Numerous events took place across Europe to celebrate the 50 years after the backlash of ’68.Pushpa Arabindoo, Senior Lecturer at UCL, organised a very special one at the Institute D’etudes Avancéesin Paris last week. In the stunning setting of the IEA, in the middle of the Seine on Île Saint-Louis, Pushpa gather a number of scholars and writers to tackle the question of what it means to write the ‘urban’ into the ‘city’ (here the program). This was a central concern of Henry Lefebvre and of many of his contemporaries, both within and outside the academy (think for instance of George Perec and Italo Calvino). Pushpa rightly brought the theme of writing, with its political resonances, back to the table.
In the two-day event, a number of provocative questions and suggestions were brought to the fore. The first half-day was introduced by two fascinating speech by Diran Adebayo and Sarah Butler two inspiring novelists from London and Manchester respectively. The second day was jammed-packed with insightful presentations from a number of scholars writing the urban from a number of geographical and theoretical perspectives. Following a keynote by Christian Schmid, Monika Streule and Alejandro de Coss-Corzo presented about their respective South-American fieldworks; Pushpa and Anna Dewaele tackled the Asian city; Jennifer Robinson and Philippe Gervais-Labony spoke about their respective works on African cities; while Martin Muller and myself (Michele Lancione) gave our individual perspectives on the city of the East (Ekaterinburg for Martin; Bucharest for myself).
In my presentation I mainly situated my continuous involvement with Bucharest as a matter of political, committed, positioning – mostly related to the fight for the right to housing in the city, but not only. Relying on a feminist and vitalist framework, I argued that is impossible to write the city without being ‘situated’ in it, which is, of course, related to a profound engagement with the politics at stake in the production of academic representations. Some of the reasoning that I have presented in Paris can be found, at least in their general form, in a short paper that I have recently published in EPD: Society and Space. More developed and structured thoughts around the need to pursue ‘translations’ able to encompass the remit of canonical academic work, can be found in another paper published in Social & Cultural Geography.
Well done to Pushpa and to the colleagues that came to Paris from all over Europe to populate this intriguing workshop. I hope the conversation will continue and will stimulate more reflection around the politics of writing the city – which is not detached from the ‘right’ to it, of which Lefebvre was theorising about 50 years ago.
Together with many of my colleagues across USP and the Urban Institute, I have been striking for almost two weeks, to defend our pensions against its complete neoliberalisation (here info on the rationale of the action). I also decided to strike to fight for our Union – UCU. This latter point is of particular importance to me. If my pension will probably evaporate anyway because of Brexit (I intend to go back to Italy at some point, and at that point my pension will be taxed like a ‘foreign capital’), preserving a strong Union remains very important in today’s context, where everything becomes increasingly privatised and individualised.
During the pickets organised at the UI building, ICOSS, I shared the ground with some amazing people who, with their bodily politics, reminded me of the importance of collective actions and struggles. What we – Andy, Vicky, Jon, Martin, Tom, Nick and many others – did there, under the snow and the rain, was grounded in an horizontal solidarity that needs to be preserved and fostered further. Striking for our union is both about UCU and, more importantly, about that being together, that feeling that we are more of our individualised subjectivity. That we are and we can be a collective intellectual body, with a clear politics and orientation.
Strike action for the pension will continue. I hope that more colleagues will join, to make us, all of us, stronger and more unite. Avanti!
Below some pictures of one of the marches that we organised in Sheffield, with the amazing support of our students.
I am, together with a collective of 14 people spread around the world, launching the first call for papers for a new publication called the Radical Housing Journal. This is a horizontally managed, feminist and anti-racist publication aimed at academics and activists working around the fight for the right to housing worldwide. The CfP is reported below attached and you can read our manifesto at www.radicalhousingjournal.org
Please share this information with your colleagues and with non-academic activists that may be interested in this project. We are looking for 500 words abstracts by the 5th of March and that contributions are paid for and peer-reviewed.
RHJ – Call for Papers Issue 1
The RHJ is an orientation, a praxis for doing research and action. It seeks to critically intervene in pre and post-crisis housing experiences and activist strategies from around the world without being confined to the strict dogmatism of academic knowledge production. Check out our Manifesto at www.radicalhousingjournal.org.
All contributors will receive a compensation for their work (£50 per article)
The first issue of the RHJ will focus on practices and theories of organising around housing struggles that have emerged post-2008. Conscious of the fact that the 2008 crisis did not impact in the same way everywhere, we invite contributions addressing how, in the last ten years, organising and activism have changed both locally and globally. What did that crisis bring to the fore and how have activists worldwide responded to it? How do those responses relate to older mobilizations, and what emerges as different? How can resistance be theorized today, and what can theory do for the future of housing struggles? We invite theoretical and empirical pieces, focusing on specific cases or speculative in nature.
