A random list of living things I love

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.

Discussing Frontex with the new Independent Group for Research Ethics (CERTO) – Wed 24th, 5pm, Turin & online

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.

In particular, through CERTO we aim to focus on research collaborations, investments and funding that pose relevant ethical challenges for our academic work of research and teaching. Our Manifesto can be found here: https://coordinamentounito.wordpress.com/2023/04/26/nasce-certo-coordinamento-per-letica-nella-ricerca-torino/

On May 24th, we will host a public debate on the Frontex-Polytechnic of Turin case, on which I have already spent much energy (see here). See the program below for details.

Intorno al caso Frontex: l’Università alle frontiere dell’etica
Mercoledì 24 maggio, 17:00

Anche online: https://polito-it.zoom.us/j/82673832089?pwd=Q3VHQ2FhZWNGU3pvQXIxL25GMmw3UT09&fbclid=IwAR1ZnQAvtzgP5g-S7HPZnRXnxvwqbGQlE1eyKoTaLxEy-9PHrFNp1m3IMCk#success

Download the program here: Locandina SEMINARIO FRONTEX_def

Interview on Frontex and the academy with Maurice Stierl for Border Criminologies

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.


Maurice Stierl
Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS) Osnabrück University



a poster
Abolish Frontex (https://abolishfrontex.org/take-action/resources/)


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.

The Frontex map of 2017
The Frontex map of 2017 (from here: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/The-Frontex-map-of-2017_fig1_337260503)

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

Working with high schools students in Turin, against Frontex

I recently met (for the second year in a row) some high school kids here in Turin to talk about Frontex. It was their teacher, the talented Antonella Mantovani, who brought them to me for a class project related to migration and the issue of ‘fortress Europe’.

I share Antonella’s feedback on this experience, which gave me even more strength to fight Frontex and the militarisation of the university (my translation).

Dear Michele,

the students in the group that had had the wonderful experience of meeting with you about Frontex made their presentation last Friday, which ended with the class holding a demonstration against Frontex during the lecture break.

The students did a great job and I urged them to send you the ppt, to show you that your great willingness allowed us to do some counter-information. Tell me if you have received the work, if not I will pass it on to you.

In the personal reports the guys expressed great appreciation for you. I’ll turn some extracts over to you.

“This group work was one of the most interesting I have ever participated in and it allowed me to inform myself on sensitive and topical issues. Three months ago, in fact, I knew nothing about Frontex and its violations and I knew nothing about the agreement between the Polytechnic and the Agency, which is now being talked about more and more.
The work of ‘a world without borders’ also gave me the great opportunity to interview Professor Michele Lancione in person: meeting him was extremely interesting and educational and I believe it also added considerable value to our work. I was pleasantly surprised by his enormous helpfulness from the very beginning, when we contacted him by email, until our meeting: he even gave us a tour of the beautiful Faculty of Architecture, which I had never entered before.
… Lastly, I am really very pleased with the flag we had coloured: I am happy that our classmates liked the idea in the first place, and then also the people from Galfer who came to help us. I believe that our objective, that of letting as many people as possible know what Frontex was and did, was achieved, and I had proof of this when some curious kids who were passing by on the second floor asked me to explain our work to them in detail. “

“I think that of all those I have done this group work was the most interesting for two main reasons. The first was definitely for the interview with the expert in the field, Prof. Michele Lancione, because it was an experience I had never had before. All the various steps of the meeting, from the contact, to the formulation of the questions, and ending with the actual interview, were a completely new situation. The second reason is because of the topics covered, as especially the part on current affairs allowed me to discover many aspects of today’s world that I was not yet aware of. The glaring example is the European agency Frontex, which I would still be completely unaware of if it were not for this group work.
I was also very impressed by the attitudes and mannerisms of the professor, who showed himself to be an affable and humble person, but at the same time particularly knowledgeable and very determined to continue on the path taken in the fight against Frontex… “

I should add that when I went down to the floor where the small demonstration was taking place (the class was colouring a STOP FRONTEX sign prepared by the working group and explaining to those who asked questions what Frontex is) I found a very pro-European colleague who was arguing with the students, claiming that Frontex has been ‘diverted’ but originally has good purposes. I joined in the discussion and then sent her some material… the colleague today thanked me for the material, which she read, and expressed all her scandal about Frontex, about which she had wrong information.
I mean, the guys have really made some changes.

