Powerful screening of ‘A inceput ploaia’ in Berlin

On Friday 06/06/19 we screened our FCDL documentary film around evictions in Romania at the 11th meeting of the European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City, after a day of workshops and direct action-protest. Although the film has already been screened and debated in more than 35 occasions across Europe (and beyond), this time the night took a powerful turn. The room was filled with activists coming from all corners of the continent watching the 72 minutes of the documentary with attention. They were drawn by its politics. They did not need for somebody to explain it to them: they simply connect to it, watched, and concluded the screening with a very long applause.

The best part took place at the end, in the Q&A session, thanks to the fact that a member of the Vulturilor 50 community was there with us. Emanuel Georgescu – one of the brothers of our comrade Nicoleta – powerfully answered to a number of questions regarding his own experience and the racialized politics of evictions he was subjected too. FCDL member Ioana Florea and myself contributed to the conversation as well, covering a number of points related to the history of restitution and the broader international causes of evictions like that of Vulturilor.

It was a powerful night, which energized many of us and allowed for new bonds to emerge. This is why I spent so much time doing A început ploaia/It started raining: yesterday the role that this film can play as a radical political tool of education, exchange and solidarity came really to the fore.

New paper: Life in the underground of Bucharest, out in IJURR

In 2003 I visited Romania as an Erasmus student and I got hooked. In particular, I got hooked by the encounter that I had with a community of ‘homeless’ people living in an underground chamber close to the Grozăveşti metro station, in Bucharest. From that moment on I kept on being interested in homelessness and housing precarity, and more specifically in the politics of life at the margins. I kept returning to Bucharest in the following years, to finally find myself again in the city in 2014 – this time with the opportunity to engage with it ethnographically (thanks to the Urban Studies Foundation).

During my time there (2014-2016) I became involved with issues of eviction, race, restitution politics and resistance that brought me to become part of the Common Front for the Right to Housing (FCDL), to fight alongside the Vulturilor 50 community, to produce a documentary film, and to write around the Roma resistance and its uncanny politics (in EPD and Geoforum). That, however, was never meant to be my ‘fieldwork’. The latter took place with drug users and ‘homeless’ people mainly in two distinct places in the city, which have nothing to do with the work I undertook around evictions and resistance. These places are the Alea Livezilor in Ferentari – where I worked with the fundamental help of the NGO Carusel – and the underground tunnels passing below the main train station of the city, Gara de Nord (where I encountered the great work of Massimo Branca, and of people like Dan Popescu and Alina Dumitriu).

It took me a while to start writing about Ferentari and Gara de Nord, mainly because I decided to prioritize the political work done with FCDL in Vulturilor. Now, however, I am going back to it and I am very happy to say that my first paper on the Gara de Nord community is now out in IJURR.  This is just the first step of a work that aim to cast a different light on what was going on within that tunnel, before the violent sensationalistic ‘poverty-porn’ of international media lead to its foreclosure.

IJURR has been incredibly supportive, as have been a number of people that I thank in the acknowledgement section of this paper (including Maliq Simone for the inspiring scholarship and friendship, Irina Georgescu, Zamfi Irina and Charlotte Kuhlbrandt for their support in Bucharest, Eleonora Leo Mignoli for the unconditional love). One extra thank to IJURR for making it completely open-source – the paper can be freely downloaded here:

http://www.ijurr.org/article/weird-exoskeletons-propositional-politics-and-the-making-of-home-in-underground-bucharest/

New paper around Urban Precarity in Geoforum

The first paper that I thought and wrote since I’ve joined USP and the Urban Institute at Sheffield is out now in Geoforum.  It is called: ‘The politics of embodied urban precarity: Roma people and the fight for housing in Bucharest, Romania’ and it theorises precarity as an embodied affair, grounded in history and producer of the urban political. It builds on the inspiring works of colleagues like Vasudevan, Brickell, Simone, Roy, Chelcea, Vincze and many others. Crucially, it also builds on my experiences with Frontul Comun pentru Dreptul la Locuire — all the thanks to comrades are in the acknowledgement section. You can download the paper for free on Research Gate.

