Lab members, Michele Lancione, Chiara Cacciotti, Daniela Morpurgo and Rodrigo Castriota, organized the panel Inhabiting Radical Housing: on the politics of inhabitation and intersectional struggles asking for contributions questioning the intersection between ‘housing’ and ‘inhabitation’ to discuss the propositional politics of struggles tackling housing as a gateway for wider forms of liberation, power-geometries and longitudinal forms of dispossession. The two sessions proved extremely rich in content and debate, with scholars from a number of geographies offering nuanced analysis and theorisations of housing and its intersecting forms of injustice (and related struggles).
Other Lab members, Mara Ferreri and Ana Vilenica together with other members of Radical Housing Journal, organized the panel Lexicons of Housing Struggles challenging and questioning the dominance of English language in “internationally valued” academic practice around housing, and fomenting processes of linguistic decolonization, internationalism and counter-generalization.
Along with the organisation of the panels, each one presented individual papers in different panels. Michele Lancione presented a paper on the colonies of ‘home’. Chiara Cacciotti presented on the etymological politics of the lexicon of evictions. Daniela Morpurgo on the challenge of qualitative ethnographic research. While Chiara Iacovone and the former member Devra Waldman presented their work in the Lab’s panel respectively on the peripheral housing financialization in Eastern Europe and on housing-driven extended urbanization in Noida, India. Ana Vilenica presented as Radical Housing Journal collective a choral restitution of what the journal had achieved within emerging solution of radical resistance in the narrative of housing crisis, while Francesca Guarino presented her doctoral work on migrant people practices of repression and hospitality in the context of Palermo, Italy.
The conference was extremely productive and well organised: congratulations to the ICCG team for having provided an excellent moment of scholarly and activist encounter for us all!
On may 16th, 2023, members of the ERC Project Inhabiting Radical Housing (grant n. 851940, PI: Lancione) presented preliminary findings from research work conducted over the last 18 months. Marking the halfway point in this grant, this was an opportunity for us to share our progress thus far and where we are headed in the future.
The event featured a range of interventions on the intersections of home and housing beyond typical conceptualizations of shelter, featuring a rich discussion across a variety of geographies and methodologies. In this blog post we recollect each contribution, while at the end we provide also the full video of the event.
The conference was opened by a thoughtful introduction provided by Francesca Governa, where she situated this ERC-funded project within the broader institutional and disciplinary context in which we operate. She endorses the IRH as a project that goes beyond problem-solving approach of applied research, highlighting the fact that this project is one out of only two ERCs in Geography within the Italian context, and furthers an ethos of research based on critical and radical stances beyond a technocratic approach. By looking at the ‘minor’, this project focuses on emergent practices to open up spaces, showing the possibilities to go beyond given understandings of dwelling, attuning and searching for ways to politicizing the future.
Following, the PI, Michele Lancione, provided an overview of the ERC-project, the collective goal to reframe the epistemologies of the ‘housing question’ beyond policy, the ambitions of the team to investigate the ways housing struggles articulate with other fights against class/race/gender inequalities, the collective study practices conducted through the Beyond Inhabitation Lab. Housing is then understood as a terrain of contestation and its related struggles allow for people to articulate other intersecting struggles.
The first research intervention came from Mara Ferreri, where she invited us to rethink housing policy by asking how housing movements create infrastructures for decommodifcation, respond to deep-rooted mechanisms of dispossession, how they re-imagine inhabitation through and beyond emergent forms of resistance and policies. Providing reflections based on long-term situated research in Catalonia, and incipient research in Piedmont, she urges us to see these radical practices and emergence of new housing models as ‘making kin’, extending notions of commoning, and pushing the notion of policy beyond the containers of the state and the market.
Next, came two thoughtful and reflexive presentations from Ana Vilenica and Veda Popovici on practices and politics of translocal organizing of housing movements. Focusing on the Americas, and reflecting on her experience as an activist and ongoing work with Tenant International in New York, Los Angeles, and Mexico City, Ana provided a wonderful discussion on the possibilities of research as organizing, ways to use conversations between organizers and intellectuals to enrich cross-border solidarities. This was followed by Veda, who situated her experience as an activist in the European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and to the City and ongoing research within this organization to ask how transnational housing activist networks might assemble a transnational political consciousness. Particularly, she argued that the European Action Coalition provides space for witnessing struggles from other contexts in a rapport of both ‘otherness’ and ‘sameness’, consolidating subjectivities anchored in anti-capitalist and anti-racist politics, and radicalizing political work through building comradery.
