Infrastructure, Inequality and the Neo-Apartheid City – USF seminar series @Newcastle

I am very happy to take part in the third and last event in the “Infrastructure, Inequality and the Neo-Apartheid City” series, organised by Dr Mori Ram, Dr Charlotte Lemanski, and Prof. Haim Yacobi with the support of the Urban Studies Foundation. Info about the whole series, here.

The third event, entitled “Mobility and Movement beyond Apartheid” will take place online on 09 December 2021, from 10.00am to 4.00pm (UK time). It will concentrate on the ability to connect or disconnect residents from the city by critically exploring how infrastructures of transportation and mobility determine who can move freely, to where, and in what speed and frequency. Infrastructure is crucial to any analysis of political mobility and movement. At the same time, regimes of separation solidify social and political (in)equality that hinder the ability to relocate and sets the urban conditions that reorganize human capacity to move, settle and reside.

My paper will be titled Infrastructural violence and the impossible possibility of ‘home’.

Register here for the event. Thanks!

Keynote at the RGS-IBG Urban Geography conference with Veda Popovici (18 Nov)

This Friday, with my beloved sister, comrade and friend Veda Popovici, we will give one of the keynotes at the 2021 RGS-IBG Urban Geography Research Group Annual Conference ‘Cities of Hope’.
I am thrilled to share the floor with the amazing Gautam Bhan, Loretta Lees, Verónica Gago and their partners.
With Veda we are going to talk on “The false symmetry of research-activism. Towards accomplicenship and undercommon praxis”.
Friday 19th, from 10am UTC.

The false symmetry of research-activism. Towards accomplicenship and undercommon praxis, Michele Lancione in conversation with Veda Popovici.

Academia and activism have long been exploring their intersections, overlaps and tensions. Going beyond a reductive “make academia more activist” slogan, we propose to start by exploring the false symmetry of academia vs activism from epistemological, material and geopolitical perspectives. With these in mind, we raise the questions: what is the starting point of a shared space between organising and the academy? What kind of epistemological change is needed in academia to work with organising? How can we work with the academia’s privileges for political struggle? We propose the concepts of accomplicenship and undercommon praxis to anchor a politics of duplicity (as opposed to one of authenticity) committed to radical redistribution and movement sustainability.

Frontex out of our Universities! Articles in l’Internazionale and il Manifesto + Petition

Two major news outlets, among others,  are talking of this matter today in Italy (my original story is here).

Francesca Spinelli interviewed me for the Internazionale , while il Manifesto has published a collective letter of Italian academics working on migrations to keep #Frontex out of our Academic Institutions.

A nationwide campaign has also started from the grassroots, at Lasciateci Entrare.

Keynote on Planning for Social Justice at DASTU, in Milan w/Oren Yftachel

Tomorrow I will be delivering one of the keynotes at the “Planning for Social Justice” event DAStU – Politecnico di Milano, at 9:30am CET

I am excited to share the floor with my City – Analysis of Urban Change, Theory and Action comrade, the wonderful Oren Yiftachel

The event is also online, info: https://www.eccellenza.dastu.polimi.it/2021/10/25/planning-for-social-justice-conference-02-11-2021/

I will be presenting on Inhabiting Racialised Dispossession in Bucharest, Romania

Below is the full event’s poster.

My University works with Frontex: not in my name

My Department at the Polytechnic of Turin is creating maps for Frontex, the EU border control agency, which is involved in the violent pushbacks of refugees.

I wrote to Altreconomia – the magazine that broke the story – to dissociate myself and to fight this agreement. The full story is available on their website: https://altreconomia.it/non-a-fianco-di-frontex-chi-si-dissocia-dallaccordo-del-politecnico-di-torino/

I have translated the piece in English below.

With a few colleagues we have been fighting this agreement since July when it was announced, and we will continue to fight it now. This public statement is a message for students and partners. Some of us are not silent, some of us are vigil, some of us will not stay put. Universities are complicit in bordering and racial violence: it needs to stop.

UPDATE 4-11-2021: Two major news outlets, among others,  are talking of this matter today in Italy. Francesca Spinelli interviewed me for the Internazionale , while il Manifesto has published a collective letter of Italian academics working on migrations to keep #Frontex out of our Academic Institutions. A nationwide campaign has also started from the grassroots, at Lasciateci Entrare.

 

Not alongside Frontex

 

           “The deeds were monstrous, but the doer […] was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous.”

