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CRITICAL. | URBAN. | QUESTIONS. | Giovanni Picker's research blog

Updated: 2017-08-19T21:27:45.093+01:00


CfP: The "Purified" City - RC21 (Urbino, Aug 2015)


The Making and Unmaking of Urban Closures: Scrutinizing the ‘Purified’ City

Deadline for abstract submission: January 31, 2015

Organiser: Giovanni Picker (Central European University, HU); Silvia Pasquetti (University of Cambridge, UK).


While challenged or obfuscated by perspectives such as multiculturalism and hybridity, the ‘ideal’ city often evokes hygenized and purified urban spaces, which are divided along class, race, and nationality. Mary Douglas and Julia Kristeva, among others, have highlighted the role of ideas of purity and pollution in structuring social relations and subjectivities. Studies on sex and gender urban divisions, sanitation, and, more broadly, ‘technological networks’ within cities have deployed the concepts of purity and pollution as meta-phenomena relating to certain symbolic meanings, but not as broader ideals actively shaping social relations.
This session aims to address how the paired concepts of purity and pollution shape urban policy, public discourses, everyday practices, and their related negotiations, critiques and resistances. In particular, we will address the making and unmaking of urban closures, which are intended as both splitted spatial configurations and mental and symbolic processes of purified partitioning.
We seek papers focusing on:
  • the (de)formation of purified urban localities,
  • the production and working of hygenized mental maps,
  • the role of ideals of purity within cities.
We are equally interested in papers looking at how purified urban configurations are lived through, negotiated, and transgressed. In examining these questions, the sessions invites papers that explore specific historical or contemporary case studies, engage in broader theoretical reflections, as well as papers that approach the making and unmaking of urban closures from a comparative and global perspective.(image)

Expulsion order to 18 Romanian Romani families in Montreuil


That's an interesting issue. I'm doing fieldwork in Montreuil, near Paris; yesterday with an activist we went to see a number of Romanian Romani families squatting a building which was given to them four years ago by the municipality. They welcomed us and showed us an  ordinance to quit the French territory within 30 days 

(click the link to see the document)

The previous day 10 police vans went there and distributed this document to all 18 families. It's time to act and try to find all legal possible ways in order to stop this expulsion.


The Black Atlantic @ 20


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="//" width="480">(image)

Keti Koti 2014 - Celebration, Protest, Commemoration


"The chains are cut" (Keti Koti in Surinamese - Sranantongo) is the Emancipation Day, in which the end of slavery in Suriname is remembered (legally 1963, de facto 1973). Since 2009, every July 1st there are joyful initiatives all across Dutch cities, and Amsterdam hosts probably the largest Keti Koti festival. I was there, the day before yesterday. After a long demonstration from Waterlooplein all the way to Oosterpark, we entered the park which was turned into a great fair of music, cerimonies, speeches, and debates, all surrounded by Surinamese and other types of food, drinks and handicrafts. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' /> It was very interesting to listen to the Minister of Social Affairs' speech. After a group of black activists interrupted the cerimony, reading an articulated critique of the current government (see below) the Minister started off with an emphasis on the present-day conditions of social inequalities and racism to which too many people of colour in the Netherlands are subjected. When I first heard that,  I was positively impressed - It's important, I thought, not to celebrate the end of slavery without  mentioning the continuing legacy of colonialism in present-day Netherlands and Europe  altogether. But when the Minister emphasised the importance of 'working together' - meaning Blacks and Whites - in the fight against discrimination and intolerance, everything became suddenly much less surprising. He repeted two or three times the idea that 'we should fight together'.I thought - why is he saying this? Who is he trying to convince? Why does he think the audience (many people of Surinamese background) would think differently? How is it even possible to imagine that anyone in the audience would not accept white allies? As long as allies are real allies, why would they not be accepted? This kind of questions could potentially be innumerous, and yet, probably they would all get the same answer: he did not ignore who he was talking to, he was probably performing the 'good' white ally, thinking that this would mean that he could deliver the same speech to a white audience (he is not bothered by colour, he is not racist!). If this is the case,  it comes to mind what Goldberg calls 'the arrogant white alchemy of racelessness'  (2002: 225).150 years after the abolition of slavery, no compensation has been paid to the families of the victims. And no political party in the Netherlands has inserted this issue, nor the issue of racism as such, in its program. Yet, 'we should fight together', yes, indeed.As the black activists said (see video): "The politicians do not take us seriously and don't do anything for us. After years of protests, demonstrations and dialogue against Zwarte Piet, our Prime Minister Rutte still said: "Black Pete is Black, I can't change anything about it. After years of dialogue, protest and a lawsuit, the mayor of Amsterdam said:, "Give Zwarte Piet another 10 years so we can get used to it." Just as the colonial government on July 1, 1863 decided that the enslaved people had to wait another 10 years for their real freedom. We have been waiting 151 years for justice and respect.The time of waiting is over. Today we demand it! [...] We are tired of being treated like second-class citizens, we are tired of being an important matter only when the Netherlands finds us good enough. Now is the time to stand tall. Now is the time to stand up for ourselves. We write a new era. We are like any other Dutch citizen and we demand to be treated with the same respect. [...]