Conducting work in situated geographies, Rodrigo Castriota, Devra Waldman, Chiara Cacciotti, and Daniela Morpurgo, then presented preliminary findings from ongoing fieldwork. First was Rodrigo, intervening into the intersection of housing and popular economies in Belo Horizonte, Brazil by asking questions about the diversity of ‘home’ as an economic unit, the politics ‘home’ when acquires economic functions, and how the fight for housing articulates with the fight for work. He demonstrated the versatility of spaces in the home used for work (i.e. different rooms in the house, gardens, facades as stores) and different functions the home can provide (i.e. production, storage, exchange, services). Rodrigo also spoke about the ways in which the intersections of home and work impacts affective relationships between residents in the home through negotiations and disputes over use of space for economic activities.
This was followed by Devra Waldman, who working at the intersection of housing and city planning/building in India, discussed how the ‘city’ is made/unmade/remade through housing interventions in the context of extended urbanization. She is interested in how different groups position themselves in relation to the housing and urban future of the city. Devra outlined how developers bet on speculation of the (non)city through starting but not completing large-scale housing projects, migrant laborers and urban-village landlords place bet on continued construction and demolition work circulating through the city, and how the state bets on being able to start over again by issuing approvals to acquire more land in the name housing development and city expansion.
Next, Chiara Cacciotti turned our attention to experiences of squatters’ post-eviction contexts in Rome to ask how the housing political is articulated in the aftermath of eviction, and how these politics intersect with both homemaking and radical practices (such as squatting and housing activist movements). She demonstrated the complexity of practices post-eviction, ranging from a ‘retirement’ of political activist lives and radical practice, to turning to radical activist struggles for social justice (such as anti-racist organizations), to continued investment in the housing movements while managing feelings of loss of networks of sociality and mutual aid that were cultivated through living in squatted environments.
Daniela Morpurgo closed out this part of the conference by discussing her ongoing research investigating the interconnections between sex work and inhabitation. She argued that the intersection between housing and sex work were varied, including that being a sex worker acted as a barrier to accessing housing; that the nature of the work led to feelings of insecurity of being evicted from secured housing; that even housing movements based in squats exclude sex workers due to stigmas associated with their work; that sex workers often face exploitative landlords who charge over market-price for flats; and that affective relationships with housemates are impacted and negotiated because some forms of sex work take place in the home. At the same time, networks of solidarity are formed around searching for housing solutions for exploited workers, and that affective communities around work and inhabitation can be grown.
Following the interventions from the ERC researchers, we were lucky to be joined by Dr. Erin McEIroy (UT-Austin), Dr. Ryan Powell (University of Sheffield), Dr. Margherita Grazioli (GSSI), Dr. Nadia Caruso (DIST), and Francesco Chiodelli (DIST), who all acted as discussants. Each discussant posed thoughtful, sharp, and insightful feedback, questions, and points to consider in future work. Their comments included a reflection on the spatial dimensions of housing inequalities and the place-specificities of situated, ethnographic knowledges (Nadia); the position of the project within the geographies of housing and urban scholarship, teaching and activism in Turin and Italy (Francesco); questions of care in academic endeavours and the role of research in struggles (Erin); how the presentation of our work in progress is opening up the space to historicize relations of oppression and address further intersections (Ryan); and finally, how this project and its attunement to positionality and reflexivity sit both in relation to the urgency of activism and the timings of productivist academia.
Because of the diverse backgrounds, geographies, and fields of expertise of the discussants, a rich dialogue transpired around the broad ambitions of the ERC project at large, the positioning of the project within the politics of the academic institution, issues of positionality and reflexivity across space and place, and issues of knowledge production.
The Beyond Inhabitation Lab invites you to Paris, April 17-21 for a week of collective discussion and engagement on “Urban Life at the Extensions“.
The event, organised by our co-director AbdouMaliq Simone with Lab’s support, will be hosted at the University of London in Paris (ULIP). Dozens of speakers from all over the globe will be engaging in a conversation around urban studies, struggles for inhabitation, issues of homing and housing justice, conceptualisation of extended urbanisation and racial capitalism.