In its printed version, the paper will be part of a special issue around ‘Precarious urbanism’, edited by Hester Parr, Chris Philo and Ola Söderström. Thanks to them for inviting me to take part to this project!

Here is the abstract:

The politics of embodied urban precarity: Roma people and the fight for housing in Bucharest, Romania

The paper provides a nuanced reading of the ways in which conditions of precarity arising from forced evictions are ‘made’ and ‘unmade’ in their unfolding, offering a way to appreciate their performative politics. Grounded in an activist ethnography of evictions against Roma people in Bucharest, Romania, the work provides a reading of urban precarity as not only an embodied product, but also a producer of the urban political. It advances an innovative methodology to investigate the politics of urban precarity, which focuses around four intersecting processes: the historical pre-makings of precarity; the discursive and material displacement of its in-making; embodied resistance as a form of un-making; and authoritarian responses as its re-making. Through its theoretical and methodological insights, the paper contributes to scholarship interested in a critical understanding of embodiment, politics, and urban precarity beyond the analysed case.

Teaching at the Trento’s Summer School in Ethnography

I am very privileged to teach @UniTrento for their Summer School in Ethnography this week.  This is the 6th edition of this prestigious school, and I am looking forward to meeting the 20 PhD candidates coming from all over Europe to discuss ideas, plans and subversions with them. Thanks to Paolo Boccagni and Ester Gallo for inviting me!

Below an extract of my interventions.

Lecture
Weird Exoskeletons: The Politics of Home in Underground Bucharest
The paper explores the politics of life underground in Bucharest, Romania, and its capacity to invent a home within an infrastructure, and overall socio-technical conditions, which for the many are a matter of uninhabitability. The paper focuses on a canal passing under Bucharest’s central train station, where a community of drug users and homeless people established its home for years. Relying on extensive ethnographic observations, photo-taking, and interviews undertaken within the premises of one of Bucharest’s underground canals, the paper traces and illustrates the socio-material entanglements characterizing life underground. This is an assemblage of bodies, veins, syringes, substances, and various relationships of power and affect, which speaks of drug addiction and extreme marginalization but also of a sense of belonging, reciprocal trustiness, and care. The goal of this work is to trace the emergence of a ‘home’ in the abnormal conditions of life in the tunnels of Gara de Nord and to highlight what that meant in terms of urban politics. The paper contributes to debates around homing practices at the margins of the urban, and it promotes a deeper understanding of the peculiar politics emerging from the assemblage of life underground in Bucharest.
Keywords: Home; Underground; Homelessness; Drug use; Marginality; Bucharest; Gara de Nord.

Seminar
A început ploaia: Video-ethnography and research-activism in Bucharest, Romania
What can video-ethnography do? Can it be relevant at the urban margins and for whom? What are the temporalities and spaces of encounters that a committed video-ethnographic work is confronted with? The paper reflects upon the making of a two-years video-ethnographic project with evicted Roma people in Bucharest, Romania (2014-16). The aim is to provide provisional answers to some of the above questions, relying upon and expanding recent literature around research-activism and more established strands around situated and ‘committed’ forms of positionality. On the basis of the analysis of my documentary work with Roma people in Romania, the seminar discusses three orientations for what a committed form of video-ethnography can do at the urban margins: it can help to align contingencies; it can sustain alliances aimed at challenging the normalisation of expulsion; and it can allow for the composite ‘more-than-representation’ of everyday life at the margins.

New project: Antipode Scholar-Activist Award

Thanks to The Antipode Foundation for awarding the Antipode Scholar-Activist Award to Erin MC ELVeda PopoviciNicoleta NicoIoana FloreaCaro Linaand myself, for our project “How the Roma are fighting back: A diary and guide for resistance against restitutions and forced evictions.” (https://antipodefoundation.org/…/sapa-and-iwa-2018-recipie…/)

The project aims to produce a grassroot diary and guide (in Romanian and English) to inspire resistance and organising in Roma communities facing forced evictions in Eastern Europe and beyond. The multimedia publication will include a printed book (history, diary and guide), and a series of online interactive web-maps. The printed book will be based around the diary of an evicted Roma woman and activist, contextualised through the intersectional history of housing struggles in the country. Because of our activist networks, the volume will be used in workshops with communities facing evictions in Romania and Europe. The project final goal is to increase the level of politicisation and awareness of racially dispossessed Roma communities, thereby enabling future resistance against displacement.