On "Race in/outside post-WWII Europe" - notes on a recent workshop


Three days ago, June 10, I had the pleasure to welcome 12 presenters and one guest to the workshop I organized at CEU under the title "Race in/outside post-WWII Europe: On the politics of governing and knowledge production".

(image) The twelve presentations were all well structured empirical contributions to discussions on what the place of race in contemporary Europe is and how we would better understand its relations with racism. The three panels were Structures, Cartographies and Extremes?, and the twelve papers were grouped less according to their empirical focus and more to the broader questions they carried with themselves, concerning different configurations of racial inequalities in different domains and socio-political contexts. Law, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and history set up a dialogue around the primacy of race relations in the 'old continent', dissecting not only their temporal inertias but also their spatially contextual variability. Eric Fassin gave a final public lecture about the local politics of race vis-à-vis the Roma in contemporary France, highlighting the relations between race and neoliberal doctrines of population management.

It's still early for a comprehensive view on the very dense day we had, but it's already clear that we raised more questions than the answer we gave. I considered the workshop as a first step of a series of events which would bring academic and public attention to the importance of calling social phenomena with their names, reflexively understanding the concomitant importance of the powerful charges that certain categories such as race carry with themselves. (image)

Walling Roma in


The "Roma wall" Wikipedia page accounts for the apparently growing governance practice of walling Romani households in (or out). The page presents cases in Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia. Two issues strike me here: the first is that apparently between 1999 and 2011 no wall was constructed; the second is that this kind of segregation seems to take place only in Eastern Europe.

One of the "walls". Kosice, Slovakia, 2013
The first issue is revealing of the trajectories of governance ideologies and practices, as well as of the recent and current economic situation in Europe. It would be too long to discuss this issue here; probably a journal article would be a better place. Any volunteering co-author? The second issue reveals I think a kind of growing conventional wisdom in the 'new Europe' (the 'East') concerning acceptable and 'clean' forms of (racial) domination. It may also mirror a renewed tendency in governing practices of walling Roma in, that started in the 1980s with Italian nomad camps, drawing on previous policy experiences of 'halting sites' in the UK and the Netherlands. At the same time, walling Western European stigmatized 'immigrant neighbourhoods' in, like the Via Anelli wall in Padua, might be a morphologically more similar example. In any case, enacting physical and symbolic exclusion with such a tremendous visual impact looks somehow more effective in perpetuating territorial stigmatization than risking hate speech and other more conventional violations. (image)

For a reflexive sociology of "nomadness"


When back in the early 1990s Loic Wacquant and Pierre Bourdieu chatted about the nature of Sociology, they digged out - and discussed at lenght - probably the most distinctive feature of social science, namely reflexivity. The dialogue resulted in a volume entitled An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology (1992). One of the main points of the book is also one of the main epistemological assumptions of Wacquant's entire research entreprise, namely that categories of analysis (scholars' tools) should be different from categories of practice (everyday, policy and media idiom). This distinction is fundamental for social scientists, according to the two French scholars.

