Category: Conference

Heritage, Conflicts, Tourism and the Role of Researchers

An Ethnographic Approach

Convenors: Giovanna Rech (University of Trento) & Monica Gilli (University of Torino)

Heritage sites and routes are social constructions that present the historical and artistic heritage of a region or a nation, its landscape and natural assets, along with its use and custom in communities. The focus of societies on their past is an important aspect of political, academic and local community activities as well as an educational, recreational and conflictual resource for individuals. Additionally, in the process of heritage-making, collective (shared or divided) memories are circulated, social groups activated in participatory processes and heritage communities created or identified.

As these activities influence or characterise the social and symbolic values of a social group, mechanisms of heritagisation and heritage-making involve conflicts at various levels, such as interpretations (expressive goals of heritage; instrumental goals of heritage) and social uses (economic, political, religious stakes).

Through which of the participative processes, where different interpretations of heritage co-exist, is the heritage tourist proposal built in communities? How are expressive and instrumental goals of heritage negotiated between visitors and local communities? How are the sources of conflicts in heritage interpretation managed by the local community and/or guides? How can the economic use of heritage transform a place? How can different social uses co-exist in the same heritage site or route?

In such sites and routes, the researcher (anthropologist, sociologist or historian) is often an active part of the heritagisation process (discovery, rediscovery, musealisation and interpretation), at times assuming the role of a legitimation agent. During ethnographic research, they find themselves negotiating the value of heritage in a reflective process – they reflect on both their own role and the consequences of their choices and interactions. How do they present themselves or behave at methodological, ethical and aesthetic levels? What are the arrangements that occur during the conflict phase within the community and the academic community? What are the most conflicting practices at the local level?

Fields of Study

Tourist studies, critical heritage studies, sociology of culture, anthropology of heritage, political sciences, religious studies, history of arts, museography.

The Engaging Side Of Pain

Convenors: Federica Manfredi (University of Lisbon) & Dario Nardini (University of Milano-Bicocca)


Pain is a well-known experience for many people. It can originate from a chronic disease or an accident, but it can also be embraced as a conscious experience. Pain can be associated to body limits and social taboo, courage demonstrations and elements funding gender definition; a captivating pole of attraction as well as an obstacle that the individual accepts to deal with in order to get to something else.
Going beyond a medical approach, this panel is interested in people who embrace limits and pain as a voluntary active choice. The pain originating by intense training sessions in sportive practices, or labor pains embraced by women who refuse epidural anesthesia, are examples of embodied limit conditions, socialized and celebrated by contemporary Western society. However, other forms of pain are stigmatized and hence practitioners develop narrative strategies of legitimation for their experience, as in the case of contemporary body suspensions or intensive body modifications, where pain constitutes a self-making device.
Understanding pain as an embodied (Csordas 1990, Jackson 2011), sensitive (Howes 1991; Stoller 1997; Pink 2015) and emplaced experience (Ingold 2000, 2011), we welcome contributions where it is conceived as a limit, a means, or a body experience challenging daily routine in Western culture.
Working on pain constitutes an investigative defiance for social researchers. According to a phenomenological perspective, language risks substituting itself for the world. “It is all too easy for us to forget that people feel pain and joy, and think in ways that cannot be readily captured in words” (Jackson 1994: 24). The oral narratives stood out as difficult to translate (Scarry, 1985; DelVecchio Good, Brodwin, Good, Kleinman 1992; Le Breton 1995).
The present panel calls scholars engaged in exploring the meanings of pain, proposing a space of discussion for methodological choices, researchers’ positioning strategies, forms of experience understood as painful and meanings associated to them, interpreted as conventional or subversive. Conceiving ethnographical evidences as the main object of our debate, we welcome proposals based both on participative carnal approaches (Wacquant 2000) and conventional participant observation, as well as experimental practices exploring pioneering strategies of qualitative investigation (Estalella, Sánchez Criado 2018).

Open Questions

- What is a painful experience?

- Which meanings are associated to pain in different social groups and contexts?