              Hannah Arendt

I am an academic from the Interuniversity Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning (DIST) of the Politecnico and the University of Turin. I am writing this text to publicly dissociate myself from the agreement signed between my Department, the Politecnico di Torino, Ithaca Srl and Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

As an article published by the magazine Antreconomia points out, the agreement, which involves the production of cartography at my Department’s laboratories on behalf of Frontex, was announced on July 14, 2021, by press release. In the communiqué, it is stated that DIST and Ithaca will be involved in the production of digital cartography, infographic maps and map books useful for the Agency’s work“. On an intellectual and human level, I am not represented by the position of the institution I work for, which has chosen to define the agreement with Frontex as a project that “fits perfectly into the strategic objective of the Department”. The issue, however, is not only personal but political.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency has been accused by NGOs, activists, and international agencies on several occasions of being directly involved in the violent deportations of migrants at European borders. The most notorious is the Greek case, now before the European Court of Justice, where we are sure of the illegality of the Agency’s forced removals and its role in destroying documents that show the illegal use of force to return refugees to Turkey. This episode is just the culmination of a strategy operated by the European Union, through Frontex, to manage the EU’s borders through expulsive, racialising and lethal principles against those who move to seek protection on the continent.

As a critical academic and a citizen engaged, through the privilege of my position, in understanding and combating the structural and mundane violence constructing, and managing, the racialised “other”, I have done everything in my power to highlight the gravity of this agreement between a public university – my Department – and Frontex. I mobilised with some colleagues since July 14 (the day I learned about the contract) to question what was decided. We spoke out in the departmental council, where the agreement was presented, highlighting the gravity of the decision. We then worked to understand whether it was possible to cancel the contract. We also asked that this activity should not be carried out on behalf of the whole Department, but that the individuals involved should take the weight and responsibility of their action. On all fronts, the responses were negative: we received just offers of dialogue, discussion, and matter of internal power-balancing. But this is not enough.

The problem here is not just in the kind of data that Ithaca and my Department will provide to Frontex. The researchers involved in the project say it is open source, harmless data. Beyond the fact that no data is ever harmless, the issue is about lending one’s name – individual and institutional – to legitimise the work of an agency like Frontex. Because this is what you do, when you collaborate: you help the violent and expulsive apparatus of the European Union to legitimise itself, to clothe itself with scientific objectivity, to reduce everything to a technical issue that reproduces its evil by turning it into a passing of documents between hands. History should have taught us something in this respect in Europe, but clearly, we have learned nothing.

The Department has chosen to continue the agreement, inviting me and some colleagues who have expressed reservations to contribute to its development by highlighting the problematic aspects of Frontex’s activity. It has also decided not to publicly represent our dissent, preferring the line of silence, which is also that of the Polytechnic.

However, I believe it is impossible to work with those who, like Frontex, repel, foment xenophobia, and kill. With this text, I dissociate myself from the agreement. At the same time, I renew my commitment to my students, colleagues and partners who will always find, in my Department and at the Politecnico di Torino, tools and spaces for radical criticism, which requires a precise positioning: not alongside Frontex.

Michele Lancione, Full Professor of Political-Economic Geography, DIST, Turin

 

Announcing post-docs hired for my ERC Inhabiting Radical Housing project

I am very thrilled to be able to announce the post-docs joining (Jan22) my European Research Council #InhabitingRadicalHousing project at DIST – Dip. Interateneo di Scienze, Progetto e Politiche del Territorio.

Intersectional takes on #housingstruggles:

  • Devra Waldman, postcoloniality, India
  • Oluwafemi Olajde, pol economy, Nigeria
  • Rayna Rusenko, critical global policy
  • Rodrigo Castriota extended urban in the Amazons, Brazil

Devra, Femi, Rayna & Rodrigo have 3 years with us and are joined by

  • Chiara Cacciotti, wonderful ethnographer squatting (1y post-doc)
  • Daniela Morpurgo, on sex work-migration-housing (1y post-doc)
  • Saanchi Saxena new exciting PhD candidate working on women street vendors in Mumbai

Devra, Femi, Rayna, and Rodrigo have deep knowledge of their geographies and have contributed already to debates on decolonial, critical race, and intersectional urban studies in Journals such as Antipode, EPD, Urban Studies, and more. Chiara and Daniela have published extensively too, and Saanchi co-funded a platform to disseminate scholarship beyond academia. This is really an outstanding team.

On top of all this, in due course, we will also launch a new #BeyondInhabitation lab here in Turin with AbdouMaliq Simone (more soon!)

I want to thank the over 60+ applicants for these jobs: competition was very high and selection very difficult. I also want to thank the wonderful Stefania Guarini who solved so much of the bureaucratic mess that I had to face for these international hirings! Today I am celebrating, so I won’t say much about that..

