Keynote on liberatory homing in Brussels today, remembering Nakba & celebrating Pride Day

I am happy to join the Department of Architecture at KU Leuven today for their Spatial Justice UULP day, which is dedicated to PhD candidates and their projects. I will be offering one of the two keynotes (the other by Beatrice De Carli) on my recent book, For a Liberatory Politics of Home (Duke University Press, 2023).

Here in Brussels is #Pride Week – a great moment to join the city as a non-binary person & discuss #homing beyond heteronormativity & beyond the violence of settler colonialism, thinking of #Nakba

The lecture is open to the public, details are in the poster below. Thanks to Luce Beeckmans and Jeroen Stevens for having invited me!

Teach-ins across Italy on BDS, Gaza, University & the Military (Bergamo, Padova, Bologna, Salerno, Naples) + major conference in Rome

The next two weeks, I am going to be busy discussing with many others the colonial war waged by the State of Israel, the militarization of our societies and the roles of our universities in both things, in teach-ins across Italy – adding to dozens of previous assemblies and public events I have been involved in since last October in Turin (here, here, here, among many others), Pisa and Florence, Messina and Palermo, Cagliari, Milan, Rome and Naples, and more (including interventions on national media, for instance here, here, here and grassroots radios, among others).

I ground these conversations around dual-use technologies and the political economy of involving universities in the defence sector, starting from my book Universitá e Militarizzazione (here for a review), to then expand on the contemporary genocidal situation in Gaza, but also on the role of local economic district in supporting the defence industry (here for a recent interview). The idea is to discuss these themes with colleagues, organisers, and students and to support and share local forms of resistance against the cultural mantra of war and the material economy of its implementation in Italy and beyond.

The forthcoming meetings are:

On Monday, 6th May, 2pm-6pm I will intervene online in an event organised at the University of Bergamo on Palestine and Israel. My intervention – among very relevant others! – will be at 5pm (see the poster below for full details).

On Tuesday, 8th May, at 6pm, I will take part in an online teach-in organised by the Spazio Catai (rete Potere al Popolo) at the University of Padova (info TBA).

On Thursday, 9th May, at 12noon, I will take part in an online teach-in for students currently holding a pro-Palestinian encampment in via Zamboni, in Bologna (info TBA). In Bologna I will also take part into another event on Saturday 11th – a day of debates organised by Laboratorio Bologna (TBA).

On Friday, 10th May, throughout the day, I will be in Rome for the first national conference organised the Observatory Against the Militarization of the Schools and the Universities. This event will be important for organising in Italy. It is open to the public – all info at this link.

On Wednesday, 15th May, at 10am, I will be in person at the University of Salerno, to discuss the above themes with my friends and colleagues Giso Amendola, Gennaro Avallone and Valentina Ripa (see details in the poster below).

Last but not least, on Thursday, 16th May, at 12:30pm I will be in person at the University Orientale of Naples, for a conversation with Viola Carofalo, Miguel Mellino and their students (details TBA).

Avanti!

Interview on il Manifesto on the new militarized political economy of Turin & ITA universities

Today, in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto, I tried to sum up the last three years of personal and collective thinking / political organising around the relationship between the university and the military sector, also in relation to the colonial war of Israel in Palestine.

The interview, in Italian, is available here: https://ilmanifesto.it/leonardo-sta-diventando-per-torino-e-per-il-politecnico-quello-che-fu-la-fiat/r/zPgY466LfF2b6WidCtAz2

An automatic translation is available below.

‘Leonardo is becoming for Turin and the Politecnico what Fiat was’
Interview with Michele Lancione, professor of political-economic geography

“Leonardo is becoming for Turin what Fiat once was”. Michele Lancione, full professor of Political-Economic Geography at the Polytechnic University of Turin, published last September with the publishing house Eris Università e militarizzazione. The dual use of freedom of research, well ahead of the current events of these days. “When I wrote it I wanted to open a discussion in the academic sphere, then there was an acceleration of the debate due to the disaster of the Palestinian situation that led to a strong awareness among students”.

In the preface, you wrote that he wanted to offer them a tool to ‘fight for the liberation of academic knowledge from military colonies’.

I did not imagine it would become normal to see police inside universities and students truncheoned for two placards. The perspective has been turned upside down: the university is used to have a critical spirit and protest, instead Minister Bernini gives reason to those who have sold it out. This has happened because for too long research has been intertwined with the military and the services connected to it, but this risks making the university lose its purpose of knowledge. Leonardo works to make a profit and should not pose ethical questions. The students’ protests stem from all this.

By militarisation, you do not only mean research.

No, I also mean that process, which began in the West after 11 September 2001, in which what is not pertaining to the defence sector, primarily public places, is turned into military.

The book asks whether the public university can do technological research without addressing the issue of dual use.

The transfer of knowledge or technology from the civil to the military or vice versa is a difficult issue to control. This impossibility of control is used as an excuse by those who are interested in bringing the university and the war industry together; we are told that we only collaborate with military partners such as Leonardo for civil research, but this is a hypocritical position. I will give an example: if a company makes a profit from armaments, it will be very easy to acquire technology that sends rockets to Mars, even to drop them on Gaza. But we must emphasise that if basic research is defunded, universities are almost obliged to look for money that way.