- When and why is pain deliberately chosen by individuals and groups?

- As social researchers, how can we explore the sensory experience of pain?


Pain, body, limit, stigma, ethnography, embodiment, embodied practices.

Fields of Study

Anthropology of sport, Anthropology of the body, Medical anthropology, Sociology, Psychology.


Csordas, T.J. (1990), “Embodiment as a Paradigm for Anthropology”, Ethos, 18 (1), pp. 5-47.

Ingold, T. (2000), The perception of the environment, London, Routledge.

DelVecchio Good, M-J., Brodwin, P. E., Good, B. J., Kleinman, A. (eds.) (1992), Pain as human experience. An anthropological perspective, Berkeley – Los Angeles, University of California Press.

Estalella, A., Sánchez Criado, T. (2018), Experimental collaborations: Ethnography through fieldwork devices. New York, Berghan Books.

Ingold, T. (2011), “Worlds of sense and sensing the world: a response to Sarah Pink and David Howes”. Social Anthropology, 19 (13), pp. 313-317.

Jackson, J. (2011), “Pain and Bodies”. In F. Mascia-Lees (ed.), A companion to the anthropology of the body and embodiment, Blackwell, Blackwood, pp. 370-387.

Le Breton, D. (1995), Anthropologie de la douleur, Paris, Metaillé.

Pink, S. (2009), Doing sensory ethnography. Second edition, London, Routledge.

Scarry, E. (1985), The body in pain. The making and unmaking of the world, New York, Oxford University Press.

Stoller, P. (1997), Sensuous Scholarship, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press.

Wacquant, L. (2000), Corps et âme. Carnets ethnographiques d’un apprenti boxeur, Marseilles, Agone.

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Education in a Digital Era

Epistemological and Methodological Challenges in the Ethnographic Field

Convenors: Assunta Viteritti & Leonardo Piromalli (University of Rome “La Sapienza”)

Digital technologies are nowadays interwoven in the very fabric of our everyday lives: from health to the environment, from research to clinic, from media to politics, from economy to gender, from bank accounts to online purchases, from spiritual life to gym activities. Our personal and professional worlds are entangled in increasingly complex knots of digital technoscientific knowledges.

The phenomenon of digitalisation is emerging in education too. Its growing importance has been discussed in terms of a digital governance of education (Landri, 2018) that is being fabricated and enacted across Europe and beyond. Digital technologies are indeed relevant to the fields of school (Selwyn et al., 2016), higher education (Williamson, 2018) and lifelong learning (Romito et al., 2019).

Digitalisation opens up new methodological challenges for qualitative research. The ‘offline’ methods do not seem sufficient for thoroughly capturing digital-mediated educational policy and practices, within which multi-sitedness is inherent (Marcus, 1995) and spatialities as well as temporalities shrink, stretch and overlap (Elliott & Urry, 2010).

At least two visions emerge for investigating education in a digital era. A first relevant approach addresses the digital as an ontologically recognisable space. A continuity with the ethnographic tradition can be found in terms of guiding epistemology, range of methods, view of the field. Techniques such as a/synchronous internet-based interview (O’Connor & Madge, 2017) and digital ethnography (Pink et al., 2015) can be placed within this approach.

In other approaches, the digital is engaged as a space of non-continuity and multiplicity to be investigated through different categories than those employed for more consolidated explorations. Social reality is seen in terms of processes, relationships and assemblages constantly on the verge of becoming something different (Law, 2004; Lury & Wakeford, 2012). Techniques and methods are experimented and re/invented for inquiring education as it happens within and through the digital: genealogies (Williamson, 2018), diagrammatic analyses (Decuypere, 2016), semiotic analyses (Landri, 2018), etc.

This panel aims at opening a space for reflection around qualitative methods for investigating on formal, non-formal and informal education in a digital era. Existing methods have to be refined and new methods have to be constructed for analysing it and untangling its social effects – not least the ones related to the values inscribed in a platform society (Van Dijck et al., 2018).