Thank you very much!

A greeting full of esteem and admiration

The esteem and admiration are all mine, dear Prof, for how you treat your students, and how they treat the time they have at school.

And by the way, the demonstration against Frontex during recess is something that makes me very proud. It is one of my best contributions to the impact of the university and research on civil society.

RECAP on previous episodes: https://www.michelelancione.eu/blog/2022/11/10/the-university-of-turin-against-frontex-and-against-the-polytechnic-the-fight-continues/

Frontex and Polytechnic: Another vote to confirm the agreement and further connivance with human rights violations

Note: this open letter was also published in Italian in the newspaper La Stampa (see below for the scan of the article)

The EU anti-fraud unit (Olaf) report on Frontex is clear. The Agency ignores the human rights of people in transit across the Mediterranean and the Balkans. There is proof of how Frontex’s planes and drones have witnessed migrants drowning in the high sea between Lybia and Italy, and they did not intervene. This is not only a violation of Article 18 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (right to asylum) but also, more simply and fundamentally, of Article 2 (right to life) and numerous international maritime conventions requiring anyone witnessing situations of distress in the high sea to intervene or alert bodies capable of intervention. Frontex systematically avoided any kind of intervention on purpose, on a number of occasions, violating the fundamental right to life of the people in situations of peril on those boats. The Agency itself recognised this, at least implicitly, when its Director resigned seven months ago at the surfacing of the first revelations from the (at the time undisclosed) Olaf report.

As it is known, my Department at the Polytechnic of Turin, where I am full Professor of Political and Economic Geography, provides cartography services to Frontex. This association between the two institutions is problematic not only because there is no way to know how Frontex will use the maps (potentially, to pursue the further violation of human rights), but also because, by proxy, everyone in my Department, me included, is now relatable with the doings of the Agency. This is not just a problem of image, but a serious ethical question: can I carry ‘ethical’ research work, if my Institution is doing affairs with a third party who is involved in the systematic violation of human rights?

For a year, some of us have been forcefully fighting this agreement (back story, in ENG and ITA). In one of the latest chapters of this story, just a few weeks ago, in an unprecedented move, the University of Turin officially asked the Polytechnic to take an active stance against this agreement with the Agency (in ENG, and ITA). Yet, not the overwhelming evidence of the Olaf report, nor the stances of researchers and students in Turin, are enough for my employer to reconsider their untenable position. Following the request from the University yesterday, the Senate of the Polytechnic of Turin was asked once again to vote on the opportunity to maintain the collaboration between my Department and Frontex and, by 19 votes against 29, the Senate voted to maintain the agreement (as reported by Luca Rondi in Altreconomia). As if nothing matters. As if the Mediterranean and its bodies are on another plane of existence. As if collaborating with Frontex was just a technical matter: something detached from the doings of the Agency.

If this is science, as a scientist, I am ashamed. I am angry, furious. It is unacceptable that a public University such as the Polytechnic refuses to confront the overarching amount of evidence against Frontex. It is unacceptable that this has not become a major point of ethical concern: a point where the praxis of doing academic labour can acquire, or lose its sense entirely. To me, yesterday, with that vote, the Polytechnic lost the little credibility they had left. There is no possible talking of ‘ethics’, now. No possible bombastic speech on ‘research excellence’. We are complicit: this is what ‘science’ is at this time in Europe. For the students, and for the very few researchers who are still seeing things otherwise, I will work so that this is not the end.

The University of Turin against Frontex (and against the Polytechnic). The fight continues.

The fight to keep Frontex out of our universities continues.

In the summer of 2021, my Department (DIST) at the Politecnico di Torino signed a contract to produce cartography for Frontex (the European Coast Guard and Border Agency). The agreement – passed without any problems in the Department’s Council – was presented as one of the best representations of research excellence at DIST (see the original press release here).

With (very few) colleagues, we contested the contract but to no avail. At that point, the same was the subject of a series of enquiries by journalist Luca Rondi of Altreconomia, to which was added my public stance of denunciation. This was followed by numerous articles in national and international media, as well as student demonstrations, collective meetings and mobilisations to push the Polytechnic to terminate the contract. The reasons that make this agreement unacceptable are related to the work of Frontex: already in the summer of 2021 it was evident that the agency did not respect human rights, operating forced rejections at the European borders both directly (on the Balkan route) and indirectly (passing information to the so-called Libyan Coast Guard) (see my public statement, in Italian, for a summary of these reasons  – In English, read here).