A final 3-year senior research position (RTDA) will be advertised in the coming weeks – watch this space.

Peace & Power

Teaching new module on Geography, Theory & Practice in Turin

 

I am happy to begin teaching today on a new introductory module that I have designed, on Geography, Theory & Practice in Turin, with a focus on the colonial roots of the discipline, discussing critical grammars of genderised, racialised & uneven spatialities.
 
Looking forward to trying it out, and then to expand and share the syllabus in the coming years.
I am thankful to my dear friend and colleague Ana Vilenica for helping out with the preparation of this module. Program is below – cheers!

 

 

Geography, theory and practice

Programme and calendar 2021-2022

 

Michele Lancione, Full Professor of Economic and Political Geography

michele.lancione@polito.it

 

Objective

The course offers an introduction to critical geographical thinking, with particular reference to how it developed in the past decades in Anglophone Geography. The aim is to provide a concise, yet rich, introduction to a number of key concerns related to the critical understanding of space, place, scale and related processes. Key notions and approaches derived from political economy, relational spatial thinking, critical gender and race studies, political ecology will be presented and discussed. The course mixes frontal lectures with moments of in-depth reading of academic texts, as well as discussion of contemporary societal issues at the global scale. The final part of the module provides a glance at some of the most common qualitative research methods in Human Geography, analysing their ethical implications and the role of Academics (including students) in the (re)production of unjust spaces.

 

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding. The students will acquire understanding of the main aspects of contemporary critical geographical thinking, its evolution and main debates. They will also acquire specific knowledge on debates related to urban inequalities, gender and racial injustice, critical relational thinking the use of qualitative methods in human geography.

Ability to apply knowledge and understanding. At the end of this course the student will be able to: analyse contemporary social and spatial phenomena intersecting multiple critical perspectives; they will be able to move within the international academic literature in the broader field of critical Human and Urban Geography; and they will acquire the basic skills set to write essays analysing contemporary social and spatial issue critically.

Autonomy of judgement. Students will learn how to question mainstream narratives related to key issues of our times including, but not limited to, uneven spatial development, entranced gendered and racialised violence, and the role of the Academy in both questioning and reproducing injustice.

Communication skills. At the end of the course students will acquire the basic conceptual grammar, in the English language, needed to investigate space and spatial processes critically.

Learning skills. Students will acquire the capacity to independently work with critical theories and methods in Human Geography.

 

Teaching modality

The course lasts 54 hours (9 CFU), structured along 10 weeks, including frontal lectures, seminars and workshops. Please note that sessions will be live streamed, but not video-recorded. Slides will not be shared, unless for students with proven learning difficulties.

The different sessions are characterised as follows:

· Core lectures (three-hour long each): To provide foundational understandings around critical theory and practice of geographical thinking

· Seminars (two and three-hour long each): Guided reading sessions, to offer the opportunity of engaging with key geographical writings and documentary taken from international scholarship. Seminars will be based on the provided key readings, and an additional reading list will be provided to students who are willing to expand on the subjects

· Workshops (three-hour long each): To reflect, on a workshop-style fashion, on contemporary news, using the conceptual toolkit offered by the course

 

Examination modality

For attendees

You are expected to read all key readings, suggested for each lecture, which will be discussed during the live seminars. Alongside what is presented during the lectures, the readings will serve the basis for the two components of your examination:

· A 1.500-2000 words written essay, which will count for the 30% of the final grade, to be focused on one of the themes explored in the course. The workshops will provide students with ideas on what to focus and on how to structure their essay

· An oral examination, which will count for 70% of the final grade, to be focused on the themes and literatures explored in the course

 

For non-attendees

You are expected to read all key readings, suggested for each lecture and to integrate those with the following text:

                     Cresswell, T. (2013). Geographic Thought. Wiley-Blackwell: London

Your examination will be focused on two components:

· A 1.500-2000 words written essay, which will count for the 30% of the final grade, to be focused on one of the themes explored in the course, on the basis of the readings suggested

· An oral examination, which will count for 70% of the final grade, to be focused on the themes and literatures explored in the course, as well as on Cresswell’s book

 

  

Program and reading lists

 

Please note: the list of readings below is a basic one, to accompany you into several key debates in the discipline. Further readings will be provided once you have chosen your topic of interest for the final exam.

 

WEEK I) For a critical geography of space

· Lecture – 4/10/21, thee hours – Introduction to the course; The colonial substratum of geographical knowledge; The birth of critical geography: on the capitalist production of space; Overview of contemporary critical spatial approaches

· Seminar – 5/10/21, two hours: Reading on capitalism and the production of space

Key readings:

Harvey, D. (1992) ‘Social Justice, Postmodernism and the City’. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 16 (4): 588–601.

