New contribution to a forum on minor politics in EPD

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‘).

You can download my paper on this website, at academia.edu or at the EPD: Society and Space webpage.

New paper in Housing Studies: A critical approach to Housing First (with Stefanizzi and Gaboardi)

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).

The paper can be downloaded at Housing Studies website, or for free at this link or on academia.edu. Here is the abstract:

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.

New paper: Revitalising the Uncanny, EPD: Society and Space

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.

You can read the paper’s abstract below and download the full text on this website, on Academia.edu and on EPD: Society and Space’s website.

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 inceput ploaia, ‘my’ first documentary. Why, when, and how.

For updates, please visit the film website at www.ainceputploaia.com (or simply click on the poster)

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 story behind the makings of the movie is long and complex. You can read about it here.

If you would like to know more about the movie, including release date and screenings, please proceed to www.ainceputploaia.com. You can follow my brand new production house – A Community Productions – @acommprod or check its website at www.acommunityproductions.com

Here is the trailer of A început ploaia. Share it wherever you’d like!

New paper: Beyond Homelessness Studies

The European Journal of Homelessness (published by the European Observatory of HomelessnessFEANTSA) 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. 

You can read the whole special issue here, and download my paper on this website, on the EJH’s webpage, or on academia.edu. Critiques and comments are more than welcome (clock here to contact me)!

Check out also the Call for Paper for the EJH’s 2017 research conference in Barcelona, where I’ll be one of the keynote speakers.

 

New paper in S&CG: The activist mode of existence and creative methods

Illustration by Eleonora Leo Mignoli
Illustration by Eleonora Leo Mignoli

Social and Cultural Geography has recently published a paper that took me many years to write and to think upon — it is called The ethnographic novel as activist mode of existence: translating the field with homeless people and beyond. The paper is about the way in which I ‘translated’ my fieldwork with homeless people in Turin into something more powerful than ‘bare’ academic research — namely, a composite book called ‘Il numero 1’ made of a full-length ethnographic novel, a participant introduction, 21 illustration by Eleonora Mignoli and a political essay at the end. The book was oriented toward an activist interventions that I call, following Latour, ‘mode of existence’: a way of doing and living research that exceeds the boundaries of canonical forms of knowledge production and engagement.

I hope this paper will inspire people to experiment with creative methodologies in ways able to de-centre ourselves (as researcher) and re-centre the meaning of what we do in empowering ways. The abstract is below and the paper can be downloaded on S&CG’s website or, for free, on this website or on Academia.edu.

The ethnographic novel as activist mode of existence: translating the field with homeless people and beyond

The paper argues in favor of creative methodologies as tool for relevant academic praxis. It provides the analysis of a concrete case in which a non-academic text – a composite book made of a participant’s introduction, an ethnographic novel, 21 graphic illustrations and a political essay – allowed for a meaningful re-appropriation of a fieldwork with homeless people in Italy. Such re-appropriation is understood and theorized as a research-activist ‘mode of existence’, namely as a way to use creative methodologies to pursue active and emancipatory engagement with vulnerable groups. The paper analyses this ‘mode of existence’ as a process made of several ‘translations’, or orientation toward the same interests, and it clearly shows the role of non-human agencies in their unfolding. Through its more-than-human narrative, the paper provided an innovative contribution to debates on research-activism and a new reflection on how to engage meaningfully with vulnerable groups. The conclusion highlights areas of improvement to further strengthen the activist-research mode of existence presented in the paper.

ps: More about the novel at the centre of the analysis can be found at this page (in Italian).

CFP on the makeshifts of life at the margins @SIEF 2017

screenshot-from-2016-10-04-100704

Martina Klausner (Department of European Ethnology, Humboldt-University of Berlin) and myself are organising a session on The everyday makeshifts of life at the urban margins at the upcoming International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) conference, which will take place in Göttingen (Germany) from the 26th till the 30th of March, 2017. I am very happy of working with Martina around this trans-disciplinary experiment between Geography and Anthropology. If you’d like for your work to be considered for inclusion in this session, please upload your abstract on SIEF’s website (http://www.nomadit.co.uk/sief/sief2017/panels.php5?PanelID=5038) by the 07/11/2016. You will receive a notification from us before mid-December.

Here it is our CFP:

Cities with their specific density and intensity offer a variety of resources but at the same time also pose specific impositions for their inhabitants (cf. Schillmeier 2010; MacFarlane 2011). Dwelling in the city – understood as a non-linear way of place making and learning (McFarlane 2011) – demands dealing with those specific urban affordances in creative ways. This is specifically true for people “at the margins”, who assemble their everyday life at the intersection of public infrastructures – from welfare institutions, health care services, sheltered housing, sanitation, transportation – and more mundane matters. A focus on the makeshifts of life at the margin then highlights how bodies, infrastructures, and broader urban processes are being brought together in diverse ways. In our respective works we have approached these makeshifts as processes of assemblage (McFarlane, 2011; Lancione, 2014), infra-making (Lancione and McFalrlane, 2016) and of niching (Niewöhner et al. 2016). Drawing from our own research (which focused on people with mental illness in Berlin, homeless people in Turin and drug users in Bucharest) we want to elaborate on a nuanced approach to the makeshifts of life at the margins and specifically encourage contributions that help to identify convergences and divergences across different marginalised urban groups. Ideally, paper will critically address questions of lived experience and their entanglement with broader urban processes, such as urban policies, state regulation, or infrastructural developments.