Empirical and theoretical contributions are welcome that focus the mentioned approaches by bringing them together, relating them, pointing out their strengths and weakness, and – above all –engage education in a digital era not as a matter of fact but as a matter of concern (Latour, 2004).

Open Questions

- Which types of ethnographies emerge from the digital world of education?

- What do ethnographers do when they implement digital ethnography in the field? Which mistakes become resources?

- What must the ethnographer do when she acts in the field of digital ethnography?

- What should I do when I do digital ethnography in the educational field?

- Which new ways to construct the field and examine phenomena does the digital ethnography afford?

- Is it useful, possible – and how? – to engage actors and their knowledges as epistemic partners (Konrad, 2012) in the digital fieldwork? How (where, when, with whom, etc.) should the researcher position himself?

- How to investigate the users in their engagement towards the digital?

- Which methods and techniques to unravel the hidden cultures inscribed in invisible digital infrastructures?

- How to inquire from an ethnographical point of view digital platforms and platformization processes? How to visualize the recent events of platform societies (Van Dijck et al., 2018)?

- How to inquire from an ethnographical point of view the digital governance of education (Landri, 2018)? How to visualize the digital governance practice and the digitalisation processes?


Education, learning, digital, digitalisation, online, platforms, visualization.

Fields of Study

Anthropology of education, Computer design, Digital sociology, Pedagogy, Philosophy of education, Sociology of education.


Decuypere, M. (2016). Diagrams of Europeanization: European education governance in the digital age. Journal of Education Policy, 31(6), 851–872.

Elliott, A., & Urry, J. (2010). Mobile Lives. London: Routledge.

Konrad, M. (Ed.). (2012). Collaborators Collaborating: Counterparts in Anthropological Knowledge and International Research Relations. New York: Berghahn Books.

Landri, P. (2018). Digital Governance of Education: Technology, Standards and Europeanization of Education. London-Oxford: Bloomsbuy.

Latour, B. (2004). Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern. Critical Inquiry, 30(2), 225–248.

Law, J. (2004). After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. London: Routledge.

Lury, C., & Wakeford, N. (2012). Inventive Methods: The Happening of the Social. London: Routledge.

Marcus, G. E. (1995). Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology, 24(1), 95–117.

O’Connor, H., & Madge, C. (2017). Online Interviewing. In N. G. Fielding, R. M. Lee, & G. Blank (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Online Research Methods (pp. 416–434). London: Sage.

Pink, S., Horst, H., Postill, J., Hjorth, L., & Lewis, T. (2015). Digital Ethnography: Principles and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage.

Romito, M., Gonçalves, C., & De Feo, A. (2019). Digital devices in the governing of the European Education Space: The case of SORPRENDO software for career guidance. European Educational Research Journal, 1474904118822944.

Selwyn, N., Nemorin, S., Bulfin, S., & Johnson, N. (2016). Toward a digital sociology of school. In J. Daniels, K. Gregory, & T. McMillan Cottom (Eds.), Digital Sociologies (pp. 143–158). Bristol: Policy Press.

Van Dijck, T., Poell, T., & De Waal, M. (2018). The Platform Society: Public Values in a Connective World. New York: Oxford University Press.

Williamson, B. (2018). The Hidden Architecture of Higher Education: Building a Big Data Infrastructure for the ‘Smarter University’. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 15(1), 12.


Everyday Chauvinisms

The Making of a Mentality in the Urban and Rural Life

Convenor: Pietro Saitta (University of Messina)

A structural nostalgia, that is, in Michael Herzfeld’s words, “the longing for […] the primordial and self-regulating birthright that the state continually invokes”, is currently the political sentiment that appears to prevail in many countries. The working- as well as the middle-classes seem to share composite and contradictory sentiments that concern, among other things, the nation, its ethnic composition, the economy and the “sovereignty” of countries. But the list of contradictory aspirations that characterize our political present and the personal orientation of individual citizens is indeed endless, and it includes family and sexual orientations, immigration and race, guns and social control.