At that point, media pressure on the case intensified (involving publications such as Internazionale, Wired, and RAI – for a list see this file), as well as student and activist mobilisation, on a national scale. Faced with all this, the Academic Senate of the Politecnico di Torino decided to discuss the agreement in an extraordinary session on 14 December 2021. Three options were on the table: termination, suspension or continuation of the agreement with the addition of a hypothetical ‘safeguard clause’ with which the parties (DIST, the Politecnico and Frontex) would undertake to respect ‘human rights’ in the execution of the contract. The Senate, by a very large majority (21 out of 25), chose to maintain the contract with the inclusion of this clause (in Italian, Luca Rondi’s piece; In English, on my blog).

A few months later, again Luca Rondi, through civic access on Frontex, discovered that the Agency knew nothing about this clause, and therefore the contract went ahead without it. Its insertion, in any case, would not have changed anything: how can the Polytechnic expect Frontex to respect human rights, when not even the European Court of Justice can? The fact remains that, even in the face of this news, which in fact de-legitimised the vote of the Politecnico’s Academic Senate, everything in Turin continued to remain silent: my Department (DIST) continued to produce maps for Frontex (In Italian, Luca Rondi). In light of all this, I continued – this time with my colleague Francesca Governa – with internal pressure, but without ever receiving any response (read here).

In recent months, Frontex has been in the spotlight several times. Faced with evidence of abuses, the Director General, Fabrice Leggeri, resigned, and, recently, the European Anti-Fraud Office (Olaf) released a report certifying that Frontex covered up serious human rights violations at the European borders (ITA; ENG). In this context, many students and academics at the University of Turin have taken the issue to heart and have continued to press for DIST and the Politecnico to take a clear position and terminate this collaboration. Frontex is involved in systemic violence against asylum seekers trying to cross European borders: there can be no collaboration with such an entity.

The Board of Directors of the other major Athenaeum in Turin, the University of Turin, also came to this conclusion. Since DIST is an ‘inter-university’ department (i.e. located, formally, between the Politecnico and the University), the University has now finally decided to take a clear contrary stance to the work that DIST does with Frontex. The motion calls on DIST and the Polytechnic to terminate the agreement, immediately, without ifs and buts. This latest development is reported in a further article by Luca Rondi in Altreconomia, where I intervene to reiterate a very simple concept:

Rescinding the contract does not mean taking a step backwards with respect to the missions of an Athenaeum engaged in international contracts and research, but taking one forward. Rescinding the contract is an important signal consistent with an ethical vision of intellectual freedom that the university rightly prides itself on: freedom means being able to re-evaluate decisions taken and change direction if the context has changed. Now is the time to do so.

I don’t have much hope my Department will do the right thing, but we will continue to fight to keep #Frontex out of our Universities.

Ash Amin’s retirement party – My oral festschrift to him

Yesterday, 29th Sept 2022, I took part in the retirement party of my former first PhD supervisor and fundamental academic mentor, Ash Amin. The event was organised by Bhaskar Vira at the Department of Geography, the University of Cambridge, followed by an evening dinner at Emmanuel College.

Beyond an engaging conversation among Ash, Philip Howell, and Maan Barua, the day consisted of a series of ‘oral testimonies’ and celebrations of Ash’s thinking and doing, carried through by four of his former students. I shared the task with the excellent Tatiana Theme, Lisa Richaud and Maria Hagan.

I owe a lot to Ash. His intellectual curiosity and his care for my persona were fundamental to the development of my own thinking and love for academic work. Below you can read my oral festschrift to him, which I hope summarise well my sentiment toward Ash the person, and Ash the scholar. At the end of the text, some pictures of the event, taken by Stephen Ajadi (shared with permission).




The framework of the encounter

Michele Lancione, for Ash Amin

Thank you for having me here today. It is a great honour to be part of this afternoon for and with Professor Ash Amin. I am honoured to be here because it means that in joining celebration, I have also – at least a little – been part of the journey. I am talking about the journey of an individual who has constantly questioned the grounds he has contributed to establishing, the journey of a scholar that has shown, at every turn, genuine conceptual and political curiosity: Ash as a being thirst for ideas, for well written and engaging arguments, for ways of thinking beyond the canon. This day allows me to thank Ash for a unique gift he gave me and many others: I am referring to the reverberance of his intellectual desire, a vibrance that at times accelerated as an impatience, a power inviting who encounters it to question and to push; to read more and to read better; to write with consideration; to treat intellectual labour with care.