With Chiara Cacciotti and AbdouMaliq Simone we are organising a paper session at the forthcoming EASA conference, Belfast, 26-29 July 2022.
“Inhabiting liminality. Housing precarity in its spatial, political and social dimensions”
Abstracts by 21 March: https://nomadit.co.uk/conference/easa2022/p/11428
This panel will discuss the condition of liminality related to housing precarity by questioning its conventional definition as a temporary in-betweenness, together with how it can become an example of social depotentiation or transform itself into collective political stances.
Conventionally, anthropological understandings of ‘liminality’ define it as a condition of temporary in-betweenness, in which a transition to a differential state is assumed. In other disciplines – such as urban studies – the same notion is related for the most to describe so-called ‘marginal’ contexts. In this panel, we are interested in exploring differential and more nuanced ways of understanding ‘liminality’ beyond current readings. We are doing so, inspired by research that has looked at conditions of housing precarity in a processual and situated way (Baxter and Brickell 2014; Vasudevan 2015), where the ‘liminal’ and the ‘marginal’ cannot be simply defined by ‘transitionary processes’ and/or social exclusion (Thomassen 2014; Cacciotti 2020). With this we mean to explore those situations in which experiences of ‘housing precarity’ show that the ‘liminal’ is both a space of potential annihilation and dispossession, as well as a space that can be inhabited against prevailing forces (Lancione 2020; Simone 2016).
We are interested in contributions that situated experiences of precarious housing and their politics of liminality at the intersection of everyday experiences and longitudinal and structural processes of economic, cultural, societal and racial dispossession.
Through conceptual and empirical work (involving, for example, squats and other informal occupations, evictions, homeless centers, reception centers), this panel will shed light on how a localized liminal and precarious housing condition can become an example of social and economic depotentiation or transform itself into collective political stances.
I am co-organising, with Tatiana Thieme (Cambridge) and Elisabetta Rosa (Aix-Marseille), the following CFP for the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015, Exeter, 2-4 September 2015. Please take it into consideration and feel free to forward it to your contacts. Thanks!
The city and the margins: Ethnographic challenges across makeshift urbanism
Michele Lancione, University of Cambridge (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tatiana Thieme, University of Cambridge (email@example.com)
Elisabetta Rosa, Aix-Marseille University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In recent years urban geographical literature has paid increasing attention to the study of marginality in cities across the globe. In particular, informal settlements, urban peripheries, liminal spaces and those inhabiting these precarious urban contexts are increasingly under scrutiny, showing a growing interest amongst urban scholars in investigating life at the margins (both in the Global North and South). Recognising that macro analyses and desk-studies obscure and essentialise the messy realities on the ground and at the margins, many urban scholars aim to engage in grounded research, and in the process are faced with considerable methodological questions about how the 21st city aught to be studied, let alone the makeshift city in contexts of uncertainty and precarity. ‘The city’ and its protagonists living on the margins are being depicted in relation to everyday modes of incremental encroachments, experimentation, and assemblage urbanism, as reflected in recent developments in urban and geographical scholarship hinging on critical academic reflection, politically engaged research, and granular portraiture of the city’s interstices. This recent urban scholarship invites us to unfold contextual dynamics of the “field” in their performative, affective, and more-than-human articulations. Studying ‘the city’ and the ‘marginal wo/men’ as separate entities, from the standpoint of pre-established theorisation, is thus no longer tenable: urban geographers can only grasp the dynamics of the city and explore the urban margins from the bottom-up.
Ethnographic methods of enquiry seem to have become obligatory passage-points to documenting and analysing the city and its margins. Participant and non-participant observations, semi-structured interviews, diary-taking, and visual methods are just few of the heterogeneous approaches deployed by current urban geographers. Yet, while the literature is rich of fine-grained accounts of how to theorise the contemporary city and its margins, not enough has been said about the empirical context shaping urban ethnographic investigations. Often, locked up between ontological constructivism and epistemological realism, these methodologies are taken-for-granted, leaving out the messy but increasingly valuable vacillations concerning how to define the ‘field’, or how the urban ethnographer should announce his/her presence as a researcher, as opposed to fellow urbanite, pedestrian, or by-stander. Urban ethnographer, put simply, is rarely fully discussed in terms of its implementation, the complex ethical dilemmas concerning positionality, and it is therefore often under-theorised as a contemporary methodology for studying the difficult, invisible, ‘no-go’ and in-between zones of cities. This raises a series of questions:
What does it mean to ethnographically investigate the city today, building on the latest developments in urban and geographical thinking? Are traditional ethnographic methods enough, or do they need to be re-thought alongside theories of ‘cityness’? What does it mean to undertake such ethnographic works at the urban margins? How can one investigate marginality on the ground without diminishing the richness of theory, and how can such investigation open up new scope for theorising life at the margin?