The project continues the activist work that we have been carried in Bucharest in the past few years, together with comrades of the Frontul Comun pentru Dreptul la Locuire. It also resonates with the fights portrayed in my documentary film A Inceput Ploaia/It started raining (available at www.ainceputploaia.com) as well as with scholarly work that I’ve published in EPD: Society and Space and more produced by Erin, Iox and many others!

I am very excited about this Award – thanks again to the foundation. You’ll hear from us soon!

Italian community screenings of A inceput ploaia/It started raining

Several activist groups and communities concerned with the right to housing in Italy have organised screening of my documentary A inceput ploaia/It started raining in the peninsula. One of the aim of this film is precisely that of being used as a ‘excuse’ to allow for genuine discussion around eviction, displacement and the fight for the right to housing to take place in various locales across Europe. After similar screenings in Romania, Hungary, Croatia, the UK, Austria and more, I am particularly happy that this is happening, now also in my native country. From the 15 to the 19 of January 2018, screenings will take place in Rome (two times), Naples, Florence, and more will be organised in Milan and Turin.

The screenings in Rome and Naples are particularly relevant for the kind of political project that the film aim to sustain, which is part of my work with FCDL (The Common Front for the Right to Housing of Bucharest) Below you can find details of those. At www.ainceputploaia.com you can, moreover, watch the documentary in its entirety, with English, Italian and Hungarian subtitles (for subtitles other than English, please go instead to the Vimeo page of the film, here).

 

16th January, Rome – From 6pm at the Squat Metropoliz

Starting from 6pm, we will meet at the squat Metropoliz (which host also the self-managed MAAM). After an aperitivo we will screen the film for the inhabitants of the squat, and in particular for the Roma people living in there (who moved there after having being evicted from a Roma camp some years ago). The idea is to stimulate a debate around the living conditions of Roma people in Rome but also to allow for the Roma of Metropoliz to express their sentiments about the occupation and other political strategies of resistance.

Thanks to my friend and excellent photographer Valerio Muscella for organising the event.

 

17th January, Rome – From 9pm at the Cultural Centre Apollo Undici (via Bixio, 80/A) (Info on Facebook)

Always in Rome, this time at the ‘Centro aggregativo’ and cultural centre Apollo Undici, for a screening that will be followed by a debate featuring the most active, grassroots, voices fighting for housing in the Italian capital. Thanks to the organising efforts of Sandra Annunziata, of EtiCity, a number of incredibly interesting people will take part to the discussion following the film. These includes: the evicted inhabitants of via Curtatone, activists for the ‘Coordinamento di Lotta per la Casa, activists of Action and of Spin Time, representatives from the Sportello di Lotta per la Casa of Magliana, of the anti-eviction network, and of the ‘Comitato Abitanti Milano Sansiro e Asia Milano’.

Thanks to Sandra Annunziata for the organisation, to Giacomo Ravesi for allowing this to happen in the spaces of the Apollo, and to my friend Claudia Meschiari for her original idea and continous support.

 

18th January, Florence – from 6pm at Complesso le Murate (via dell’Agnolo)

This will be a screening and a debate organised for PhD students, focused on participatory visual methods. Giovanni Attili (who worked extensively on visual and participatory methods with Leonie Sandercock) will act as discussant.

Thanks to Francesco Chiodelli and the GSSI for the invitation and sponsorship.

 

19th January, Naples – From 1pm in Scampia and then screening and debate from 6pm at the Ex Asilo Filangieri (Info on Facebook)

This time in Naples, one of my favourite city par excellence, for a full day of talks, debates, screening and food. The screening has been organised at a time of political tension in the city in relation to the housing need of its Roma people. In particular, the aim of this screening is to boost the debate around the conditions of two communities or Roma living in the areas of Scampia and Gianturco. The first, in particular, have faced evictions and relocations, and are now living in very precarious conditions (like many other Roma in the city). To the full day of activities – including a walk in Scampia, meetings with the community and a large debate in the evening – have been invited key figures of this struggle, from local activist to representatives of the affected communities. Below the detailed flier of the event.