The privilege of having encountered Ash’s intellectual affection renders being here at the same time beautiful and tricky. I want to be honest: I have struggled to put this short text together. And this is not because I don’t know what to say about Ash’s scholarship – but it is because, ultimately, I am not sure I want to say, I am not sure I want to be part of the ritual marking the process of retirement.

I started writing these lines few weeks ago. In my spare time, I went back to some of the early writings of Ash, which included, among the known text on economic and regional geography, a rich report – typed in Italian – on the ‘Stella’ neighbourhood in Naples. Then I re-read his foundational works on placing globalisation, regional inequalities, and the quest to argue for a new politics of place (what Doreen Massey called a ‘progressive sense of place’). I then switched to the writings on ethnicity, race, and encounters, and continued with the book through which I first encountered his thinking – back in 2006, reading for my Master’s degree the Italian translation of Cities, Re-imagining the Urban, coauthored with Nigel Thrift. After that, I dwelt again in the pages of my favourite book of his, Land of Strangers; then I flipped, this time faster, through the pages of my least favourite book of his, Arts of the Political (Nigel will pardon me, I hope). This journey was concluded by re-appreciating his most recent works on the notion of animated space, his papers on migrant mental health in Shanghai with Lisa Richaud, and by re-reading the introduction to the book we recently co-edited together for Duke – another of his gifts to me.

In re-approaching these texts, I was moved by the idea of providing to you today a concise overview of how these separate bodies of work are ‘one’; to give you a hint of how, at least in my reading, they are all grounded in a profound desire – a power – to articulate a politics for the just city – a project that for Ash entails questioning and re-approaching each of these terms anew. City, as a mechanosphere of human and non-human that has an act of its own, a life trespassing the rationale of policy, an intelligence of intelligences made of computations but also of affects, of atmospheres as much as of cement, of intentionalities and violent extractions, as much as of di-vidual, only partially and momentarily coherent, assemblage of volitions, metabolic and ecologic impulses, matter and discourse. Just, as a question of what kind of justice and for whom, when so clearly the language of rights has failed to provide the mean for struggles, since fewer and fewer institutions are enabled to capacitate and to defend capacitation, and more and more ‘rights’ become signifier to be appropriated by extractive practices and enduring racial dispossession. Politics, read by Ash at the intersection of urbanity and justice, both as a project to be carried through and an agent of action – a proposition that, for Ash, has to deal with economic, ecological and social structures but requires attention to how these are a matter of multiple agencies (human, non-human, infrastructural, atmospheric) providing much social flesh – disempowering but also affirmative social flesh – to work with.

My intention today was to tell you how much Ash’s quest for a politics for the just city affected my intellectual journey and to point out how his writings – sometimes appearing perhaps disparate and concerned with too much – are instead held together by a profound commitment to social justice with a precise orientation. The project is to unpack the social beyond the pastiche of canonical sociological thinking while simultaneously maintaining a commitment to crafting socio-geographical imaginaries and methods that might be useful, directly appropriated, and put into action. But the more I have tried to write such a text, the more I confronted myself with the meaning of this exercise – the performative act of marking retirement, as I said earlier.

And so I scrapped what I had written, I trashed the ideas and the notes, and I instead wrote a text message to my dear sister Tatiana Thieme and, through a short exchange with her, I got the confidence to say what I really what to say; to affirm what I think today should be all about. My dear audience, that is simple. Today is just an illusion. You, all of you, called out of your busy academic and non-academic lives, you who have taken time off to come into this room to ‘celebrate’ and to ‘perform’, you, my friend, are no more and no less guests of an illusion, because today, I hope the might Cambridge University won’t mind, today, we are retiring no one today. Because if I may accept the fact that, after today, Ash will have more time than ever to chop his fingers in his beautiful garden, I shall not accept the option of retiring the energy of which I spoke, the intellectual burst with which he faces you every time you talk to him, as well as that questioning look of his, which makes immediately apparent to you when you haven’t done enough work, but also those same eyes running places in those rare occasions in which you might have said something he hasn’t already thought of.