This, it seems to be understood, applies in particular to the Politecnico where you teach.

Since the automotive sector no longer guarantees jobs and research, Turin has decided to focus on the military aerospace sector. The first player is Leonardo. The Politecnico, which historically trained executives, managers and engineers for Fiat, saw a great opportunity in this new sector. In doing so, it granted Leonardo our knowledge and technologies, gave it an advantage over its competitors at the expense of the Italian university and offered it cultural legitimacy, a techno washing.

What role does Leonardo’s Med-Or foundation, on whose board of directors sit twelve rectors of Italian universities, play in all this?

It is an emblematic example of the militarisation of the university. Bernini, perhaps in good faith, boasts of this collaboration and is wrong. The think tank chaired by Minniti serves Leonardo to position itself in the strategic market of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It is natural that there should be an interest in the ongoing, or future, conflicts in these areas. Many chancellors are now beginning to wonder whether their mandate is to advise Italy’s leading arms manufacturer and whether this prevents sensible geopolitical analysis.

It is not only happening in Italy.

Across Europe there are very specific funding programmes that exist at various scales, such as Horizon. In Italy, the Pnrm (Piano Nazionale della Ricerca Militare – National Military Research Plan) was launched in 2022, which involves the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Education and Universities and has as its objective ‘the increase of the Defence knowledge base in high-tech sectors’. It actually serves to inject state resources and public researchers into the military industrial sector. But if the money is there, why not put it into basic research instead of throwing it to the military?

You are among the signatories of the letter that several professors sent to the rector of PoliTo.

We asked you to take a position on the beating of students inside the university, we are waiting for a clear answer.

Two weeks in LA at the Skid Row Archive and Museum

I spent the last two weeks in Los Angeles, as a guest of the Skid Row Archive and Museum. This is a community archive and museum managed by the Los Angeles Poverty Department, a performance group closely tied to the city’s Skid Row neighborhood. It was founded in 1985 by director and activist John Malpede, who runs it with associated director and producer Henriëtte Brouwers. Its members are mostly homeless or formerly homeless people.

I was the first time at the LAPD pre-pandemic, in 2019 and I always wanted to go back to them to dig up some of the community organising history available in the archive and to spend more time with John, Henriëtte, as well as with Henry and Zach (two of the archivists working there). The Archive has an extensive number of resources on Skid Row History – including planning documents, articles, videos, oral histories, audios, interview transcripts and more – available for research. The archive documents the culture that developed on Skid Row—an activist culture, artistic culture and recovery culture— that offers a useful model for other communities navigating gentrification pressures.

While in LA, I also gave a short seminar to PhD students at the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA, hosted by Ananya Roy. I really enjoyed being there and discussing with colleagues and organisers ideas and practice about emplacement, homing and housing justice. I look forward to be back this coming July for the Freedom school at UCLA.

On the academic boycott against Israel + new work to stop dual-use agreement with Italy (MAECI)

For a few weeks, a number of academics in Italy have been working to stop an agreement between the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State of Israel to finance ‘scientific projects’ that can lead themselves to military use. The agreement – this one – speaks of research focused on ‘frontier applications’ in the realm of precision optics, electronics and quantum technologies. Working for this kind of technologies with the State of Israel today means working with its military-industrial complex.

Our letter received more than 2,500 signatures from concerned academics and university personnel around Italy, and students have used it to organise on the matter across the country. We scored some concrete successes since the agreement has been stopped, or at least put in question, in a number of Universities, including Turin and the Normale of Pisa. The original letter – here – is in Italian, but I am translating it a bit below:

“At the end of February 2024, we learn that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is announcing a call for joint research projects based on the Industrial, Scientific and Technological Cooperation Agreement between Italy and Israel. We emphasise that the funding could be used to develop dual-use technology, i.e. for both civil and military use. This would aggravate our country’s international responsibilities since, despite the government’s assurances, Italy does not seem to have stopped exporting weapons to Tel Aviv as of 7 October 2023.
Given these premises, we demand that industrial, scientific and technological cooperation between Italian and Israeli universities and research centres be suspended, with the aim of putting pressure on the state of Israel to commit to respecting all international law, as is rightly demanded of all states in the world.
We also make this request in order to protect Italian institutions from the accusation of not having fulfilled the imperative duty to prevent genocide, wherever there is a danger of it, which is an obligation for UN member states according to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, or of being complicit in war crimes, currently under investigation by the International Criminal Court. The MAECI notice does not protect Italian institutions because it may include the development of dual-use technologies and devices. Our request is in line with the statement, dated 23 February 2024, by numerous UN experts that member states should immediately refrain from transferring weapons and military technology to Israel, including research and know-how for possible war use, as there is an inescapable risk that they will be used to violate customary obligations under international humanitarian law. Moreover, the collaborations that we are asking to be discontinued appear to be in serious conflict with the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights that the government itself claims to be overseeing. It would be paradoxical to ask businesses to respect rights that are deemed secondary or violable in the actions of public and research organisations, which have a duty to comply with the republican constitutional order (which includes international law as an integral part of it).”

