The second earthquake

31/07/2018 admin 0
"Emidio di Treviri" is a working group performing research action in the areas hit by the 2016-2017 earthquake in central Italy. They are showing how the political management of post-catastrophe housing, consumption, health, are increasing social inequalities to the point of creating a social earthquake, even worse than the real one.

All cities are possessed

16/02/2018 admin 0

The aim is not to heal a sick space, but to free it from its evil condition: to save it. Urban space must be regenerated, its vices turned into virtues, its inhabitants redeemed from sin. The real enemy is not disorder, chaos, or poverty; the real enemy is the devil itself” (Manuel Delgado, “Todas las ciudades están poseídas”)

There is an intimate link between cities and the devil. All cities were born to contrast the terror of the wilderness, the dangers of the wasteland, and they are built around an axis mundi that protects its inhabitants from evil. Inevitably, they all betrayed this task. Inside them, other forces proliferate, more perverse than those of the wilderness. The bustle of the city, its  promiscuous and uncontrolled intermingling of bodies, ideas, and actions, cause a moral panic far more terrifying than the dangers of nature.

All the recurring calls to regenerate and renovate the city, or at least the more disturbing parts of it, are always calls to expel the devil. The words that are used for it – culture, order, law – are apotropaic, like psalms or mantras that are pronounced in order to contrast the Evil by evoking its opposite, a ‘Good’ as imaginary and dreamlike as the other. Urban renewal is an exorcism: it aims to chase the demons away, to kill the unwanted and uninvited ‘others’, to purify the body of the city, and to return it clean and renovated to its legitimate owners – those imaginary and neutral ‘subjects’ to whom public space is thought to belong.

No violence is too much, to achieve this task. Whoever tries to oppose the sacred duty to chase away the Evil one, will be considered as dangerous as those who defended the witches, the sabbas, or heresy.

raval_57700
Raval, the “Xino”, the other. The Evil.

Other cities, other demons:

  • Chiara ZANASI (2016) Demoni e metropoli, Manifestolibri, on the christian exorcist father Amorth, active in Rome until few years ago. A presentation of the book by Stefano Portelli, in a conference in the University of Rome.
  • Federica DI GIACOMO (2016) “Liberami“, documentary on the exorcist father Cataldo, active in Palermo. Here’s a critique to the movie by another exorcist, father Dermine.
  • Andrew Alan JOHNSON (2014), Ghosts of the New City, University of Hawaii Press. Ghosts pentrated into the imaginary of the old buildings in Chiang Mai (Thailand); but the new urbanization are not free from evil either.
  • Michael HERZFELD (2016), Siege of the Spirits: Community and Polity in Bangkok, University of Chicago Press. In Bangkok, however, residents of the ancient settlement of Pom Mahakan, under eviction, claim their right to stay, as the guardians of the shrines to the ancestors of the city. The spirits that protect the city would not agree with the demolition of the neighborhood.
  • Ernesto DE MARTINO (2009 (1959)) Magic, A Theory From The South. HAU Books recently translated into English this classic of the great Italian ethnographer, whose original title was South and Magic. The complete text is available online! And here’s a review by Stefano Portelli in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2017 [PDF]. The book includes an extraordinary chapter on popular magic in Naples and on the ambivalence of Italian Enlightenment towards it. Another very important work is its posthumous book, incomplete: La fine del mondo (Einaudi, 1977).
Screenshot_2017-12-03_19-23-10
Where the devil hid, now there is a Rambla.

War and gentrification in Kurdistan

17/10/2016 admin 0
War and urban renewal mingle in south-eastern Turkey, where the government wages its war against the kurdish movement also through the demolition of traditional neighborhoods and the displacement of residents in huge public-housing blocks.

Crossing the capital of culture: summer in Marseille

26/08/2016 admin 0
What happened with the Euromediterranée, an ambitious project that costed over 3,5 billion euros, and that transformed 480 hectars? Can we get rid of it by simply calling it gentrification? A commentary by two Italian planners, R. Marchini & A. Sotgia.

Same old story in Milan: The destruction of Isola

07/08/2016 admin 0
In crossing the Isola neighborhood in Milan, whoever knows Barcelona suffers a kind of déja vu. The same buildings, the same companies, the same destruction as in Poblenou in 2004. Nouvel is replaced by Boeri, and the Universal Forum of Cultures with the Expo 2015.

Horizontal anthropology in the margins of Barcelona

30/03/2015 admin 0
Stefano Portelli's La ciudad horizontal (Bellaterra, 2015), a research on Bon Pastor's 'casas baratas': a neighborhood where no serious fieldwork can be led without getting involved, without challenging the existing barriers, without revealing clearly the aims behind the research itself. In this case, those are to influence urban planning, to stop the demolition of the neighborhood, and to demand an active role for the residents in the transformations of their territories.

Heygate Was Home!

14/03/2015 admin 0
The Heygate Was Home Digital Archive collects the testimony of several former residents of Heygate, social housing estate in Elephant & Castle, London - they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The fall of the Roman Empire

26/12/2014 admin 0
A criminal network based on the allocation of public contracts linked together public employees, politicians from all the political spectrum, left-wing social cooperatives, neo-fascist groups, journalists, and the infamous mafia clan known as the "banda della Magliana".