No retirement today, no festivities, everybody goes home. Without please, and without excuses. We are just asking Ash to perform again and again because love for intellectual labour is so much needed today more than ever – at times in which your sad country is so clearly detaching itself from its ground and will sooner or later entirely collapse, while mine dances the swing of nationalism and fear once again, and the affect of militarisation wraps all of us together, like a cloth tight on our necks and eyes – tighter for some than others, but increasingly suffocating for the many. It is a violent image; I am conscious of that. A violent image to render the fierce powers of international financial capitalism, authoritarian pursuits, war industries and reactionary tunes, turning our dwelling on planet earth as real and felt, genuine dystopian, Land of Strangers. What is needed to cut through such a violent cloth is a multiplicity of grassroots political struggles – but the latter, to be imagined, require the labour of intellectual unrest – a labour that to speak truth to power needs to be fulfilled by a desire not to be satisfied, by any explanation, ever. To teach of this thirst in our classrooms, to write on such emancipatory affect in our papers and books, to be constantly unsatisfied and to be recharged through that — this is what Ash’s works speak of; this is what he has taught me with his silences, his nods, his sometime incomprehensible fabulations, and this is what today we are not going to retire.

I remember well the first time I arrived in the UK. It was September 2008, and I was due to commence my PhD at Durham. I landed at Heathrow, which was my first time in the country. When there, I passed through the usual duty-free shops, waiting for my connecting flight to Newcastle. To have the chance to relate to what follows, you have to know that I grew up in a tiny rural village in the North West of Italy, in a working-class family. My father, now retired, was a factory worker at FIAT, and my mother a cleaner. Becoming an academic was not in the plan, and neither was, to be honest, completing the entire cycle at Uni. I benefited from the scholarships offered by the Italian Public Education system, and from the fact that Italy is filled with Pizzerias where a waiter is always well accepted. I kept doing multiple jobs up to the end of my PhD, and it is only thanks to Ash’s and my former MA supervisor Francesca’s efforts to mobilise funding that I was able to carry the PhD through completion. But this is not what I want to focus on.

The point is that when I was waiting in Heathrow for my connecting flight to reach Ash at Durham University, I ended up buying two things. Well, I proudly and decisively bought two things. The first was a Paul Smith’s wallet. The second was a Paul Smith keychain. Of course, these were unnecessary and foolish purchases. Of course, in buying those two things, I wasted the money I had saved for many weeks of subsistence (Tesco baked potatoes and beans came to help). And, of course, luxury is evil and should be banished. But also, and at the same time, seeing from the eyes of that working-class kid with totally broken English and zero ideas about his new life, those in the Heathrow candy shop were the only possible purchases. Those purchases were a way for that kid to tell himself that things were going to be different. It’s easy, now, for me and all of us to laugh at that – and to see how problematic that was. And yet, it happened, and those two things are still with me to date, 14 years after my first landing in the country.

I thought that the keychain was the right gift for you, Ash, which is why – while I am still holding onto my wallet – I am giving it to you today. For keys are the object of home, and homing, homelessness, dwelling, inhabiting, and belonging are at the core of our shared interests. But partially, also, because you gave me keys, real ones, when you pushed me to read all those books, when you asked me to write all those essays in the first year of my PhD, and then, after, when you invited me to go back at the drawing board when things did not make sense and, most importantly, to go back there when they made too much sense. The keys you gave me will stay with me for more than 14 years. And so, to celebrate your non-retirement, for all the openings that you will offer to scholars of the future, through your direct engagement and your writing, here is my small symbolic gift for you: a warn, silly Paul Smith keychain figuring a colourful Mini car. Because sometimes the affective, as the political, can be carried through the most insignificant details.

Speaking of Frontex, Militarization and Universities at a public meeting in Turin (Volere la Luna)

On Saturday, 24th September, 9pm, I will join a critical public festival in Turin, sponsored by ‘Volere la Luna‘.

At the event, I will join a number of activists and colleagues to discuss around the increased role that the militarization industry is having in Turin, the city where I live. I will speak of the relationship between my University, the Polytechnic, and that industry – focusing in particular on the Frontex case, on bordering, and on the relationship between research and the military.

Free entry, in Via Trivero 16 at 9pm. Check the poster below for the full extent of the Festival.

Locandina 2022 def