We have now prepared a new statement since tomorrow is the last day to stop the agreement, and strike action has been prepared by students and unions in Italy. Here is the text, in Italian: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Y8j8lPk9ptCog1U0gZL2m7-gxXLPXcwH9KGHSeqH_kU/edit

The conclusions read:

“On 10 April, the MAECI notice will expire, but the deep connivance of our government and our universities with the plausible genocide taking place in Gaza will not see a break except under pressure from those who study, teach and do research in our country’s academic and research infrastructure. For this reason, in addition to participating in tomorrow’s mobilisations, we invite the academic community to a national online assembly to be held on 17 April at 5pm to discuss how to relaunch initiatives to break the links between Italian public research, Israeli institutions and the military industry, and to build real bridges of peace through the creation of channels of cooperation and support for the Palestinian population.
We feel a strong ethical responsibility for our work within society.”On 10 April, the MAECI notice will expire, but the deep connivance of our government and our universities with the plausible genocide taking place in Gaza will not see a break except under pressure from those who study, teach and do research in our country’s academic and research infrastructure. For this reason, in addition to participating in tomorrow’s mobilisations, we invite the academic community to a national online assembly to be held on 17 April at 5pm to discuss how to relaunch initiatives to break the links between Italian public research, Israeli institutions and the military industry, and to build real bridges of peace through the creation of channels of cooperation and support for the Palestinian population.
We feel a strong ethical responsibility for our work within society.”

Below I am reporting some interviews I have been releasing in national media, on la Stampa, il Fatto Quotidiano and Repubblica on this matter. Similar exposure work has been done by a number of comrades (both students, unionists and academics), who have been attacked on national media. Avanti!

For a liberatory politics of home – in conversation with Mezzadra, Governa, Grazioli, Aru (5th April) (ITA)

Venerdì 5 aprile, 3pm, al DIST avremo un confronto sul mio ultimo libro For a Liberatory Politics of Home (Duke University Press, 2023). Ci saranno Sandro Mezzadra, Margherita Grazioli, Francesca Governa e Silvia Aru.

Siete tutt* invitat* in Sala Vigliano. Allego il poster con preghiera di diffusione anche a dottorand* e post-doc interessat* a geografie della casa e dell’abitare.

Per seguire online bisogna registrarsi a questo link: https://polito-it.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0pd-qpqz4vH9fcvrbnTg2394XX7dKQ2ssn

L’incontro sarà in lingua italiana.

Book launch: For a Liberatory Politics of Home at the UI, Sheffield (video recording)

The Urban Institute at the University of Sheffield, UK, hosted a hybrid event to launch my new book ‘For a Liberatory Politics of Home‘ published by Duke University Press

The event took place on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. I introduced the book, followed by Professor Vanesa Castán Broto’s response at the Urban Institute. The recording of the seminar is available at the UI page, below and on our YouTube channel at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m8pUyxzM6I&t=31s

In the book, I question accepted understandings of home and homelessness to offer a radical proposition: homelessness cannot be solved without dismantling current understandings of home. Conventionally, home is framed as a place of security and belonging, while its loss defines what it means to be homeless. On the basis of this binary, a whole industry of policy interventions, knowledge production, and organizing fails to provide solutions to homelessness but perpetuates violent and precarious forms of inhabitation. Drawing on his research and activism around housing in Europe, the book attends to the interlocking crises of home and homelessness by recentering the political charge of precarious dwelling. It is there, if often in unannounced ways, that a profound struggle for a differential kind of homing signals multiple possibilities to transcend the violences of home/homelessness. In advancing a new approach to work with the politics of inhabitation, the book provides a critique of current practices and offers a transformative vision for a renewed, liberatory politics of home.

I thank the Urban Institute for making the registration of this book launch available to me and the Lab.

Meeting in Turin on Universities and the Military (Mon 18th, 5pm CET) (ITA)

La settimana prossima, lunedí 18 continuiamo a confrontarci su guerra, universitá e militarizzazione con collegh* di CERTO (Coordinamento per l’Etica nella Ricerca) e corpo studentesco.

Ore 17 in presenza presso Sala Lauree del Dipartimento di Lingue

(Complesso Aldo Moro, Via S. Ottavio 18, terzo piano) o online al link nel poster.

Grazie a Pietro e Lorenzo per aver organizzato e per esserci!

Link al libro: https://www.erisedizioni.org/prodotto/universita-e-militarizzazione/

Book launches in Sheffield and London, 12th and 13th March

Next week I will present my book, For a Liberatory Politics of Home (Duke University Press), with colleagues and friends in Sheffield & London.

12th March 4pm GMT, at the Urban Institute in Sheffield. The event will be in person & online. Register at 👉 https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/urban-institute/news/book-launch-liberatory-politics-home-michele-lancione

13th March 4pm GMT, at Kings College, Department of Geography, in-person only.

Thanks to Beth Perry and Katherine Brickell for organising!