The RHJ is structured around four sections.
The first two host substantive original works and are blind peer reviewed (by one academic and one activist non-academic). The other two – conversations and updates – are not peer-reviewed.
The long read / Focus on critical analysis and theory-making
MAX 8,000 words per article, including references, excluding pictures
We welcome papers on theorising resistance and activism in the post-2008 worldwide, being they driven by speculative, case-specific or comparative arguments. Papers should aim for theoretical innovation and conceptual finesse.
Retrospectives / Focus on specific cases, histories, actions
MAX 8,000 words per article, including references, excluding pictures
This section welcomes papers that are oriented at reconstructing, in details, particular histories of movements, organisations and/or actions in the post-2008 scenario worldwide. Paper should aim for historical rigour and depth.
Conversations / Reflections from the field of action and organisation
MAX 6,000 words per intervention
Debate-like pieces, written collectively, to reflect on specific actions and strategies. We welcome reflection on the challenges of particular organising approaches and practices.
Updates / Reviews, provocations, updates on actions
MAX 1,500 words per text
We welcome reviews of books, films & more; and updates on current actions.
Deadline for 500 words abstracts: 5th of March 2018
Response to authors: by mid-March 2018 // First draft of papers by: 2nd July 2018
I was recently generously invited by FEANTSA and the European Observatory on Homelessness to deliver one of the keynotes at the 12th European Research Conference on Homelessness, under the theme ‘Changing Profiles of Homelessness: Implications for Services’. The conference took place at the University of Barcelona, on the 22nd of September 2017.
My intervention was entitled ‘Beyond Homelessness Studies: Thoughts and Actions‘. Expanding upon a paper written for the 10th year anniversary of the European Journal of Homelessness (click here to download it), in the keynote I proposed a reflection around the epistemology of homelessness research, asking if and how what we do is relevant and for whom. After illustrating some of the limitations of contemporary scholarship, I made a case for a more radical approach to homelessness studies based on five tenets: interdisciplinarity; ethnography; activism; creativity; and autonomy. Each one of these points was illustrated with examples taken from the current international literature as well as from my researches around homelessness in Italy, Romania and the UK. The aim of this keynote is to inspire a new radical scholarship that encompasses the regiments of what we currently know as ‘homelessness studies’, to meaningfully respond to – and engage with – homelessness in Europe and elsewhere.
Together with my good friends and colleagues Tatiana Thieme (UCL) and Elisabetta Rosa (Université Catholique de Louvain) we have just published a very exciting special issue in City: Analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action. The special issue is about the challenges of ethnographic research at the urban margins and contains contributions from Silvia Aru, Maurizio Memoli & Matteo Puttilli; Tung-Yi Kho; William Monteith; Yimin Zhao; Kavita Ramakrishnan; Tatiana Thieme; and also a paper co-written by myself and Elisabetta (abstract below).
Download the introduction to the special issue here. The same goes for the paper I wrote with Elisabetta, which is available here.
Going in, out, through. A dialogue around long skirts, fried chips, frozen shacks and the makeshifts of ethnography
In this paper, we shift from conventional academic writing toward something similar to a dialogue, an encounter, a few hours spent in a virtual cafe´where we chat and systematically try to excavate our respective ethnographic endeavours. Such experimentation in format is needed, we argue, in order to re-approach the questions characterising in-depth ethnographic work from a different, possibly fresher, perspective, and to communicate those more directly and freely. Rather than embedding our doubts, fears and wishful thinking in academic formalism, we spell those out aloud, as a composite and unfinished flow that touches upon relevant literature but is still raw and grounded in our current and respective fieldwork. Relying on our differentiated works with Roma people in Italy, France and Romania (2004– ongoing), in our dialogue we talk about the challenges of positioning; the construction of new (self)identities; the building of relationships of trust, care and affect, and their break; the role of ethnographic knowledge in activist work; the risk and the certainty of failure; the difficulties associated with entering and leaving the field. The aim of our dialogue is not to offer answers to questions that have been at the centre of the ethnographic discipline since the start, but to open a space of incremental and reciprocal learning that may serve as an inspiration for other young ethnographers like us.
I am very happy to be part of this exciting forum around micro politics and the minor, which builds on Cindi Katz’s 1996 ‘Towards Minor Theory‘ published in EPD: Society and Space. The forum was organised by two friends at Oxford, Thomas Jellis and Joe Gerlach, with contributions from Anna Secor and Jess Linz; Cristina Temenos; Caroline Faria; Andrew Barry; Ben Anderson and an inspiring conclusion by Cindi Katz.
My intervention is a short reflection around the (un)making of ethics at the intersection of ethnography and activism at the urban margins. It is related to my work in Romania with evicted people, of which I published here (and made a documentary called ‘A inceput ploaia/It started raining‘).