While these contradictory feelings, passions, and affects are aptly constructed, transmitted and nourished by a number of social and political actors, they are also continuously reinforced in the course of everyday interactions. There is, in other words, a “deep connection” between public discourse and popular feelings on certain matters. In fact, regardless of their social class, many people seem to share such sentiments and the aspiration to experience new forms of social cohesion based on nostalgia and aversion towards otherness. Beyond the media influence, thus, there is something in the current organization of social life that favors the emersion of these feelings  – probably what, with Bourdieu, can be called “the weight of the world”. That is, the experience and manifestation of a form of “social suffering”, linked to the quotidian, which produces insecurity, hatred, discomfort, fear, indifference, sense of loss, and the “political” need to direct aggression towards scapegoat figures.

The present call for papers, therefore, solicits contributions that investigate the making and the diffusion of a chauvinistic and nostalgic mentality in the life of communities. The urban areas as well as the rural ones, the middle classes as well as the new working classes, the private space of homes as well as the public space, should be at the center of ethnographic and qualitative accounts that reflect on the structural, ecological and cultural elements that shape certain feelings and generate visible and semi-visible forms of conflict in the social space. The proposed papers should pay attention to the intimate aspects of the process of construction of a chauvinistic mentality and put into connection different “worlds of life” (home, work, school, peer culture, media etc.) in order to show how different elements concur in creating authoritarian personalities and orientations as well as in constituting defensive forms of social cohesion that can operate in both private and public space.

Open Questions

- Are nationalism, chauvinism and jingoism truly related to class and material conditions, as many analyses suggest?

- If in the past ideologies were expected to offer consistent visions of the world, what are the aims that present political visions and pseudo-theories are expected to achieve today?

- If current academic social theories are often “assemblages”, what about the social re-assemblages of these same very ideas? In other words, how do ideas trickle from the top to the bottom and vice versa, being reinvented and re-signified by different social actors?

- What are the forms of “social suffering” in today’s world, and what different classes share in terms of oppression and fears? Are narrations of oppression and fear a way of creating and seeking social unity?

- Is indifference – namely, the silent acceptance by the majority of citizens of the arbitrary and selective processes that concede or deny basic rights to different individuals – a defensive tactic needed by some in order “to withdraw from the world”, a mark of impotence and “impoliticity”, or the sign of the substantial adhesion to a chauvinist political project?

- Is there a link between recent pedagogies and the emersion of a certain chauvinist civil character?

- If any, is this chauvinist civil character more complex, nuanced, and ambivalent than many current depictions would have suggested?

- Is there an esthetic of conformity that became prevalent in the public ethos (in opposition, or in paradoxical agreement, with the liberal principles of individuation)?


Chauvinism, nostalgia, conformity, social cohesion/conflict, class, social change, social suffering.

Fields of Study

Political Sociology/Anthropology, Sociology of Emotions, Biographical Studies, Education Sciences, Symbolic Interactionism, Urban Sociology/Anthropology.

Open Session

Convenors: Giolo Fele (University of Trento) & Gianmarco Navarini (University Milano Bicocca)

The session will host contributions focused on etnography and qualitative research at large. Empirically-grounded and theoretically sound contributions on a variety of themes are welcome.

Open Session

Convenors: Giolo Fele (University of Trento) & Gianmarco Navarini (University Milano Bicocca)

The session will host contributions focused on etnography and qualitative research at large. Empirically-grounded and theoretically sound contributions on a variety of themes are welcome.



Bergamo (Italy) – June 6-9, 2018


Organized by:

University of Bergamo

Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa (ERQ) / Ethnography and Qualitative Research

il Mulino

Since 2006, the Ethnography and Qualitative Research Conference in Bergamo has become an increasingly recognised and established scientific meeting for social researchers. The Conference is organised bi-annually, and has grown positively both in terms of numbers (with the 2016 edition gathering almost 300 scholars) and in terms of its international impact (with nearly half the participants coming from outside Italy).

