Assembling Life at the Margins – USF’s presentation

Since one year and a half I’m a Fellow of the Urban Studies Foundation. The USF is a great and somewhat ‘old-school’ institution: they give genuine and consistent support to early career scholars without asking for any neo-liberal matrix to be filled in return. Can you actually believe it?! I invite all early careers to consider the Post-Doctoral scheme of the USF and to attend the events organised by them.

The above video shows the presentation that I gave at the USF in April this year (and here you can find those of my colleagues). The video is a summary of some of the stuff stuff I have been working on in the last year. The presentation is not very exciting – when I delivered it I was in the mist of my 9 months ethnographic fieldwork Romania (namely: exhausted). It offers, however, a good overview of my reasoning around extreme cases of urban marginality, subjectification and the nexus between politics and academia. Now that the fieldwork is over it is time for me to start thinking about the things I have experienced and observed, and to write about them. It’s time, in other words, to turn the USF’s support into something tangible and meaningful (both for them and for my research informants). Let’s hope to make this right – and to keep on rolling!

CFP: ” Assembling life at the “margin”: Critical assemblage thinking and urban marginality”, AAG 2014, Tampa, Florida


I am organising this Call for Paper for the next AAG in Tampa. I look forward to receiving many excellent submissions 😉

Call for Papers: Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting 2014, Tampa, Florida, April 8-12th

Organised by Michele Lancione (UTS, Sydney; Cambridge University from Feb. 2014)

Assembling life at the “margin”: Critical assemblage thinking and urban marginality

Ethnographers, sociologists and urban geographers have mainly looked at the city as the inanimate backdrop against which social, cultural, and economical marginality takes place. Although the literature provides examples of fine-grained and situated accounts of urban poverty and marginality (e.g. Desjarlais 1997; Gowan 2010), it still falls short in taking the urban machinery fully into consideration in the instantiation of life at the margin (Lancione 2013). What role does the urban play in the daily processes of marginalisation? How do more-than-human agencies (Farías and Bender 2010), affective atmospheres (Anderson 2012), resilient materialities (Chattopadhyay 2012), prosaic technologies (Swanton 2013), and the power of care (Darling 2011; DeVerteuil 2012), affect the life of marginalised people? What kind of policy insights can derive from taking the city back into our understanding of the above processes?

This CFP aims to shed new light on how urban marginalities come into being; how they are performed; and constructed/de-constructed in the relational entanglements between the self and the city. The aim is to investigate marginality not as a static condition that can be labelled a-priori (“the homeless”; “the poor”; “the refugee”; etc.) (Ruddick 1996), but to render it in its on-going nuanced development open to the more-than-human and the unpredictable (Bennett 2010). In this sense, one should always be speaking of becoming marginal, and being theoretically and empirically ready to welcome unpredictable changes (Anderson et al. 2012). From this standpoint it will then be possible to confront the normative categorisations that mostly inform public policy making, and provide empirical evidence to support a constructive critique of their drawbacks (Russell, Pusey, and Chatterton 2011). In this sense, we are interested in investigating marginality from an assemblage-like perspective to engage in a positive critical urbanism (McFarlane 2011), aimed at the identification of new possibilities and agencies, and also at the de-framing of canonical knowledge and policies (Amin 2012).

Potential topics include:

• Theorisation of critical assemblage theory and urban marginality
• Methodological insights on an assemblage-driven urban ethnography at the margin
• How does a vitalist approach to marginality differ from canonical scholarship?
• The production of more-than-human subjectivity at the margin
• Contesting categories through theoretical and empirical work
• Becoming marginal
• Passivity, disconnection, and urban marginality
• Power and assemblage theory

Please do not limit to these suggestions; we welcome abstracts with expansive interpretations of these topics and themes (in regards both to cities of the Global North and South). It is envisaged that an edited book proposal – on assembling life at the margin – may be crafted starting from the presented papers. To facilitate discussion, and to be considered for the book proposal, presenters will be encouraged to submit their draft papers to the Organiser at least two weeks prior the beginning of the AAG conference.

Please send proposed titles and abstracts of up to 250 words to Michele Lancione ( by October 16th, 2013. Selected abstracts will be accepted by October 18th in order to allow participants to meet the early bird registration deadline (October 23rd). The deadline will be then extended to the 15th of November, for the ones registering paying the full registration fees.


Amin, A. 2012. Land of Strangers. Cambridge: Polity press.
Anderson, B. 2012. “Affect and Biopower: Towards a Politics of Life.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 37 (1): 28–43.
Anderson, B., M. Kearnes, C. McFarlane, and D. Swanton. 2012. “On Assemblages and Geography.” Dialogues in Human Geography 2 (2): 171–189.
Bennett, J. 2010. Vibrant Matter. A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke University Press.
Chattopadhyay, S. 2012. Unlearning the City. Infrastructure in a New Optical Field. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Darling, J. 2011. “Giving Space: Care, Generosity and Belonging in a UK Asylum Drop-in Centre.” Geoforum 42 (4): 408–417.
Desjarlais, R. 1997. Shelter Blues: Sanity and Selfhood Among the Homeless. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
DeVerteuil, G. 2012. “Does the Punitive Need the Supportive? A Sympathetic Critique of Current Grammars of Urban Injustice.” Antipode 00 (00): no–no. doi:10.1111/anti.12001.
Farías, I., and T. Bender, ed. 2010. Urban Assemblages: How Actor- Network Theory Changes Urban Studies. London: Routledge.
Gowan, T. 2010. Hobos, Hustlers and Back-sliders: Homeless in San Francisco. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Lancione, M. 2013. “Homeless People and the City of Abstract Machines. Assemblage Thinking and the Performative Approach to Homelessness.” Area 45 (3): 358–364.
McFarlane, C. 2011. “On Context.” City 15 (3-4): 375–388.
Ruddick, S. 1996. Young and Homeless in Hollywood. Mapping Social Identities. New York: Routledge.
Russell, B., A. Pusey, and P. Chatterton. 2011. “What Can an Assemblage Do?” City 15 (5): 577–583.
Swanton, D. 2013. “The Steel Plant as Assemblage.” Geoforum 44: 282–291.