Huge thanks to Emiliano Esposito (GSSI) for the idea and effort, to Emma Ferulano for the excellent organisation, to Fabio Amato and to all the other friends from Naples for the energy, time and effort put into this event.

 

Against the financialisation of housing: protests and workshops in Bucharest (5-6 October)

As part of a European campaign promoted by the European Action Coalition aimed at raising awareness around the financialisation of housing, the Frontul Comun Pentru Drept la Locuire (of which I am part) has organised two days of activities on the 5th and 6th of October in Bucharest, Romania. These includes the launch of a national coalition for the right to housing and the city (on the 5th) as well as a public protest (on the 6th) and a three-hours workshop that I will run (always on the 6th).

The workshop is entitled ‘Visual Ethnography for Radical Action‘. In it, I will critically illustrate the making of ‘A inceput ploaia‘, a 72 minutes documentary around the fight for housing in Bucharest, in order to provide an introduction to the use of visual ethnography as a tool for radical action. In the first part of the workshop, issues of positionality, methodology and co-production of knowledge will be illustrated and discussed. In the second part, I will offer an overview of the main challenges associated with visual anthropology, both theoretically and practically. Groups will be organised and participants will be asked to perform a series of exercises around the making of visual analysis and the production of alternative visual representation of marginalised groups. Lastly, the third part of the workshop will consist in group works revolving around the opportunities of visual methods as a tool for radical action in Bucharest and elsewhere in Romania.

To take part in it, please send an email at fcdloc@gmail.com. Clicking on the image below you can download a flyer summarising the content of this workshop. All welcome!

 

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!

Seminar in Sheffield: On forced evictions and visual ethnography

Screenshot from 2016-03-01 16:20:19_3

Tomorrow I will be at the School of Urban Studies and Planning, The University of Sheffield (RJ Room Geography and Urban Studies Building – 17.00 – 18.30). I will deliver a seminar around my work with evicted people in Bucharest, Romania, and I will also spend some time talking about the role of visual ethnography in pursuing research-activist goals.

I want to thank the School for this kind invitation and I am very much looking forward to meet them. Here and below you can retrieve the abstract of my talk, as well as seeing the interesting seminar series that USP put together.

‘Eviction, Enactment and Entanglement: ‘Inertia Creep’ and Committed Positioning at the Urban Margins.’

The paper investigates the case of 100 Roma people evicted from their homes in early September 2014, near the centre of Bucharest, Romania. Soon after the eviction, a wide range of NGOs and grass-roots activists (including the author) mobilised to support them. Their effort included assistance in building provisional shelters on the near-by side-walks, where families and individuals eventually dwell for more than one year in order to demonstrate their dissent. Following the unfolding of this story, and via the presentation of extensive visual-ethnographic material, the paper provides a unique account of the interplay between eviction (from one’s own house), enactment (of a prolonged protest in public space) and entanglement (with the everyday doing of homelessness). The major contribution of this work consists in showing and analysing the role played by an apparently irrelevant power — inertia — in determining the logic of eviction; in moulding the everyday doing of entanglement; and, consequentially, in affecting the political capacities enacted in the protest.

The paper in this sense 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. Moreover, offering some evidence from other ethnographic work carried by the author, the presentation will also reflects upon the intersection between academia and activism arguing in favour of a ‘committed’ form of positioning.

Housing racism on Open Democracy

People right after the eviction III

Open Democracy has published the piece I wrote on Eviction and Housing Racism in Bucharest. The piece narrates the story of the Vulturilor community, which has been living on the street since 1 year following their eviction on the 15th of September 2014.

You can read it here: https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/michele-lancione/eviction-and-housing-racism-in-bucharest

The same piece was translated into Romanian and published by ‘TOTB’. Available at: http://totb.ro/despre-evacuari-si-rasismul-cotidian-in-bucuresti/ 

To know more about Vulturilor, please read the community’s blog.