New paper in Transactions: Racialised dissatisfaction and homeless management

Picture by Eleonora Leo Mignoli
Picture by Eleonora Leo Mignoli

It took me a long time but finally is here… my Transactions’ paper on how homeless people negotiate their differences at the margins. The paper shows how the management of the urban poor carries effects on the ways homeless people encounter and negotiate their cultural, societal and ethnic differences. It does so providing a post-human and affect-oriented understanding of the assemblage of difference, which means, in other words, that small urban devices, discourses and atmospheres play a pivotal role in the emergence of positive and negative encounters. The paper introduces the notion of ‘racialised dissatisfaction’ to show how racialised encounters among homeless people can be negatively mediated by services made of precarious material artifacts, normative blueprint to action and negatively charged affective atmospheres. The paper provides also evidence on how less normative and more empowering services are able to trigger positive a-racialised encounters among the homeless people I have encountered. In this regard the theory and ethnography behind this paper can inform the challenges that European cities are facing today: a positive politics of difference passes through the material and affective ways cities will welcome, or not welcome, their most marginalised populations.

I am thankful to many people that made this paper possible. To Ash Amin and Francesca Governa, for their constant support and mentorship, to Transactions for feedback and support, and to many others – including Jonny Darling and Colin McFarlane – for their encouragements. Below you can read the abstract, while the paper can be downloaded on this website, on academia.edu and on Transactions’ website.

Racialised dissatisfaction: homelessness management and the everyday assemblage of difference

Faced with increased waves of refugees, economic migrants and internal vulnerable groups, the challenge for the contemporary European city is to welcome, assist and manage these populations in ways capable of fostering a positive and productive articulation of difference. The paper tackles this issue by investigating the ways in which difference is perceived, negotiated and performed among Italian and migrant homeless people in Turin, Italy. Through the presentation of detailed ethnographic material, the paper proposes a processual and affective take on the everyday assemblage of race and it questions the role of normative spaces in its making. The notion of racialised dissatisfaction is advanced in this sense, signalling how street-level racism among the homeless poor is deeply connected to the broader machinery of homelessness management and the material and affective components of life on the street. Despite its contextualised ethnographic nature, the paper offers insights that encompass the analysed case and advance our theoretical and empirical understanding of everyday life at the urban margins.

New Paper: Life at the urban margins with Colin McFarlane

home_cover

Environment and Planning A has just published a paper that Colin McFarlane and myself have written on the infra-making of sanitation at the margins of Turin and Mumbai. The paper informs debates on comparative urbanism and on urban infrastructure. In this work we bring to the fore two main ideas — first, that is possible compare cities and experiences at the urban margins that seem to share little in common (our ‘experimental comparison’); second, that is useful to think about the makeshifts of sanitation at the urban margins as a form of ‘infra-making’, namely as something mediated by more-than-human agencies and atmospheres. I am glad for this collaboration with Colin and I hope the paper will be able to bring some new life into debates around comparative and critical urbanism.

You can download this contribution clicking here (or here, if you are into Academia.edu). Title and abstract are below.

Life at the urban margins: Sanitation infra-making and the potential of experimental comparison

How is life at the urban margins made and remade? In this paper, we examine this question in relation to ‘sanitation urbanism’, and through attention to what we call ‘infra-making’, defined as the interstitial labour of human and non-human agencies and atmospheres that take place in the production of forms of sanitation. We do so through close engagement to sanitation at the margins of two very different cities across the global North–South divide: Turin and Mumbai. Despite the apparent impossibility of comparing such different cities, in the paper we develop a form of ‘experimental comparison’ that is oriented at understanding the everyday making of specific urban processes around urban sanitation. We argue that a comparative focus on how urban life at the margins is made and remade is important for critical urbanism. Our experimental comparison leads us to a discussion of the relationship between specification and generalisation, in which the latter is positioned not as an end-point but as an informant serving to enlighten understanding and intervention in specific contexts.

Eura 2016: Urban Walk at the Margins of Turin

 

Urban Walk Turin

I am very happy to be part of the EURA 2016 conference in my – adoptive – city of Turin! If you are around, here are just some of the exciting things we’re are gonna do in Turin:

  • We will start on Thursday the 16th at 9pm with the presentation of Alex Vasudevan’s book ‘Metropolitan Preoccupations’ with Francesco Chiodelli and Ola Soderstrom as discussant (all info here)
  • Second, there are the two interesting panels that Elisabetta Rosa and myself have organised around ‘Committed positioning. Politics, activism and ethnographic encounters in the contemporary city‘ (one and two)
  • Third, always with Elisabetta, we have organised a very exciting urban walk at the Margins of Turin. Below you can read our brief, while at the following link you can find more info and additional material: Turin and its margins_Urban Walk_EURA 2016;
  • Lastly, on Saturday at 6.30pm we will also present my own edited book, Rethinking Life at the Margins (all info here, at the bottom of the page).

Please feel free to join us for the urban walk, but write to me ahead if you would like to do so!

Turin at the margins: A view from the bridge

Organisers: Michele Lancione and Elisabetta Rosa

Turin’s marginalised spaces and populations are numerous and nuanced. With this urban walk we aim to approach three of these spaces in order to sense their complexity and invite further explorations and reflections. Conscious of the limits of such exercise, and out of respect for the people that perform spaces, our walk will be centered around two/three bridges that – metaphorically and infrastructurally – connects mainstream Turin to its margins. The first bridge is the Passerella Olimpica, where we will hear the story of the refugees that are currently occupying the ex Olympic Village. The second bridge is the Ponte Carparini, in the Porta Palazzo area, where we will discuss about homelessness and services for homeless people in Turin. The third bridge is on the other side of the city, in the Lungo Stura Lazio’s area (Ponte Amedeo VIII, where we will approach the story of the Roma people living on the river’s banks. This walk is connected to the presentation of the book ‘Rethinking Life at the Margins’, which will be launched at the ‘Via Baltea’ centre in the evening.

At the following link you can find more info and additional material: Turin and its margins_Urban Walk_EURA 2016