Massey, D. (1993). ‘Power Geometry and a Progressive Sense of Place’. In Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change, edited by J Bird, B Curtis, T Putnam, G Robertson, and L Tickner. London: Routledge.

Peck, J., and A. Tickell. (2002) ‘Neoliberalizing Space’. Antipode 34 (3): 380–404.

 

WEEK II) Thinking space relationally

· Lecture – 11/10/21, thee hours Postmodern and post-structuralist geographies; Relational geographies and political ecologies; Power and biopower; Affects, atmospheres, ontologies

· Seminar – 12/10/21, two hours Reading of place, bodies and power

Key readings:

Amin, A. (2015). Animated space. Public Culture, 27(2), 239–258.

Lancione, M. (Ed.). (2016). Rethinking life at the margins: The assemblage of contexts, subjects and politics. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group – ONLY the intro

Nash, C. (2000). Performativity in practice: Some recent work in cultural geography. Progress in Human Geography, 24(4), 653–664.

Philo, C. (2012). A ‘new Foucault’with lively implications–or ‘the crawfish advances sideways’. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 37(4), 496–514.

 

WEEK III) Uneven development

· Lecture – 18/10/21, thee hours  Understanding inequalities; Segregation, social justice, marginality, and banishment; Homelessness and the spatial construction of the ‘other’

· Seminar – 19/10/21, two hours Readings on marginality and racial capitalism

Key readings:

Caldeira, T. (2009). Marginality, Again⁈. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 33(3), 848–853.

Roy, A. (2019). Racial Banishment. In Keywords in Radical Geography: Antipode at 50th. Wiley-Blackwell : London

Thieme, T. (2013). The “hustle” amongst youth entrepreneurs in Mathare’s informal waste economy. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 7(3), 389–412.

Wacquant, L. (1999). Urban Marginality in the Coming Millennium. Urban Studies, 36(10), 1639–1647.

 

WEEK IV) The spatial grammars of race and gender

· Lecture – 25/10/21, three hours Approaching ‘difference’ critically; Thinking dis/possession; Feminist and queer spatial grammars

Key readings:

Derickson, K. D. (2017). Urban geography II: Urban geography in the Age of Ferguson. Progress in Human Geography, 41(2), 230–244.

Hawthorne, C. (2019). Black matters are spatial matters: Black geographies for the twenty‐first century. Geography Compass, 13(11).

Kern, L. (2020). Feminists City. Verso: London and New York – ONLY the intro

 

WEEK V) Elements of geographical thinking: A global urban world

· Lecture – 8/11/21, three hours A critical approach to the urban; Urban grounds; Comparative urbanism?; Southern urbanism

· Seminar – 9/11/21, three hours Reading on feminist geographies (previous lecture), southern and global urbanism

Key readings:

Lancione, M., & McFarlane, C. (2021). Navigating the global urban. In M. Lancione & C. McFarlane (Eds.), Global Urbanism (1st ed., pp. 3–13). Routledge: London

Roy, A. (2011). Slumdog Cities: Rethinking Subaltern Urbanism. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35(2), 223–238.

Simone, A. (2001). Straddling the Divides: Remaking Associational Life in the Informal African City. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 25(1), 102–117.

 

WEEK VI) Elements of geographical thinking: Housing and the struggle for inhabitation

· Lecture – 15/11/21, three hours  What is ‘home’?; Eviction; Dis/possession; The 2008 ‘crisis’; COVID-19 and housing

· Seminar – 16/11/21, three hours Reading on geographies of housing and its struggles

Key readings:

Baker, A. (2020). From eviction to evicting: Rethinking the technologies, lives and power sustaining displacement. Progress in Human Geography, 030913252091079.

García-Lamarca, M. (2017). Creating political subjects: Collective knowledge and action to enact housing rights in Spain. Community Development Journal, 52(3), 421–435.

Fields, D. (2015). Contesting the Financialization of Urban Space: Community Organizations and the Struggle to Preserve Affordable Rental Housing in New York City. Journal of Urban Affairs, 37(2), 144–165.

 

WEEK VII) Elements of geographical thinking: Rioting, protesting, organising

· Lecture – 22/11/21, three hours  What is a ‘riot’?; Urban activism; Resistance and utopic geographical thinking; ‘Race riots in the US city’; ‘Housing unrest in the EU city’

· Seminar – 23/11/21, three hours Reading on geographies of struggle

Key readings:

Amin, A. (2003). Unruly Strangers? The 2001 Urban Riots in Britain. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 27(2), 460–463.

