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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Clicking on the image below you can download a flyer summarising the content of this workshop. All welcome!
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
The RGS-IBG 2015 is about to start in Exeter. It’s a long time I haven’t took part to one RGS-IBG and I am very much looking forward to it: this year program looks great.
At the conference I’ve co-organised two sessions with Tatiana Thieme and Elisabetta Rosa, called The city and the margins: Ethnographic challenges across makeshift urbanism. The sessions are about doing ethnography at the margins today, in the mist of relevant theoretical changes and methodological challenges. We have a great line-up of 8 papers, starting from 9:00 on Wednesday 02 September (Newman Building – Lecture Theatre A/Blue). The program for the two sessions can be found here and here.
Moreover, on Friday 04 September at 9:00 (Peter Chalk – Room 2.5) I’ll be presenting in Lizzie Richardson, Robert Shaw and Jonathan Silver’s session on Producing Urban Life: Fragility and Socio-Cultural Infrastructures (here is the program). My paper is entitled The infra-structure of injectable drugs in underground Bucharest. The presentation contains some provisional thoughts around my 2003 and 2014/15 research about the underground canals of Bucharest. You can read the abstract below.
The infra-structure of injectable drugs in underground Bucharest
From outdoor consumption taking place in liminal street spaces to indoor practices of injection in marginalised and neglected neighbourhoods, Bucharest presents a variegated cartography of drug-related activities. This is a map made up of subjects, objects, urban atmospheres, discourses and practices that take different forms and paths accordingly to the relative urban infrastructure involved. The paper focuses on one of the latter, namely the teleheating network (known also as ‘district heating’). The network consists of an vast web of undergrounds pipes connecting a centralised heating system to Bucharest’s flats and offices, which are consequentially warmed up by this provision of hot water. In one of the canals hosting the teleheating pipes, which passes right in front of Bucharest’s main train station, a community of drug users has established its home. There, in four connected underground chambers each measuring roughly 8 meters in length, 2 meters at the maximum height and 1.50 meters wide, the aforementioned community sleep, eat and performs the everyday practices of drug consumption. Relying on extensive ethnographic observations, photo-taking, and interviews undertaken within the premises of the canal, the paper traces and illustrates the socio-material infrastructures characterising this space. This is an assemblage of bodies, veins, syringes, substances, and various relationships of power and affect, which speaks of drug addiction and extreme marginalisation but also of sense of belonging, reciprocal trustiness, and care. The conclusions of the paper highlight the political relevance of investigating this community from its own contextual complexity in order to build a non-normative understanding around drug consumption in contemporary Bucharest.
Today Max Daly published his piece on Bucharest’s drug issues on VICE US. Max has focused mainly on the condition of Roma drug users – an entanglement of poverty, lack of fundamental rights and stigmatisation that is second to none.
Max and I have been together in Bucharest in June. I am impressed by its ability to write such a powerful piece only after a few days in the city. Let’s hope that this article, together with a recent one appeared on Drug Link, may raise EU’s attention on the matter, and may allow the excellent people (like these ones) working on harm reduction in Romania to receive adequate funding for their work.
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!
(The text below is a reasoning about the above video, which can be also watched here)
Today I woke up at 3am in order to get my flight back to Romania. I obviously was very tired tonight, having being around all day, but I decided to go to Vulturilor anyway. Good choice. Otherwise I would have missed the encounter with a very respectable Romanian politician: Mr Robert Sorin Negoiță.
Negoiță is the Major of Bucharest’s Sector 3, where the Vulturilor st – and thus the Vulturilor case – belong to. Besides tired people, ruined tents, cold, and a provisional fire (things that belong to the realm of the usual in Vulturilor), one of the first thing that I noticed tonight was a flyer, posted on the iron fences separating people from their old houses. The flyer was calling people to take part to a public meeting, to be hosted in a public space (a park), attended by a public figure: our endearing Robert Sorin.
And so I went, together with one of Vulturilor’s family, which we will call ‘A’ family: mother, father and three beautifully noisy copii (kids). One thing should be said loudly and clear: Negoiță, as any respectable politician would do, was perfectly on time. Seven he stated on the flyer, and at seven he was smilingly taking off his SUV to be embraced by people. By his people. I mean, not the supporters: the bodyguards. A bunch of muscular bodies surrounding him from the very start, of which I will say in a minute.
So Robert Sorin the Great takes off his SUV and is surrounded by people, and family ‘A’ is on the front line. They greet Mr Negoiță, they smile too, and here language is important: when they start talking to him they are very polite – so polite that for a moment I though ‘What the hell is wrong with them?’, ‘Why they do not jump on his head with more anger, having being in the street for almost 60 days?’. But no. Mother ‘A’ and father ‘A’ are just polite citizens inquiring their Major about their own situation: an eviction, which the Major and his predecessors have done nothing to avoid, which put them in the street beaten and dispossessed. So they ask. And it is their right to do so: it is a public meeting, public figure, etc. So mother ‘A’ says (more or less, but the meaning is there): ‘Mister Negoiță, find me a house, since I am on the street since two month, and I have four kids, please [the Romanian-polite version of ‘please’, ‘ve rog eu frumos’)
And Negoiță replies: ‘Are you from Vulturilor?’
Mother ‘A’: ‘Vulturilor 50’
Negoiță: ‘Why don’t you accept … [Pause]… What I have proposed you?’