The 2018 Ethnography and Qualitative Research Conference aims to build on the rich intellectual discussion developed during the previous editions. Researchers from across a variety of disciplines including sociology, anthropology, political sciences, arts & humanities, education, social work, geography, cultural studies, science and technology studies, and gender studies are able to present their research, discuss findings, theory and methodology in a lively and friendly environment.

The core mission of the conference is to:

    •    foster scholarly exchange and facilitate research collaborations among senior and junior scholars based in different universities and research centres in Europe and further afield;

    •    support the dissemination of fresh, original research;

    •    encourage PhD students at different stages of their research to share and present preliminary findings and fieldwork experience;

    •    welcome graduate and undergraduate students as members of the audience and active participants in conference discussions.

The conference embraces and endorses a broad, ambitious view of ethnographic research. Ethnography is understood as an inquiry into the processes, implications, and meanings of social life and culture in groups, organizations, and institutions across diverse social spaces and settings. Accordingly, contributions can be based on a variety of methods, including participant observation, in-depth interviews, focus groups, video-based field studies, auto-ethnography, visual ethnography, discourse studies, and other forms of inquiry inspired and informed by an ethnographic sensibility. The Conference welcomes empirically grounded, theoretically informed, and methodologically sound proposals that contribute to the substantive knowledge of the social world and contemporary emerging phenomena.

The 7th edition features keynote talks and thematic sessions (see the full list below) addressing current key issues such as migration in its various aspect and the neoliberal turn in academic life and higher education. The format is based on 3-hour sessions with 5 to 6 paper presentations per session, leaving as much room as possible for debate and discussion.

“This is not a conference, it’s a feast!”, said a participant during the 6th edition.

Join us in celebrating the ethnographic passion!

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About the 2018 totemic person. Who is the person pictured in the banner above? For each Conference edition, we have selected an Italian intellectual who, while not being an ethnographer stricto sensu, has revealed a prominent ethnographic sensitivity in his/her work. By doing so, we want to both emphasise the many sources of ethnography and invite scholars to re-consider the work of certain Italian writers and artists whose attitude can be still quite inspirational nowadays. In 2014, we featured Antonio Gramsci, in 2016 Pier Paolo Pasolini. For the 2018 edition, we have chosen Tina Modotti.

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NEW: Open Session – Convenors: Giolo Fele & Gianmarco Navarini

  1. The Intimate Life of Power – Convenor: Pietro Saitta (
  2. Street-corner politics. Urban everyday life and the art of living together – Convenors: Sebastiano Citroni & Carole Gayet-Viaud (;
  3. ‘Cultures of Combat’: Qualitative Studies of Martial Arts, Fighting Systems and Combat Sports – Convenors: David Brown, George Jennings & Dr. Lorenzo Pedrini (,,
  4. Ethnography of university life in the era of evaluation – Convenors: Marco Pitzalis & Filippo Zerilli (;
  5. Ethnography of Fascisms – Convenor: Charlie Barnao (
  6. Ethnographies of asylum seeker reception – Convenors: Michela Semprebon & Roberta Marzorati (,
  7. Migrant Masculinities and Global Religions. Exploring Gendered Religious Change through International Mobility – Convenors: Ester Gallo & Francesca Scrinzi (,
  8. Be(ar)ing witness: Testimony, evidence and subjectivation in institutional contexts – Convenors: Alessandra Gribaldo, Tommaso Sbriccoli  & Barbara Sorgoni (,,
  9. Comparing What? Conceptualising comparison in migration and urban studies– Convenors: Nicholas DeMaria Harney & Andrea mubi Brighenti (,
  10. Work, Consumption and Social Relations: Processual Approaches to the Platform Society  – Convenors: Chiara Bassetti, Annalisa Murgia & Maurizio Teli (,,
  11. Minors in migration: Comparative Approaches - Convenors:
    Simona Tersigni & Lorenzo Navone (,
  12. Ethnographic studies of tourism – Convenors: Monica Gilli & Giovanna Rech (,
  13. Experiencing the Sacred between Religion and Spirituality – Convenors: Stefania Palmisano, Nicola Pannofino & Emily Pierini (,,
  14. Contested Rights: Minorities and Justice – Convenors: Paola Bonizzoni & Alberta Giorgi (,
  15. Critical ethnographies of African media and creative industries – Convenor: Alessandro Jedlowski (
  16. Ethnographies of racialized labour processes - Convenors: Vando Borghi & Devi Sacchetto (,
  17. Informal labour brokers and contemporary capitalist economies  – Convenors: Timothy Raeymaekers & Domenico Perrotta (,
  18. New patterns of intra-EU migration? Ethnographic insights on labour and welfare experiences of migrant workers  – Convenors: Gabriella Alberti, Diego Coletto & Giovanna Fullin (,,
  19. Processes of criminalization and qualitative research  – Convenors: Alvise Sbraccia & Francesca Vianello (,
  20. Visual research of migrations and other border experiences. What about politics and aesthetics?– Convenors:  Annalisa Frisina, Valentina Anzoise and Camilla Hawthorne (,,
  21. What sort of Fieldwork and Participant Observation in today’s Maghreb? – Convenors: Mohamed Kerrou & Paola Gandolfi (,
  22. Un/Sustainable Practices in a Scarcity-Driven World - Convenors: Elena Bougleux & Sara Bonfanti (,
  23. Playing on the Move: Rethinking Sport, Migration and Play through Inter-relationality – Convenors: Estella Carpi, Chiara Diana & Stefano Fogliata (,,
  24. Death in European Society: Field Research Experiences – Convenors: Roberta Bartoletti, Asher Colombo & Francesca Pasquali (,,