Askins, K., & Mason, K. (2012). Us and Us: Agonism , Non-Violence and the Relational Spaces of Civic Activism. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 14(2), 422–430.

Iveson, K. (2013). Cities within the City: Do-It-Yourself Urbanism and the Right to the City: Do-it-yourself urbanism and the right to the city. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37(3), 941–956.

 

WEEK VIII) Qualitative methods in-&-out

· Lecture – 29/11/21, three hours Cultural turn and the challenge of ethics; The craft of observation: Ethnography and geography; Visual cultures: approaching text otherwise

· Seminar – 30/11/21, three hours Reading on ethnographic writing, and then collective exercise on how to write an academic essay in Geography

Key readings:

Butz, D., & Besio, K. (2009). Autoethnography. Geography Compass, 3(5), 1660–1674.

Lassiter, L. E. (2001). From ‘reading over the shoulders of natives’ to ‘reading alongside natives,’ literally: Toward a collaborative and reciprocal ethnography. Journal of Anthropological Research, 57(2), 137–149.

Rose, G. (1997). Situating knowledges: Positionality, reflexivities and other tactics. Progress in Human Geography, 21, 305–320.

 

WEEK IX) What a geographer can do: the politics of geographical research

· Lecture – 6/12/21, three hours Encounters and representations; Participation, engagement, research-activism?; The undercommons;

· Seminar – 7/12/21, three hours Watching an activist-research collective documentary on racialised evictions in Bucharest, Romania and collective reflection on engaged research

Key readings:

Lancione, M. (2019). Caring for the endurance of a collective struggle. Dialogues in Human Geography, 9(2), 216–219.

Moten, F., & Harney, S. (2004). The University and the Undercommons. Social Text, 22(2), 101–115.

Vilenica, A. (2019). Becoming an accomplice in housing struggles on Vulturilor Street. Dialogues in Human Geography, 9(2), 210–213. https://doi.org/10.1177/2043820619850352

 

WEEK X) Preparing for the exam

· Workshop13/12/21, three hours Feedback on the course and planning for final essay

· Workshop – 14/12/21, three hours Planning for final essay

 

 

Recommended readings

The readings for each lecture, which are going to compose the basis for the exam, are listed above. Additional readings can be provided on each topic. The papers can be accessed in the course’s folder (link in the note below).

Additionally, for students who’d like to have a manual of reference (mandatory for non-attendees) they can refer to:

Cresswell, T. (2013). Geographic Thought. Wiley-Blackwell: London

Keynote in Berlin on dispossession and minor activism

After a long time of no-travelling, and a very tough couple of years, I now have the privilege to travel to Berlin (by train!) to take part in a very interesting event put together by my good friend Piotr Goldstein titled Migrant and Minority Activism: Between protest movements and everyday engagement.

I am excited to deliver the keynote at the end of the first day, where I will try to link together years of research in Bucharest, Romania, around racialised dispossession, radical housing and activism. The title of my talk will be, Inhabiting dispossession in the post-socialist city: storylines, embodied struggles, and emplacement

The event is organised by ZOiS Berlinand the EASA Anthropology of Social Movements Network. More info on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/834122970514959/?active_tab=discussion

Roundtable on housing with Gago, Khosla, Williamson & myself at UK-Ireland Planning Conference

If you are attending the UK-Ireland Planning Research Conference, don’t miss tomorrow’s (9th Sept 2021) roundtable on ‘Worldwide perspectives on (in)justice in planning with a focus on housing precarity’.

Featuring Verónica Gago, Renu Khosla, Theresa Williamson and myself.

Thanks to the wonderful Gabriel Silvestre, Cat Button and Helen Underhill for organising it!

https://www.ncl.ac.uk/apl/events/item/ukireplannconf2021/

 

Another junior post-doc available on my ERC – Deadline 04 Aug

Oggi è uscito un ulteriore bando per un assegno junior sul mio progetto ERC — si tratta di un anno rinnovabile, aperto a persone interessate alla componente gestionale e di programmazione europea del progetto.

Il lavoro consisterà nell’approfondire con me tutta la questione etica del programma di lavoro, nell’approntare il Beyond Inhabitation Lab, e nello sviluppare la carriera del ricercatore/trice nell’ambito della geografia critica della marginalità.

Scade: 04/08/21 ore 15

Requisiti: Parlare fluentemente Inglese; Pubblicazioni di livello internationale negli studi urbani; Ricollocamento a Torino