This session will focus on the issue of ethnographic thinking and methods in relation to the investigation of life at the margins, including research related to performances, more-than-human agencies, assemblages, atmospheres and events. We are less interested in discussing the value of ethnography in itself, and instead aim to address some of the following points:
Theorising ethnography, the margins and the vitalist city;
New ethnographic methods for new urban theory;
Re-thinking the margins through ethnography;
Following and tracing the action at the margin: empirical challenges;
Being-in-process and being-assembled: positionality at the margins;
The politics of researching life at the margin today (academia, activism, political relevance);
Issues of comparison in multi-sited ethnographies
The challenge of representation in ethnographic research
Writing ethnography in academy papers: the space of methodological account
Doing ethnography at the margins: the Global North and South
Navigating the ‘field’ in urban ethnography, and negotiating your place within in
Abstracts of no more than 200 words should be sent to all convenors – Michele Lancione (email@example.com), Tatiana Thieme (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Elisabetta Rosa (email@example.com) – by Monday 9th February 2015. We will notify the authors of selected papers by Friday 13th February 2015.
Tomorrow I am going to take part to the 5th Nordic Geographers Meeting, in Reykjavík. I am going to present a paper written with Stewart Clegg, on how Business Schools are responding to the Global Financial Crisis and on the new “creative” take on Business Education. Below the abstract – the paper is currently under review for Management and Learning.
“The Global Financial Crisis and the New Architecture of Business Education”
After the recent financial crisis many Business Schools around the world have felt the necessity to revise their teaching and learning programs, as well as their overall approach to business education and research. They – as “local” entities – are answering to a supposedly “global” threat. New organizational patterns have been created and change has become, in a way, the mantra to incant. The paper investigates what these Business Schools are doing, identifying three main areas of change that represent their “new” model of business education. First, change is reified in the construction of new facilities, manly designed by “star-architects”, whose material architecture makes claims to shaping practices differently from the conventional broadcast mode of large-scale lecture theatres. Second, change take place in the designing of new teaching curricula, characterized by “critical thinking”, “creativity and innovative thinking”, and “experiential learning”. Third, among the set of practices involved in this new ethos (which has already been adopted, to varying degrees, by Business Schools such as Chicago, Harvard, Stanford and Yale), the integration between creative/design approaches and management have had a particular specificity. The paper takes as main (ethnographic) case-study UTS Business School in Sydney, Australia, which is currently undergoing a profound revision that include both a new building designed by Frank Gehry and a new teaching curriculum. On the basis of this case study, the paper offers two contributions. First, it traces how the global changes in Business Education are increasingly becoming inscribed in urban landscapes and teaching activities. Second, it confronts Business Schools with their responsibilities in producing a “new” model of Business education, the consequences of which are still largely unknown and under-investigated.
4 July, 2012 – 7 July, 2012 @ Aalto University & Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland – EGOS 2012, Design?!
I will present a paper (written with Stewart Clegg):
“The chronotopes of change: Actor-networks in a changing Business School”
This paper investigates the process through which the UTS Business School is re-shaping its identity through a process that includes, but is not limited to, the building of a new facility designed by the Canadian architect Frank Gehry (the Dr Chau Chak Wing building), as well as a major revision of the teaching programs. By investigating this project in an Actor-Network Theory fashion, and introducing the notion of chronotope, the paper answers three central questions related to the notion of change: How does organizational change happen in the daily life of a project? What gives unity to a chain of small relational changes? How can processual change possibly be managed? Theoretically, the paper argues that change emerges in the micro-dynamics of organizing, fragments that are sticked together by macro-dominant narratives, in a constant process of translations that occur between human and non-human actants. Moreover, the paper concludes by advancing a particular take on the management of change, which can be pursued only through a constant micro-politics of network maintenance and enactment.
More on my research on the Dr Chau Chak Wing project, here.