Sydney, a (post)colonial city

22/11/2014 admin 0
On the occasion of the opening of "Australian 'Ndrangheta", webpage of a UCL research group of which our friend Stephen BENNETTS is a member, we propose a series of interesting videos and texts from the other corner of the world, on topics such as the expulsions of Aboriginese from native lands and urban neighborhood as Sydney's Redfern.
No Picture

The ghosts of San Berillo

21/03/2014 admin 0

Different cities follow one another on the same site and under the same name, writes Italo Calvino, born and dying without knowing one another, without communication among themselves. At time even the names of the inhabitants remain the same, and their voices’ accent, and also the features of the faces; but the gods who live beneath names and above places have gone off without a word and outsiders have settled in their place. It is pointless to ask whether the new gods are better or worse than the old, since there is no connection between them… We recommend you another Italian documentary movie: Edoardo Morabito and Irma Vecchio’s I fantasmi di San Berillo (2013), first prize at Torino Film Festival. The demolition of this old neighbourhood in the centre of Catania (Sicily), in 1958, was the biggest urban evisceration in post-war Italy, linked (as everything in the country) with Vatican’s Società Generale Immobiliare: 30.000 people where displaced towards the peripheries. It was the same year in which brothels were banned: prostitutes were forced to work underground, and what was left of San Berillo turned into one of the biggest “red light districts” of the Mediterranean. So the story of the neighbourhood went on for another half century, until 2001, when a new police operation evicted again prostitutes and transvestites from their houses and streets. Today many plots are still unoccupied, and some became new favelas (see this 2012 video). The documentary shifts visually from past to present, and the images are associated with the fascinating words of writer Goliarda Sapienza, born in San Berillo in 1924.

Ciudad Meridiana… exists!

05/10/2013 admin 0

The history of the neighbourhood of Ciudad Meridiana is a perfect summary of Barcelona’s urbanistic schizofrenia. Built in the Sixties on a land accounted as too damp to build a cemetery, with no transportation or services, secluded and unfit to live in, but with a strong neighbours’ movement, it has always been a problematic territory, unknown to the rest of the population: many of its inhabitants started to leave it already in the Eighties, trying to climb socially and spacially, getting over the decade in which the neighbourhood population reached its peak. Since 2001, when Catalonia and Spain were still inside the “housing market bubble”, the immigrants began arriving to Ciudad Meridiana, through mortgages the banks offered crossing the endorsements, and through other tricks that the financial capital used to “infiltrate the world of the urban poor”, as anthropologist Jaime PALOMERA writes in his essay about the neighbourhood. After the crisis began, Ciudad Meridiana was described as an eviction city, and now again for its strong neighbours and squatters movement. Recently there was an interesting debate: the City Council proposed to establish there an innovative “FabLab” related with MIT, but the neighbours reclaim that same spot for a food bank, much more useful to face the growing poverty of many families [see article here].

The protector of Phnom Penh

21/09/2013 admin 0
Outsized buildings erected suddenly and without any order; the police occasionally killing protesters; traditional healers slowly converting the millions of ghosts of the genocide in ancestors and protectors of the land. A look on Cambodia's capital.
No Picture

Conference in Bolonia: the subjective dimensions of vulnerability

01/09/2013 admin 0
"Lean, Cover, Hold": Risk prevention against earthquakes in Khatmandhu, Nepal. Photo: Stefano Portelli, 2013

On october 5th, in Bolonia (Italy) the Network for the Evaluation of the Subjective Dimensions of Vulnerability (REDISUV) Chile-Europe will meet for the second time, after the foundational Conference in Paris. The repeated natural catastrophes in Chile made evident the need for a more systematic study about the subjectivities of the communities affected, which are always the product of particular social, economical and political conditions. The program of the conference includes papers concerning natural desasters, but also approaches to the “urban” vulnerability, caused by neoliberal policies as the one our group has been studying in Barcelona.

  • Bolonia, Thursday september 5th, 10am-6pm: “Vite invisibili: dimensioni soggettive della vulnerabilità sociale, program in PDF.
  • Davide Olori (2013) “Taking over the center to oppose evictions: the case of the Inmuebles Recuperados Autogestionados en Santiago de Chile” [PDF, italian]. “The urgency for housing after the earthquake forced towards the aggregation of both informal organizations (as neighbours, relatives, co-workers) and formal ones (political, parties…), so causing dynamics of rupture and recomposition among interests, hierarchies, relationships…”
  • Fabio Carnelli studied ethnographically the consequences of the earthquake in L’Aquila (central Italy) some years after: the “militarized” solution brought again to life the traumas, and increased the  vulnerability of the population. See Sismografie on Il lavoro culturale webpage. And also Rita Ciccaglione’s article, one year after the earthquake in Emilia Romagna.
  • Caterina Borelli jsut published on academia.edu her PhD thesis about Sarajevo: “La ciudad post-traumática” (see also this older post)
  • Stefano Portelli (2013) “Spatial reordering and social pathology in the periphery of Barcelona: the social impact of urban transformation”, intervención al XXI congreso del International Social Theory Consortium, Copenhagen, June 26-27th [Coming soon!]

Wastelands: Weizman on military urbanism

03/05/2013 admin 0
The spatial conflict over Palestine has re-articulated a certain principle: to be governed the territory must be constantly redesigned. This goes beyond a search for a stable and permanent “governable” colonial form, but rather points to the fact that it is through the constant transformation of space that this process of colonization has played out. Unpredictability and the appearance of anarchy are part of this violent logic of disorder.
1 2