Together with my good friends and colleagues Tatiana Thieme (UCL) and Elisabetta Rosa (Université Catholique de Louvain) we have just published a very exciting special issue in City: Analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action. The special issue is about the challenges of ethnographic research at the urban margins and contains contributions from Silvia Aru, Maurizio Memoli & Matteo Puttilli; Tung-Yi Kho; William Monteith; Yimin Zhao; Kavita Ramakrishnan; Tatiana Thieme; and also a paper co-written by myself and Elisabetta (abstract below).
Download the introduction to the special issue here. The same goes for the paper I wrote with Elisabetta, which is available here.
Going in, out, through. A dialogue around long skirts, fried chips, frozen shacks and the makeshifts of ethnography
In this paper, we shift from conventional academic writing toward something similar to a dialogue, an encounter, a few hours spent in a virtual cafe´where we chat and systematically try to excavate our respective ethnographic endeavours. Such experimentation in format is needed, we argue, in order to re-approach the questions characterising in-depth ethnographic work from a different, possibly fresher, perspective, and to communicate those more directly and freely. Rather than embedding our doubts, fears and wishful thinking in academic formalism, we spell those out aloud, as a composite and unfinished flow that touches upon relevant literature but is still raw and grounded in our current and respective fieldwork. Relying on our differentiated works with Roma people in Italy, France and Romania (2004– ongoing), in our dialogue we talk about the challenges of positioning; the construction of new (self)identities; the building of relationships of trust, care and affect, and their break; the role of ethnographic knowledge in activist work; the risk and the certainty of failure; the difficulties associated with entering and leaving the field. The aim of our dialogue is not to offer answers to questions that have been at the centre of the ethnographic discipline since the start, but to open a space of incremental and reciprocal learning that may serve as an inspiration for other young ethnographers like us.
Martina Klausner (Department of European Ethnology, Humboldt-University of Berlin) and myself are organising a session on The everyday makeshifts of life at the urban margins at the upcoming International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) conference, which will take place in Göttingen (Germany) from the 26th till the 30th of March, 2017. I am very happy of working with Martina around this trans-disciplinary experiment between Geography and Anthropology. If you’d like for your work to be considered for inclusion in this session, please upload your abstract on SIEF’s website (http://www.nomadit.co.uk/sief/sief2017/panels.php5?PanelID=5038) by the 07/11/2016. You will receive a notification from us before mid-December.
Here it is our CFP:
Cities with their specific density and intensity offer a variety of resources but at the same time also pose specific impositions for their inhabitants (cf. Schillmeier 2010; MacFarlane 2011). Dwelling in the city – understood as a non-linear way of place making and learning (McFarlane 2011) – demands dealing with those specific urban affordances in creative ways. This is specifically true for people “at the margins”, who assemble their everyday life at the intersection of public infrastructures – from welfare institutions, health care services, sheltered housing, sanitation, transportation – and more mundane matters. A focus on the makeshifts of life at the margin then highlights how bodies, infrastructures, and broader urban processes are being brought together in diverse ways. In our respective works we have approached these makeshifts as processes of assemblage (McFarlane, 2011; Lancione, 2014), infra-making (Lancione and McFalrlane, 2016) and of niching (Niewöhner et al. 2016). Drawing from our own research (which focused on people with mental illness in Berlin, homeless people in Turin and drug users in Bucharest) we want to elaborate on a nuanced approach to the makeshifts of life at the margins and specifically encourage contributions that help to identify convergences and divergences across different marginalised urban groups. Ideally, paper will critically address questions of lived experience and their entanglement with broader urban processes, such as urban policies, state regulation, or infrastructural developments.