire for the continuing inspiration and solidarity.

Finally a huge thank you to my family and to my partner Leo for the patience and support. Below you can read the abstract and logo of this project, which will begin in Spring 2020.

 

Radical Housing: Cities and the global fight against housing precarity

According to UN-Habitat, each year millions of people face forced eviction from their homes, while a staggering 1.6 billion are inadequately housed. Forecasts suggest housing precarity will continue to grow in future, worldwide. In response, grassroots housing movements are becoming increasingly common. Crucially, these groups fight for more than just housing, often advancing critiques of wider societal inequalities. Yet little is known of the broader significance of these struggles, and research has failed to offer an understanding of geographically dispersed movements. The ways in which the fight for the right to housing operates is essential to understand contemporary urban life. RadicalHOUSING will fill these critical gaps through an innovative Radical Housing Approach and pioneering empirical research at a global scale.

First, the project identifies the importance of a historical understanding of dwelling precarity, to appreciate the relevance of housing struggles worldwide (Objective I). Second, it investigates and profiles prominent grassroots networks in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia to analyse their goals and organisational culture (Objective II). To appreciate the wider significance of radical housing resistance, the project deploys an ambitious ethnographic encounter with grassroots struggles in eight emblematic cities (Objective III). It then brings selected participants and experts together in a Global Forum of Radical Housing, fostering the exchange of peer-to-peer knowledge to generate further findings (Objective IV). Finally, the project will gather these insights into an innovative critical comparative framework, which will lead to agenda-setting publications, interventions, and academic scholarship (Objective V).

RadicalHOUSING is a ground-breaking project that will contribute to housing, urban and geographical studies, as well as to grassroots knowledge, opening a new phase in understanding the global fight against housing precarity.

Joining the Unequal cities network @UCLA

I am thrilled to join #UnequalCities Network at UCLA as a core partner. This is one of the most exciting housing justice initiative bridging research & activism out there at the moment http://unequalcities.org. A big thank you to Ananya Roy for the invitation!

I am also happy to share this with a couple of Radical Housing Journal’s core Editors (Erin MC EL and Melissa Garcia Lamarca) www.radicalhousingjournal.org (and of course, there is also the amazing Desiree Fields in there too!)

Review forum on my documentary in Dialogues in Human Geography

Dialogues in Human Geography published a review forum of my documentary A început ploaia/It started raining. The Forum contains reflections that encompass the film, to discuss issues of co-production, research-activism, evictions and the history of housing restitutions in Eastern Europe. It contains four contributions from scholars working on these themes since many years, whom I admire for their scholarship and commitment. These include:

  • Katherine Brickell, on Forced eviction, intimate war and disposable homes
  • Liviu Chelcea, on After Engels: Evictions and the urbanization of anti-communism
  • AbdouMaliq Simone, on A film: A comment
  • Ana Vilenica, on Becoming an accomplice in housing struggles on Vulturilor Street

The Forum is wrapped up with a final contribution by myself, entitled Caring for the endurance of a collective struggle.

The essays can be read on Dialogues’ webpage. My contribution can be also read on Academia.edu or Research Gate. Thanks to Ugo Rossi (University of Turin) for organizing this Forum!