Avril à décembre 2015
Programme Fernand Braudel IFER - incoming
An anthropological study on social memory, conflict and work in an Italian urban outskirts
This research project aims to analyse the relationship between social memory, the construction of forms of aggregation, conflict and legal/illegal work in the context of some public housing on the northern outskirts of the city of Milan (Bicocca area).
This project intends to conduct ethnographic research in the « oldest » part of the Bicocca district, the part in which several tenements were built in the 60s and 70s to provide dwellings for migrants from the southern part of the country. In the 2000s, this part of the district has been affected by new migration, mainly from North Africa, which has transformed forms of social relations, aggregation and conflict.
I had the opportunity to get to know the « old » part of the Bicocca district in depth, working with the research team of the “di pubblico (con)dominio” project. Among the areas covered by the project there is also the tenement of Viale Sarca/Testi 306 – which consists of 9 condominiums with 200 dwellings – included in urban decentralisation area number 9 (Zone 9) from the administrative point of view.
My PhD research and my post-doctoral research experience have allowed me to identify some of the social actors that construct the dynamics of aggregation and conflict in this peripheral urban area : the institutions for the allocation and the maintenance of the buildings (ALER), some local institutions, such as the Municipality of Milan and Council of Zone 9, the Tenants’ Union, some social cooperatives that promote educational projects within the area and the different groups of inhabitants of the tenements, recognisable on the basis of the position they occupy inside the courtyard that separates the nine buildings.
My research hypothesis is that social memory is a fundamental key to understanding the relations between housing practices and legal and illegal work in the suburbs. The term social memory is understood as the set of interpretative templates – individual and collective – of the present constructed through reference to the past and past events. From this point of view, social memory is configured as a pattern of forecasting and, therefore, of the construction of future projects.
The history of Bicocca and its social demographics suggest that the area may be representative of the entire city of Milan.
I am convinced that it is only through analysis of social memory and legal and illegal working practices that we can investigate the reasons that lead to the constitution of groups within the tenements and of the situations of conflict that characterise them. An innovative ethnographic study on intimacy and everyday life inside the apartments and of the families of occupants appears therefore as an indispensable tool in shaping the foundations of the social memory of the suburbs of Milan. Therefore, my role in the project is that of bringing individual stories into the public sphere. The attempt is to bridge the gap between the institutional and local perceptions of the result of housing policies in the urban periphery, showing the consequences on the lives of individuals.
An Ethnographic Account of Public Housing in Milan (Italy)
Une ethnographie sur les logements sociaux à Milan (Italie)
Keywords : Anthropology, Ethnography, Public Housing, Urban Context, Milan, Italy.
Mots-clefs : Anthropologie, Ethnographie, Logements Sociaux, Contexte Urbain, Milan, Italie.
Dans cet working paper, je présente quelques réflexions conclusives d’une période de recherche ethnographique dans un des quartiers “malchanceux” à la périphérie de Milan. Je vais me concentrer sur l’utilisation sociale de la mémoire dans la création et la narration d’un bloc de logements sociaux situé dans la partie nord de la ville. Mon objectif est de mettre en évidence le caractère construit, et souvent dissonant, de la mémoire des immeubles et de montrer les processus implicites dans la construction d’une connaissance spécifique, tout en tenant compte de ces folk concepts qui entourent le chercheur au cours de la recherche sur le terrain.
In this working paper, I present some reflections at the end of a period of ethnographic research in one of the “unfortunate” neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Milan. I will focus on the social use of memories in the creation and narration of a block of council tenements located in the northern part of the city. My aim is to highlight the constructed, and often dissonant, dimension of the memory of the tenements and to show the implicit processes in the construction of a specific knowledge, taking into account those folk concepts which surround the researcher during the fieldwork research.