Ernst Lubitsch's movie 'Gypsy blood' (1921)
Inspired by this distinction, which I totally endorse, I recently co-authored an article in Identities with a brilliant political philosopher and sociologist, Dr. Roccheggiani. The article is an ethnographic-genealogical exploration into the genesis and development of authoritative ideas, policy, and practices addressing Roma/"Gypsies" in Italy. In the article we coin the concept of "nomadness" in order to describe the a-historical and quasi-mythical representation of Romani nomadism that is widespread among experts and policy makers. While nomadism is a socio-economic phenomenon historically dependent on labour market fluctuations, nomadness is an essentialising representation of that phenomenon that largely functions as a vector of stigmatization and ultimately exclusion. We then discuss how nomadness is one of the major reasons why many Romani families face enormous material constrains in contemporary Italian urban peripheries.

Nomadness is a category of analysis that I hope will be debated in further studies on the construction of (Romani) otherness across Europe and beyond. We are deeply convinced that adopting this theoretical tool will allow researchers to see the socio-economic repercussions of powerful and deep-rooted representations previously either underestimated or overlooked. We call for a reflexive sociology of "nomadness". I'm happy to share the article via email.(image)

The importance of Stuart Hall


Only a small sign of his importance, actually.

The very rare occasions in which I buy a newspaper occur when I am in Italy. I usually buy a daily called 'il Manifesto' of which the subtitle reads, 'Communist paper'. I have been reading Manifesto for the last fifteen years, but in the last five this has become a weird experience. While carrying or reading it in public spaces I have  increasingly been confronted with suspiscious gazing coming from my fellow city users. Part of the reason is that this has always taken place Milan, one of the most neoliberal Italian cities. Yet I always felt there were other and more significant reasons...

Stuart Hall died yesterday, February 10. He was 82.

The only Italian daily which covered the event was il Manifesto (thanks to Bertram for letting me know).

Stuart Hall, 1932-2014
Hall was among the first scholars who understood the importance of social forces other than and yet tightly linked to the economy. And how those forces were able to shape social hierarchies. Culture, ethnicity and race are the most relevant ones, as equally are gender and age. He was literally a pioneer of multidimensional analyses of social distance, stratification, cultural production, and later neoliberalism in times of massive structural changes (the late 1960s onwards). He was as far sighted as very few in his generation. His work was not 'intellectual' in the Weberian sense. It was intellectual-militant in the Saidian sense. It was not Professor Hall speaking. It was Dr-Stuart-Hall-a-black-citizen-of-this-world-and-this-specific-social-setting speaking. His reading of Gramsci granted him global popularity for one main reason, I think: oppressed by the dominant Marxian paradigm of the primacy of the macro-economic structure on social life, due to the current structural social changes, intellectuals needed a different approach in order to uncover contradditions and injustice from below. And this is exactely what Gramsci managed to do. Hall did not go to prison. He did not found and directed the most progressive and antagonistic daily of his time. He did not become a politician and social activist. However, he did what Gramsci but also Bourdieu did: he gave weapons, rather than lessons.

He would be able, I am more than sure, to understand why carrying 'il Manifesto' in Milan public space provokes such a suspiscious gazing. And to explain this, clearly and gently, to me and my fellow city users.

He'll be deeply missed.(image)

Archive of Expulsions


Eviction of Roma families (Cluj, December 2010)
It's astonishing how many evictions, expulsions, destructions of houses, segregating policies and other oppressive measures on the poor are taking place.

I just launched the hashtag #ArchiveofExpulsions. In my twitter account I will document instances of expulsions, evictions, housing destructions, and similar actions across the world. My aim is to keep track of some of the ways in which, in neoliberal times, the poor and marginalized are addressed.