Here we should recall what Negoiță has proposed to the Vulturilor people: a financial help to rent on the private market. Great, one could say. But one could say so only ignoring some simple facts: that the help is given only for 6 months; that it is not clear if the help is given per person or per family (a quite relevant detail, if you consider that many of these families are quite numerous); that for many of these people will be hard to find a place to rent, since they are Roma, full of kids, and with precarious working conditions; and that, in the end, to tackle a long-term structural problem (the lack of housing) with a short-term financial help is like curing cancer with paracetamol. In this sense, Negoiță’s offer is the classical political manoeuvre: it does not seek to solve the problem (a long-term solution for the evicted people) but only to claim that something has been done, or at least proposed. By refusing the offer, in the eyes of the public the evicted people end up refusing an act of benevolence, of help, and are immediately guilty of ingratitude. (Which is the most common plague for the ‘poor’: they are never satisfied, they are never happy, they want always more).
Father ‘A’ wants something more – more than being an evicted homeless guy. There is a passage in which he clearly states who he is and who he wants to be. He simply states: ‘We work. We pay’.
And here Negoiță replies, brilliantly: ‘Since you work and pay you should rent a flat!’
Father ‘A’: ‘But where?’
Negoiță: ‘The city is full of those!’
Father ‘A’: ‘The city is full… Where?’
The city is full of flat to be rented: Negoiță is right. But he is not portraying the full picture here. Let’s take the following, hypothetical case, as example. You are a researcher coming from the UK and you want to rent a flat in Bucharest. Easily 50% of the housing market is too expensive for you – you with an average income that is at least 5 times that of a Romanian researcher. So you turn your attention to the other 50%. Within this 50%, after many days spent looking around, making phone calls, and many useless appointment, you find a place that could work. In order to rent it, you have however to pay for the first month in advance, to give a deposit equivalent to one month, and to pay a lump-sump to the agent that has brought you to the place. This is a lot of money, even if you are a researcher coming from the UK. Now let’s take the same situation changing characters. Instead of the researcher you have ‘A’ family, composed by two adults having a provisional informal job, and three kids that make noise like a bunch of drunker in an open-air discotheque. Moreover, ‘A’ family does not come from the UK, but belong to the most neglected ethnic minority of the country (and possibly of Europe). Finally, they do not have the luxury of looking for an house while living in a hotel, surfing the web sipping a cold beer – but they have to do so while living in a tent, pissing in an empty parking lot, wearing the same clothes for days, etc. Indeed, Negoiță is right. The city is full of flats to be rent. But there are not enough ‘right’ people that could eventually rent them.
However, this is just part of the story. The reason why I am so glad that I went to this public meeting is not because I finally saw Negoiță’s smile (all my pleasure, really), but because I felt, bodily felt, the violence of a State, of a City and of a Town Hall that do not care about their people, do not care about dialogue, but simply try to harass and control; to appear and to hide; to go straight without ever turning back. I invite you to look closely at the short video posted above. Beside the bare fact that Negoiță run away as soon as ‘A’ family started questioning him – therefore reducing his public meeting to a matter of minutes – there are other interesting details to highlight. Have you noticed the numerous shoulders and harms that appeared in front of my camera as soon as I started filming the exchange? Did you pay attention to the flashes fired directly into my camera’s objective, in order to disrupt the filming? Did you see the guy stretching his harm in front of me, tactically impeding me to film? Or have you paid attention to the cohort of three-four guys whom, like a human wall, impede me to follow Negoiță’s escape? What surely you could not notice from the video are the numerous kicks, the bumps on my backpack, the two tackles I received from the back, the people suddenly crossing my path thus impeding me to move, and the overall bodily pressure ‘to stay back’, to do not advance, to be in place. A place, that of ‘A’ family and I, which obviously should not be the same as Negoiță’s.
But there is one more thing that is impossible to get from the video: this is the overall affective atmosphere of the place. For a moment I felt in danger – the eyes, the hands, the kicks, the muffled words. I felt in danger for ‘A’ family, which courageous exposed themselves in that meeting, and for the kid I was carrying by hand during the all duration of the video. What could have happened if I would have run toward Mr Robert Sorin Negoiță? Would have his bodyguards – who were dressed in civil clothes, such that one could not distinguish them from the crowd – allowed me and the kid to safely arrive at destination? Would have this man, this Major, this public figure, accepted a civil questioning? I did not had the chance to prove him, since he surrounded himself with men purposely trained to safeguard him from such endeavour.
What happened tonight is sad. I wish more cameras and more people were there, to catch the details of an only namely ‘public’ machine that does not allow its own citizens to peacefully question their Major. What happened tonight is sad because one should not fear such public events.
In Italy, when I was younger, I attended many public protest against the extreme rights and other fascist movements. At the time it was easier to see the enemy, to tackle it, and to defend oneself. Tonight I felt that the enemy here – in the Vulturilor case and possibly not only – is subtler, less evident, but still ready to let its violence (being that verbal or physical) to be discharged. I invite Mr Negoiță to prove me wrong: let’s have a true public meeting, one in which we can discuss the point listed above, without the need for someone’s body to intrude, to stop, to control. I do not know if this is going to happen. What I know is that tonight was a short, sad, night but also one that charged me with hope. Look at what ‘A’ family can do. I felt in danger, but is Negoiță the one who run away. And this is only thanks to ‘A’ family. One of the many families struggling against the madness of eviction and the nonsense of a privatize public realm.