The abstract-book-2018 is available for download.

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Keynote Speakers

Michel Agier - École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

Empathy as method: reflections on the ethnographic encounter


Wendy Espeland - Northwestern University (US)

Visibility and Invisibility Through Numbers


Lonnie Athens - Seton Hall University, New York

Park’s Theory of the Human Habitat: A Radical Interactionist’s Critique

Michel Agier is a French ethnologist and anthropologist, Professor at the Development Research Institute and as well as the School of Higher Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris. His research focuses on the relationships between globalization, places of exile, and the formation of new urban contexts. Engaged in the associative world, Michel Agier militates for the opening of borders for migrants. ( Adapted from )

Professor Wendy Espeland works in the areas of organizations, culture, and law. Her book, The Struggle for Water: Politics, Rationality and Identity in the American Southwest was awarded the Best Book Prize by the Culture Section of the American Sociological Association, the Rachel Carson Award from the Society for the Social Studies of Science, and the Louis Brownlow Book Award from the National Academy of Public Administration. (From )

Lonnie Athens is Professor of Criminal Justice. His research interests  are in criminology; domination,violence, and conflict; and naturalistic methods. He is the author of three books : Domination and Subjugation in Everyday Life, The Creation of Dangerous Violent Criminals, and Violent Criminal Acts and Actors Revisited. He also has edited or co-edited several anthologies, including Violent Acts and Violentization: Assessing, Applying and Developing Lonnie Athens’ Theories  and Radical Interactionism on the Rise. (From

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Pre-conference workshop


Chiara Bassetti, Andrea Mubi Brighenti, Sebastiano Citroni, Alessandra Gribaldo, Gianmarco Navarini


Max. 15 selected Ph.D. Students or junior Post-Doctoral Researchers.

Registered conference participants may take part to the workshop for free.

Dates & place

June 6th, from 3:00 PM to 6:30 PM and June 7th, from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM

University of Bergamo, Pignolo Building, Room: TBA

 Aims & Objectives

The workshop will constitute an opportunity for Ph.D. Students and junior Post-Doctoral Researchers engaged in ethnographic and qualitative research to share their research experience with colleagues and senior researchers in an informal, stimulating environment. More specifically, the workshop will focus on several challenges of conducting ethnography and qualitative research in the current academic and societal context, including:

– How to connect ethnographic data to substantive social theory, and how to advance social theory through ethnography;

– How to carry out ethnographic research across various disciplines in the social sciences, and beyond;

– How can the ethnographic insight help in becoming more reflective and keep the passion alive while making one’s way into the academic world and an array of research institutions;

– What is the current situation and prospect for early and mid-stage ethnographic researches in terms of career opportunities and career advancement, in the current academic labor market.