Some may be skeptical and even polemic regarding the unproblematic use of 'neoliberalism' as a category of analysis for looking at the current trend that policies on marginality are undergoing. And although there are reasons to think that 'neoliberalism' may be as plane and straightforward as the plethora of phenomena it describes - hence not sophisticated enough, I think it remains the most useful tool. However, it is useful as long as we agree that neoliberalism is not synonimous to capitalism nor to the free market. It's a peculiar doctrine, or - to put it differently - an ideology. An ideology which pervades all spheres of social life, not only the economy. As such, it can heuristically capture the conjunctures and connections of policy, civil society, political economy and politics.(image)

An Indefinite Marriage? Culture and/vs. Social Closure in a Romanian City


Those who work on power and its dimensional and disciplinary ramifications are the privileged audience of this post. Apologies to all others, but what I want to do here is to reflect on the study of group- and community- making.Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) Social science has long attempted to shed light on the ways in which groups come to being and being perceived the way they do. The family is probably the most common and classic subject on that matter. Regional communities, neighbourhood collectives and cultural and subcultural grouping are also widespread subjects among scholars. Recently, Loic Wacquant was asked to clarify the making of classes according to Pierre Bourdieu. Indeed, Bourdieu is one of the first authors whose theories come to mind when thinking about group making. The reason is that he was among the first who developed a rigorous analysis not only of what is 'out there' in the social world, but also how - and importantly, why - we analysts, and the people with whom we work, happen to perceive what is 'out there' the way we do. Reflexivity, and "reflex-reflexivity" - one of Bourdieu's ethnographic milestones. I think one of the main reasons why Bourdieu could so well capture the nuances of the social world and the ways we perceive them - his always-bifocal analysis - is because he was fundamentally a Durkheimian. Durkheim was one of the first whose work was squarely defined by what was at that time anthropology, i.e. the explanation of various phenomena happening in small and categorically non-Western contexts, typically under colonial rule, based on a long and deeply immersed seujour in them. Without Durkheim's reflections on universality and religion, for instance, it would be hard to imagine Bourdieu problematizing our/his own perception of social worlds and phenomena. Of course Canguilhem and historical epistemology played a substantial role in shaping his ideas, but as far as his theories of identities- and class- making are concerned, Durkheim remains his main source.    Pata Rat settlement built in 2010 by the city council ©  Adrian NemetiLooking through these lenses, I wrote an article drawing on my extended fieldwork in Cluj; the article has finally been published in Civilisations - here.  I don't engage with Bourdieu explicitly, let alone Durkheim, but I do connect theoretically 'culture' and social closure in the making of "The Roma" as a grouping in Cluj - sorting them, identifying them, classifying them, and ultimately having the city council relegating several low-income Romani families at the extreme urban periphery close to a landfill, without access to services of any kind (see photo)...My main theoretical source for connecting 'culture' and social closure is Michael Herzfeld's concept of cultural intimacy (1997). I think the concept has too rarely been applied to sociological works on urban marginality, but it has an enourmous potential of explaining emerging dynamics of radical social closure. In general, the links between 'culture' and social closure do not seem to me to have been deeply scrutinized. So, their relationships is still indefinite (there are exceptions, like Andreas Wimmer's work in Mexico...) .This recent municipal segregating policy is one of the many of this kind in contemporary Romania, and not only in Romania. Neoliberal governmentality (Foucault has extensively written and lectured on this, and Wacquant discusses it empirically) is today conventional wisdom when it comes to dispossessed Romani families (and clearly not only Romani). The state is undergoing deep changes in the ways it faces urban poverty, and looking at them from the case of the treatment of poor urban Roma sheds light on the ways in which the state in Europe is becoming a key producer of advanced forms of[...]

