Panel 2 – Multiculture in public spaces and neighbourhoods – PSH316

Urban Boundaries and Everyday Struggles in San Siro: An ethnography of a Public Housing Neighbourhood – Adriano Cancellieri, University Iuav of Venice

This paper is the presentation of an ethnographic research conducted in the neighbourhood of San Siro in the city of Milan. The so-called ‘San Siro’ neighourhood is an area of public housing very close to the city centre. It is inhabited by about 11,000 inhabitants with a large percentage of migrants and squatters. The neighbourhood is characterized by a strong institutional abandonment but also by a great amount of associations and social movements who are involved in social and communitarian activities.

The paper will analyze the creation of different urban territories and the construction of urban boundaries in this very dense social areas. The neighbourhood is a field of struggles characterized by intersectionality and multiscalarity. Indeed the paper focuses on the relationships among several diferentiating factors (e.g. gender, race, class, and other axes of identity) which interact on multiple and often simultaneous levels (intersectionality); and not try to find every explanations in the immediate phenomenological observability (the here and now of the local) but looks for the ‘constitutive outsides’, that is specific (f)actors that operate at higher scales (multiscalarity).

The research is based on qualitative methods, such as a period of participant observation and in depth interviews with key informants and inhabitants, using a snowball sampling method. This has been coupled with an analysis of articles published by local newspapers as well as analysis of the Milan municipality’s projects and policies relating the neighbourhood.

Friendly City, Violent City: Youth Gangs, Precarious Migrants and ‘Neighbourhood Nationalism’ – Dr Alistair Fraser and Dr Teresa Piacentini, University of Glasgow

The city of Glasgow has a complex reputation for both exclusion and tolerance. On one hand, local forms of territorial protectionism are an enduring feature of certain deindustrialised working-class communities, articulated most profoundly through the violent territorialism of youth ‘gangs’. On the other, at a city-level the  ‘Refuweegee’ and ‘Refugees Welcome’ campaigns, responding to the humanitarian crisis in Europe, have evinced a tolerant and welcoming approach to refugees and asylum-seekers. These contrasting aspects of city-life mirror popular representations of the city that simultaneously depict a ‘friendly’ and ‘violent’ city. For the writer William McIlvanney, this dialectic precisely represents the distinctive character of Glasgow: ‘kind people who batter unkindness – the rose with the thorns’ (1987: 17). The contrast also throws up the inconsistencies between the stories we tell ourselves and the lived realities of ethnic and cultural difference in spaces of encounter.

In this paper, reporting on two separate but concurrent ethnographic projects with the ‘hidden communities’ of youth gangs and precarious migrants in Glasgow (Fraser and Piacentini 2013), we seek to explore the contemporary forms, historical antecedents and recent configurations of this dialectic.  Youth gangs and precarious migrants are often co-located in spaces of urban marginality, posing sharp questions of tolerance and acceptance.  While there are clear divisions, there are also important parallels in terms of the experience of economic and social boundaries. Using Back’s notion of  ‘neighbourhood nationalism’ – which seeks to ‘banish the racial referent and replace it with a simple commitment to local territory’ (Back 1996: 55) – as a meeting point through which to explore these lived experiences, we seek to build a portrait of urban multiculture in contemporary Glasgow that goes beyond the constructed image of the ‘gang member’ and ‘asylum-seeker’ to examine the everyday encounters and forms of conviviality that compose the ‘friendly-violent’ city.

A space of hope, here and now: temporary respite and sociality sitting outside in a Woolwich square – Clare Rishbeth, University of Sheffield and Prof Ben Rogaly, University of Sussex

Racist hate crime has a long history in Woolwich, south east London. In 2015 the marketing materials promoting corporate-led regeneration suggested a socially and ethnically cleansed future for the town centre. This paper reflects on fieldwork co-produced with Greenwich Inclusion Project with summertime users of granite benches in Woolwich’s recently redesigned General Gordon Square. Here, caught between the murmur of the square’s large TV screen and the splash of a water feature, some people stop for minutes, others for hours: to take time to reflect and recover, to drink, to meet up with friends or to watch sporting events. Many of the square’s users see the ethnic diversity of the people flowing through or stopping or loitering in the square as a sign of hope for the future. There are moments of mutual regard, recognition and acknowledgement. Many square users expressed positive perceptions of inclusivity, in spite (or because) of a somewhat sterile cleanliness that framed the usual disarray of human use. Filmmaking was intrinsic to the project methods, shaping participants’ narratives regarding the designed materiality of sitting spaces. The paper explores the contradictions between the longer term work of regenerating (and – from the corporate marketing materials – the assumed whitening of) the area for corporate profit, and the ways in which current users of the square, who are not part of the developers’ vision (and may be unable to afford to stay if housing costs spiral further upwards), find respite, connection and comfort there.

Taking Back the Square: Place-making Struggles in Naples Italy  – Dr Antonia Lucia Dawes, London School of Economics

This paper will draw on nine months of ethnographic fieldwork carried out in 2012 in the streets around the central train station in Naples, southern Italy. In particular it will focus on a public event that was organised in one of the city’s historic squares to showcase the talents and aspirations of the young people living in the deprived local area – and to protest against the perceived occupation and degeneration of that space by refugees fleeing the conflict in Libya. Given the city’s good weather, high levels of unemployment and congested immigration system, Naples’ squares and pavements have always been important sites for spending time and making money for both Neapolitans and newcomers to the city. As such they are important everyday spaces of encounter across racialized boundaries, particularly in an age of large-scale economic precariousness and global migration. The event, organised by a committee of local Christian youth groups and funded by City Hall, was called Ripiazziamoci, or ‘Lets Take Back the Square’. The young participants both came from historic Neapolitan families and also reflected the history of postcolonial migration to and settlement in the city. Field notes and ambiguous reflections gathered from event organisers and participants on the day revealed that Ripiazziamoci symbolised different things to the people involved, particularly in terms of who was being excluded and how urban poverty and unemployment should be addressed. The presentation will use their different explanations about what ‘taking back the square’ meant in order to explore the relationship between place-making struggles and pressing contemporary issues of difference, belonging, and entitlement.