Housing Studies has published a paper that I have co-authored with two Italian colleagues, Alice Stefanizzi and Marta Gaboardi. The paper is entitled: ‘Passive adaptation or active engagement? The challenges of Housing First internationally and in the Italian case.’ In it we offer a critical overview of a peculiar homelessness policy, Housing First, which is becoming increasingly popular in Europe and the UK. We approach Housing First investigating its international success — as a case of policy mobility — and we illustrate the challenges of its implementation in contexts beyond the US. Having being involved, at different phases, with the Network Housing First Italia, we take the Italian case as an example to illustrate these challenges in details. We hope that this paper will contribute to the already existent — although rather minoritarian — critical approach to Housing First (which, to be clear, does not reject the policy but it argues for a non-superficial implementation).
In recent years, a peculiar homelessness policy that goes under the name of ‘Housing First’ has become increasingly popular all over the world. Epitomising a quintessential case of policy-mobility, Housing First can today be considered an heterogeneous assemblage of experiences and approaches that sometimes have little in common with each other. Introducing and commenting upon this heterogeneity, the paper critically analyses why and how Housing First has become a planetary success and what are the issues at stake with its widespread implementation. If recent scholarship published in this journal has granted us a fine understanding of Housing First’s functioning in the US, this paper offers something currently absent from the debate: a nuanced and critical understanding of the ambiguities related to the international success of this policy, with specific references to the challenges associated to its translation in the Italian case.
EPD: Society and Space has just published my new paper entitled ‘Revitalising the uncanny: Challenging inertia in the struggle against forced evictions’. I am grateful to the Journal’s Editors for this opportunity and to a number of people who sustained the research behind the paper (including the Urban Studies Foundation, which supported the fieldwork, and Alex Vasudevan and Jonathan Darling, who commented upon an earlier version of this paper).
This paper is connected with the work I have been doing with the Vulturilor 50 community in Bucharest, Romania, and their fight for their right to housing. ‘Revitalising the uncanny’ is an attempt at understanding evictions and homelessness as part of the same continuum where new forms of activist resistance can be articulated, as the people of Vulturilor taught me. How to strengthen these forms of resistance? How to learn from their affective qualities, vitalist assemblages and atmospheres? The paper, alongside with the feature documentary ‘A început ploaia’ (It started raining) that I have written and directed, is an attempt at orienting the debate toward these questions.
Revitalising the uncanny: Challenging inertia in the struggle against forced evictions
Following the case of 100 Roma people evicted from their home in the centre of Bucharest in September 2014, the article looks at evictions and practices of resistance from the ground-up, without assuming a-priori what a politics of resistance may look like in Bucharest or elsewhere. The aim is to understand eviction and resistance as part of the same continuum of home unmaking-remaking, and to fully take into account the role of non-humans and urban atmospheres in the process. In this sense, the article analyses the case of Bucharest through two, interconnected, affective atmospheric: that of uncanniness, which allowed for the resistant Roma body to articulate its demands; and that of inertia, which emerged from the imbrication of home-less people’s street life and gradually rendered resistance more difficult to assemble. Paying attention to these post-human entanglements, the article critically contributes to academic and non-academic debates on occupation, displacement and urban activism, with the aim to strengthen our capacity to imagine alternative strategies of resistance.
A început ploaia is the first documentary about forced evictions in Bucharest, which I written, researched and directed after two years of ethnographic fieldwork, activism and engagement with evicted people in the city.
The film follows the story of the Vulturilor 50 community (100 individuals), whom dwelt on the street of Bucharest from September 2014 to June 2016 in order to fight against the eviction from their home, enacting the longest and most visible protest for housing right in the history of contemporary Romania. The vicissitudes of this community are interpolated with a number of interviews with activists, scholars and politicians, composing a picture that speaks of racial discrimination, homelessness, evictions, but also of grassroots practices of resistance and social change. A început ploaia is the touching testament to the everyday revolution of Roma people fighting forced evictions from the centre of Bucharest, an endeavour made of fragile dwellings, provisional makeshifts and tenuous – but fierce – occupancy of public space.
The European Journal of Homelessness (published by the European Observatory of Homelessness – FEANTSA) has just released the 10 years anniversary issue of the Journal. The issue contains contributions from leading homelessness scholars in Europe, including Nicholas Pleace, Lars Benjaminsen, Marcus Knutagård, Boróka Fehér , Nóra Teller, Vassilis Arapoglou, Dennis Culhane, Nicolas Herault, Guy Johnson and Mike Allen.
I was kindly invited by the main Editor, Eoin O’Sullivan, to contribute to this anniversary issue with a concluding piece. My paper, provocatively entitled ‘Beyond Homelessness Studies’ is an invitation for more plural, action-oriented and interdisciplinary scholarly interventions on homelessness.