The origins of the spatial segregation of Roma in contemporary Italy


[Qui in Italiano] Why do nomad camps exist? One of this blog's initial goals was to account for my 2007-2008 ethnography of nomad camps in Florence. In fact, Florence was no national exception. About 40,000 Roma were and still are estimated to be living in segregated urban camps. Back then I was interested in how those camps functioned as sites of urban marginality. Later on I began to ask how in the capitalist 'West' that form of racial segregation and urban dispossession emerged. As there was no comprehensive historical account of the genesis of nomad camps, I decided to write one myself. The article is now out, exploring the main practices, ideas, ideologies, agencies, and representations behind the making, in the mid-1960s, of the first 'halting areas for nomads' (aree sosta per nomadi). Based on archive research and oral history, and ethnographically discussing local dynamics occurring in Florence and Turin between the mid 1960s and the mid 1990s, the article's argument is thatFlorence. Olmatello camp (c.a. 1995)'sedentarisation, in the form of an initial solidarity and a later response to public disorder, and "the right to nomadism", i.e. an enigmatic device allowing the juxtaposition of Italian and foreign migrants, were the two main apparatuses [dispositifs], practical and discursive respectively, whereby the urban encapsulation of variously defined people of Romani descent was initially enacted'. (p. 277)Turin. The just-built Germagnano camp (2004)Previous studies on the origins of nomad camps discussed institutional racism's trajectories and how it materialized in local racist policies. Yet they overlooked precise contingent local policy and civil society actions shaping that particular socio-spatial form of racial segregation. Discussing those contingent local dynamics is what I hope I have achieved. More research needs to be done, exploring the legacies and structural forces behind segregation policies and state practices in Europe and the Global North, connecting them to similar processes in the Global South. [...]

On racist racelessness in Europe


Consider these two scenes: 1) Recently talking to a graduate of a top-tier British university:I [concerned]: "This summer an Italian Senator referred to the black Minister of Integration by saying 'Every time I see her, I cannot help thinking of an orangutang'".HE [serious]: "And does she really look like an orangutang?"2) A recent Facebook thread in Italian:STATUS: The media accounts about the Romani girl in Greece that I'm reading these days are horrible! Can any of my friends write a good commentary or op-ed on the case?COMMENT: The interesting thing is that the case was finally solved by a Greek journalist inquiry.As if to say: when journalists get off their chair and do their job, they can be of help.These two scenes can introduce what may be named racist racelessness in Europe. In the past few weeks the global media used the photo below to generate a massive case around that Romani girl. The girl was finally proved not to be the biological daughter of the two adults (in the photo) with whom she was living in Greece. Rather, investigations showed that her biological parents live in Bulgaria. The biological parents recognized her and explained that some time ago they left the child to that couple because they were extremely poor and had several other children to take care of. Persons Left: [name unknown, age unknown]Centre: Maria (?), or Mariya (Bulgarian), or Μαρία (Greek)[age (real age unknown) between 4 and 6]Right: [name unknown, age unknown] LocationSomewhere in 'Central Greece'/a few sources write 'Farsala'Date [unknown]   The two main characterizations of this photo, the only photo picturing both the unofficial adoptive parents and the child, are particularly interesting. As the caption shows, the viewer knows nothing about the adults and very little about the girl. This decontextualization is stunning. What the viewer immediately notices, instead, is a chromatic contrast between the adults and the girl. This does not only concern their skin colour, the colour of their eyes, or of their hairs, but also the colour of their clothes and of the wall behind them. The second strong characterization of the photo are the three facial expressions. They all look either tired, or stressed, or concerned; moreover, the girl does not meet 'Western' standard of cleanliness and propriety. All this allows the 'Western' average viewer to 'legitimately' conclude that the adults are 'inapt parents'.Different visual characterizations of one single object work simultaneously. Hence, the chromatic contrast gets immediately juxtaposed to the 'inapt parents' characterization, resulting in the black-inapt link. That photo, therefore, is a racist visual configuration, which is squarely framed within deep-rooted and popular anti-Roma and anti-Black discourses in Europe, at once instantiating and reinforcing them.How could such a racist image circulate globally without raising almost any concern in Greece and Europe about race and racism? The European state(s), the media as their extensions, and sometimes the European Union, are able to reinforce racism without raising any opposition, because, as some scholars have been poiting out, they represent themselves as raceless, i.e. not historically and at present constructed on racial premises and domination. "Race? That's an American (Brazilian, South African...) thing!" - goes the refrain. I'm afraid that's not what the media coverage of that event shows. Race in Europe is actively ignored. This is what the two scenes I wrote as incipit, and specifically the two replies, show. This 'ignorance' allows race and racism to germinate wherever the terrain is fertile. That photo, and the huge anti-Roma consensus it raise[...]