Selection procedure

If you are interested in participating to the pre-conference workshop, please send one-page statement describing your situation and critical reflection concerning one or more challenge (among those mentioned above and others as well). Alternatively, you may send one-page statement summarizing the main theoretical dimension you have been able to explore thanks to your ethnographic/qualitative research and doctoral dissertation.

Plese send your statement by April 30, 2018 to with “Pre-conference workshop application” as e-mail subject.

Based on the proposals, two groups may be formed – one specifically concerned with theoretical development, and one more focused on conducting ethnography and developing a career as ethnographers in the current academy.

The groups will finally come together to share their insights on theory development and career advancement in ethnography and qualitative research.

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Scientific & Organizing Committee

Chiara Bassetti, University of Trento (

Elena Bougleux, University of Bergamo (

Andrea Mubi Brighenti, University of Trento (

Sebastiano Citroni, University of Milano Bicocca (

Nick Dines, European University Institute (

Giolo Fele, University of Trento (

Elena Fontanari, University of Milano (

Paola Gandolfi, University of Bergamo (

Pier Paolo Giglioli, University of Bologna (

Alberta Giorgi, University of Bergamo (

Alessandra Gribaldo, University of Bologna (

Marco Marzano, University of Bergamo (

Cristina Mattiucci, University of Trento (

Gianmarco Navarini, University of Milano Bicocca (

Francesca Pasquali, University of Bergamo (

Domenico Perrotta, University of Bergamo (

Federico Rahola, University of Genova (

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Processes of criminalization and qualitative research

Convenors: Alvise Sbraccia (University of Bologna) & Francesca Vianello (University of Padova)

Evidences deriving from the statistical sources on crime can offer significant sparks to trace the field’s boundaries of the processes of criminalization. Often, nevertheless, their use is oriented to essentialize, on uncertain scientifical basis, the social appearance of individuals and groups who practice the forms of deviance selected by the criminal justice systems. Through a tautological mechanism, such use of these data tends to construct and (re)produce positivistic explainations about crime, often bound to reinforce the causal nexus between poverty\marginality and delinquent adaptations.

Some crucial dimensions related to the criminal phenomena can be addressed, from an analytical point of view, only starting from the empirical basis constructed through sociological and criminological qualitative methodologies.

This call is therefore directed to research contributions aimed to frame such phenomena as socially constructed. The processes of criminalization are read, following this perspective, in their dialectical declination, describing and analyzing the articulation of relations and interactions which characterize them along three main dimensions, de facto linked with the category of “criminal policy”:

1) the definition of deviant behaviours deserving an institutional sanction

2) the selective (and discretional) carrying out of the practices related to police control and penal sentencing

3) the social representation (media construction) of the relation between the subjects threatening social order, their potential and “real” victims, and the agencies of control.

Since the veriable geometry of criminalization takes shape according to the composition of these dimensions, to describe and analyze the assignation of meanings performed by the different involved social actors (in the legislative and govermental apparatus, in the field of the police control of the territory, in the judicial sector, in the prison system, in the public and media spheres) appear as fundamental elements in order to develop a critical socio-criminological view.

