Submerged Conflicts. Ethnography of the invisible resistances in the quotidian

Convenor: Pietro Saitta (University of Messina)

pinelli_Session Saitta

Since its appearance in the pioneering pages of Hobsbawm, the concept of resistance is understood as ambivalent, elusive and controversial – more an expression of the “desire” of researchers than a category to grasp the meanings given by social actors for their actions.

In spite of these limits, real or supposed, resulting perhaps more from abuses than from any ontological quality of the category itself, studies on resistance have shed light on the invisible forms of conflict present in societies and environments considered stable and crystallized in the relational asymmetries that have structured them. Country, factory, family, public space and art worlds constitute only some of the spheres explored by social sciences through the lenses provided by the notion of resistance. In particular, such studies have shown that conflict can take forms that are very different from others, explicit and visible, that are typical of more conventional ways of presence in the public sphere. Sabotage, theft, lies, dissimulations, non-cooperative behavior, «production games», the refusal of doing domestic chores or having sexual intercourse, are behaviors that have resulted in private or pathological meanings, but projected also possibilities of an “everyday politics” whose objectives can be elevated and resemble those pursued by mass movements.

If the terrain of studies on resistance was composed of past societies, structures and epochs in Europe, the United States or the colonies, they have shed light also on communities and practices of the present. Above all, they have contributed to viewing the «retro-action» that moves from Europe to the colonies, and from there returns to the homeland, showing the experimental character of the overseas dominions and the overlapping of historical temporalities, the economic geographies as well as the dynamics that occur «there» and «here», simultaneously or in a time lapse. In more blunt terms, studies on resistance show that there are communalities between the European rural past, the colonial «third space» and the «western» present, in spite of clear differences in matters of technology, politics and organization that distinguish these environments. The growing inequalities and asymmetries in the fields of economics and labor, the appearing indifference of extended social components toward political mobilization, the privatization and expropriation of public space by different powers, the violence of social control and, in general, the contemporary forms of «endocolonialism» suggest that the concept of resistance and studies of the invisible forms of conflict in the quotidian still have much to say about the present.

The present call for papers solicits either ethnographic or qualitative contributions that deal with the theme of invisible resistances in the realms of everyday life, labor and public space, and that show how politics and struggles move to private and quotidian plans, often illegal, which parallel the more conventional forms of collective action. Methodological contributions, based both on primary research accounts and secondary ethnographical and historical data that reflect on the problems of the recognition of resistances and the politics of writing, are also encouraged. 

Proposals written in Italian, English and French will be accepted; but the discussion should be preferably in English. Authors interested in this initiative should submit an abstract (700 words) to:

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