Black Europe Summer School - my experience


I am a white, adult, Western middle-class man. These identifications mark constitutive features shaping my social and political life - in other words, my subjectivity. They are the privilege I have not earned. This is one of the most important things I have learnt and experienced last summer, when in Amsterdam I attended the two-week intensive course called Black Europe - Interrogating Citizenship, Race and Ethnic Relations (BESS - Black Europe Summer School).

I learnt much more - about racial states, the European history of slavery and citizenship, everyday racism and how gender and race usually interact. But primarily I learnt about my white privilege and how it is crystallized and crystallizing in multiple structures of inequalities.

Not that I did not know about this before, but the two-week intensive course did not give me the chance to increase only my knowledge, but also my consciousness, paving the way for more lucidity and maturity in life and work. I could go on, writing for example about great discussions and debates with professors and students - activists, young and senior scholars, one of whom a senior professor; or about the magnificient 3-hour march in the streets of Amsterdam celebrating the 150 years of legal abolition of Dutch slavery (see photo below); or more, about inspiring evening chats in amazing bars and cafes.

Keti Koti, Amsterdam, July 1, 2013
I am now BESS coordinator for Central and Eastern Europe and Russia. I am responsible for providing information to anyone from the region and beyond. BESS' 7th edition will run in Amsterdam from June 23 to July 4, 2014. Give it some thought. Email me for any question.


A new analytical tool for looking at urban governance


I have not clearly understood yet what the difference is between self-promotion and the promotion of your own ideas and beleifs. There are a couple fixed boundary lines, though. For example: was Malcom X a self-promoter? No. Was Elvis a promoter of his own ideas and beleifs? Probably not.

Here I want to promote what I think is a valuable analytical tool for the study of urban governance. In a recent article entitled "That neighbourhood is an ethnic bomb!" The emergence of an urban governance apparatus in Western Europe (European Urban and Regional Studies) I propose 'urban governance apparatus' as an analytical tool for looking at local power dynamics revolving around the management of urban populations and neighbourhoods.

'Gypsies raus' ('out' in German) in Pescara city center

The article looks at the city of Pescara, Central-Southern Italy, where I have intermittently been doing fieldwork from 2007 to 2011. My focus is on the urban governance of  Rancitelli, the peripheral neighbourhood in which the majority of Pescarian Roma reside. The article ethnographically dissects the complex and mostly tacit ways in which Rancitelli is governed against the background of local authorities' complete silence about the conditions of marginality in which several Romani and non-Romani Rancitelli families live. So, it's an ethnogarphy of one single specific context. Yet it demonstrates that urban governance in general may occurr in unofficial ways, linking up media discourse, police actions, everyday (racial) stigmatization and public policy, all surreptitiously into the same regulatory circular process. I call this circular process 'urban governance apparatus', suggesting that it can help to analytically dissect urban governance in contexts where apparently nothing or very little goes on.

There is a (counter)tendency in social sciences of becoming more similar to artists than to activists. I just wonder whether this is not leading to an increased number of bohémienes and a decreased width of progressive social change. (image)

Teaching (through) the visual in Sociology


®Gabriele Galimberti - Toy Stories
What's the best way to teach? Inspired by my colleague Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova's research paper just published in The Anthropology of East Europe Review, I thought a lot about my teaching experience in Moscow this year. Elena's paper discusses the potentials of using visual methods as teaching tools in Russia. From November 2012 to January 2013 I taught two courses, on Public Sociology and on Ethnography. I am used to teach through a continuous conversation with students,  but I knew here in Moscow seminars and lectures tend to be more frontal rather than dialogical. In class I could involve students, but not as much as I wanted. Then I realized that many students were using tablets and smartphone very often, even in class, and so what I tried next was to employ visual methods. That was the answer I was looking for. I screened some short ethnographic documentaries and an entire ethnographic film, and got students following them with great interests, to the point that we managed to have the only real controversial discussion of the course. And when at the end I asked them to write an ethnographic account of two minutes of any movie they wanted, this resulted in some great essays.

Visuality is definitely a growing dimension in our learning experience. The internet and especially social networks seem to sanction an ever growing mode of interraction with visual media(tion) - photos are ubiquitos and videos definitely increasing in number (not necessarily in quality) through self-making facilities. And communicating knowledge is something that needs to get continually updated, also, but not only, because it involves those who are most sensitive and receptive to these changes.

The late Alberto Melucci in one of his classes that I had the chance to attend, said, 'we need to learn about the social world, but more importantly, I would say, we need to continually learn how to learn'. One of the things that we can - and probably should - learn today is how to produce and convey knowledge in such a way that communication keeps on being an engaging activity. Elena's article and my experience this year show one of the ways in which communication becomes engaging - adopting visual products in teaching and learning in higher education.(image)

Women are heroes


The photo above is taken from the renowned documentary project Women are heroes. I am happy to spread the word about the project. I looked for more photos but the movie trailer would probably give a better idea of what the project is about:

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Informality and Spatial Confinement across the Global Order. Another conference session


At the next ISA World Congress in Yokohama (July 14-19, 2014), I will be the co-organizer of this session. I'm excited about that, and I am looking forward to challenging discussions, which will contribute to further building up my reflections on informal policy-making and the local shaping of spaces of confinement across urban Europe. More news on the session will appear in due course.

The deadline for abstract submission is September 30, 2013. (image)

Documentary on migration to the EU (in French and Italian)


I recently discovered this series of videos about recent state approaches to migrants in Europe. I recommend it because it traces the origins of different policies and strategies to control and repress migrants in Europe - especially in France, Italy and Greece. Each video is well edited and brings to light issues that are often hidden in public debates. Scholars activists civil servants explain very clearly the state of the art of migration policies in Europe. A series of life stories told by people who recently migrated to Europe make it an invaluable sources for anyone interested in migration.

The episode below is about 'administrative retention' and it sheds light on the history of camps for civilians in France, first in the colonial territories (Algeria) and then in the metropoles. Highly recommended (and linked to the forthcoming panel at RC21)

  frameborder="0" height="270" src="" width="480">La rétention administrative по Osons_Savoir(image)

Cultural fundamentalism. A step forward


"cultural fundamentalism/essentialism does not reify culture, but it is in reality about relationships between cultures as understood and bounded, internally homogeneous, integrated and exclusive sets of values, behavior and meanings which are thought to be inevitably threatened by foreigners who by definition have a different culture" (V. Stolcke, "Comment on Ralph Grillo, 'Cultural Essentialism and Cultural Anxiety'", Anthropological Theory, 3(2):175-77.

This makes all my reflections on cultural fundamentalism more nuanced, deeper, and finally more useful. When I talked about nationalism - the construction of the nation - in the State's very act of talking about Roma (i.e. producing discourses about Roma) I should have made a theoretical premise about performativity.This quote helps me understand with great clarity one fundamental step that is missing in my theoretical reasoning, namely the juncture between nationalism and policies and discourses vis-a-vis Roma. This applies to the Italian context. In the Romanian context, I would say, as well, but with different accents and linking a bit more tightly culture and morality...
I took that quote from an article by Gregory Feldmam (2005). Sometimes I wonder why I haven't read a certain article four or five years ago. This is exactly the case.(image)

Urban camps. A conference session


After having reflected so much on the conditions and the history of camps for Roma in Italy (and France...), I decided to expand my reflections globally and comparatively.
Poderaccio camp, Florence (2005)

'URBAN CAMPS FROM A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE: resources, livelihoods and governance'

is the title of a session I am co-organizing at the next RC21 conference (Berlin, end of August)

The last day for sending abstract is January 31, 2013!!

At the turn of the twenty-first century, camps constitute an increasingly prominent feature of urban landscapes across the world. There are refugee camps in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia; there are camps and ‘villages’ for Roma/Travellers in Europe; and there are camps and centres for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers in Europe, the United States, and Australia. These are but some examples of urban sites, which, although planned as emergency devices for the management of displaced or unwanted people, have become enduring socio-spatial formations. The aim of this session is to explore how camps interact with the broader structure and infrastructure of the city, how they are governed, and how they operate as sites of everyday life. To this end, we seek papers that look at urban camps: (1) from above, by focusing on the ruling agencies and exploring forms of urban and international governance; and (2) from below, by examining strategies of access to material and symbolic resources among camp inhabitants. We welcome papers addressing questions such as: are camps shaping an emerging type of urban social order? What type of resources and what kind of discourses do ruling agencies mobilize in planning and managing urban camps? Under what conditions do camps from emergency devices permute into permanent socio-spatial formations? What types of subjectivities, understandings of citizenship, and forms of politics emerge in these camps? We particularly welcome papers that look at camps in minor or large cities, thus generating new insights, questions and perspectives for comparative urban research.(image)

Writing on writing


hErE - a very good piece by Les Back...Take your reader there(image)

Favorite Anthropology Blogs


Here you can find the list of the most popular anthropology blogs. This was a good discovery for me, and it was also rewarding to see that Gopk was included in the competition. I could not compete with such 'sacred sources' as the ones that won the competition...but I was pleased of having been recognized as a 'anthropology blogger'. I think my blogging work during my Ph.D. was a good job and it will hopefully help me write up my first manuscript.(image)

Writing Culture at 25: James Clifford


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="" width="480"> This video is helping me currently in writing up my paper on Cluj. Yes, finally I am writing an article - not just a paper - on Cluj.
This helps me in a very peculiar way. Clifford is not giving me practical tips. His way of speaking, rather than what he speaks about, helps me. It helps me approaching my data with a nice distance which allows irony and urges me to step back from a too deep involvement into my data, just for getting back from them understanding that my interpretations were simply fantasies on what I wanted to find. Projections, in other - less anthropological - words.
I admit, when I see these people, when I watch this gathering after 25 years of Writing Cultures, for example, I feel more than just good. Even my heartbeating feels relaxed.(image)

What is happening to Europe (or to its Nation-States)?


Gustave Moreau - "Europe et le taureau" (1869)@font-face { font-family: "MS 明朝"; }@font-face { font-family: "MS 明朝"; }@font-face { font-family: "Cambria"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria; }span.longtext { }.MsoChpDefault { font-size: 10pt; font-family: Cambria; }div.WordSection1 { page: WordSection1; } A year after Sarkozy’s contested decision to expel EU citizens (Romanians and Bulgarians) from the French soil on the basis of their alleged threat to public order, a recent measure of the Spanish Government raises attention. The measure will probably have a less outstanding echo than the French one, but the assumptions from which it stems are not so different. From Thursday August 11, 2011 Romanian citizens without a Spanish legal work contract and intended to have it, cannot enter Spain. The practical implication of such measure is clear: Romanian will only enter Spain as tourists, since it is more likely to become part of the British Royal Family rather than to find a job in Spain without being there. Why this measure? According to the government, about a third of Romanians in Spain is unemployed. Add to that unprecedentedly low employment rates, the African political crises, and the global recession, and you get to the crystallization of a principle that comes from a far-away (because apparently forgotten) past. The European Commission approved, the Commissioner of Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, saying: 'We give our support because of the particular situation of Spain'. The European project of unity and social cohesion, as developed by Delors, Monnet, Spinelli, seems to clash always more frequently with the cracks that it had tried to mend. Those of national borders. To blur them seemed at that time to be the more desirable direction, firstly through the economy and finance, then through politics. However, many facts today pose serious questions on the extent of the success of that project, and – perhaps more importantly – on the potential of those ideas of being alternatives to nationalism in times of fast capitalism. As discussed Douglas Holmes (2000) it seems that French technocratic principles of administration, and Catholic social doctrine, by which the founding fathers were inspired, have failed to weaken the national principle. Frankly, it was not easy, as that principle has been the condition of possibility for politics over the last three centuries. The issue at stake today is that it seems to be again crystallizing and radicalizing. [...]