With the aim of relaunching this perspective of dialogue, this panel will welcome essays and presentations based on qualitative and ethnographic research in the following areas:

a) normative innovation, punitiveness and the penal system

b) social and media representation of crime and criminals

c) organization and selectivity of police control

d) interactions in the judicial system

e) control and resistance in prison

Death in European Society: Field Research Experiences

Convenors: Roberta Bartoletti (University of Urbino), Asher Colombo (University of Bologna); Francesca Pasquali (University of Bergamo)

For a long time neglected in sociological research, the topic of death and dying now constitutes a strategic sub-disciplinary field in sociology. Starting from the Nineties, an increasing corpus of both theoretical and empirical work has been addressing it, and three main strands of research have emerged: 1) the first strand is focused on end-of-life and dying. Following the work of Glaser and Strauss (1965) a very rich corpus of research deals with the management and organization of death, with analyses centered on the relations among doctors, patients and their families within institutional contexts; 2) the second strand of research deals with what happens after death takes place, in terms of both funeral rituals and interpersonal relationship within families and communities and the management of death on the mundane side (i.e. the funeral industry, its organization, and its professions); 3) the third strand investigates beliefs about afterlife and the relationship between the living and the dead, dealing with grief and bereavement but also with memory and memorialization.

The sociological attention for the theme is also motivated by the major changes that have been affecting, in recent years, social practices associated with death.

Just to mention a few: the shift from burial to cremation, the rapid diffusion, at least in Italy, of funeral homes and the changes of funeral rites that are now facing a variety that might confirm the trend, enunciated by Walter (1994), towards the so-called “neo-modern”, highly personalized, death. Mourning practices are changing with the increasingly important role of social media as a space for communication of death, grief and memorialization. On the organizational side, funeral and death care industry is broadening its field of operation and it is developing new commercial and marketing strategies. At the same time, people working in the industry are gaining in status and social acceptability.

The widely shared assumption that death is totally relegated to the private sphere  - in a simplified vision of the”forbidden death” hypothesis formulated in by Aries (1975) – is therefore becoming more and more inadequate and reductive. The changes in social practices related to death and dying are, in fact, generating new links between public and private sphere, and they are claiming for new theoretical and empirical work.

In this context, the panel offers itself as a place for gathering field research experiences on death that will highlight the ongoing change (and the differences) happening in European society on the following topics:

  • one’s  own death
  • the disposal of dead bodies, funeral rites and ceremonies
  • social media and communication of death and mourning
  • the funeral industry and the administrative organization of death
  • grief and bereavement
  • after death bonds and relations between the living and the dead
  • memory and memorialization

The panel welcomes either ethnographic or qualitative papers but attention will also be given to interdisciplinary papers that integrate, among others, anthropology and history. We also invite papers that engage critically with the methodological and theoretical challenges of undertaking ethnographic research on the topic.

Playing on the Move: Rethinking Sport, Migration and Play through Inter-relationality

Convenors: Estella Carpi (University College London), Chiara Diana (Aix-Marseille University, Universitè Libre de Bruxelles) & Stefano Fogliata (University of Bergamo)

In the wake of the latest migration trajectories around the globe, humanitarian xorganisations together with national institutions have increasingly been relying on play and sports as a back-route to “integration” and “social stability”. The values that societies assign to play and sports activities mainly for youth are thus well encapsulated by protection, discipline and education.

At the same time, migrant communities autonomously organize in performing the ‘simple playing of games’ (Bourdieu, 1978), where sport turns into a social urban arena deeply linked to the everyday need for creative activity, the imaginary, and play. In this case, to think human mobility with the lens of “play” provides us with a new way of seeing relationality entangled with spatial appropriation and reproduction.

In this framework, play and sports, which do not necessarily complement each other, are deployed as vehicles to address broad societal issues, such as socio-spatial marginalisation, war recruitment and economic or political vulnerabilities. Drawing on the experiences of (un)forced migration and development of humanitarian practices, this panel aims to contribute to those debates that maintain that play activities and sport are an end per se or to frame them as catalysts for political, cultural, educational or religious formation processes.

The panel is particularly interested in ethnographic works tackling the intersection between international mobility and play/sports activities mainly (but not only) in Middle Eastern and other societies that have become home to Arab background diasporas. A deeper understanding of the leisure time trajectories may thus turn into an alternative point of observation that slips away from the institutional narratives regarding migrant communities, marginalized neighbourhoods or refugee camps. In this framework, how can an ethnographic approach itself on the move contribute to unveil ambivalences and contradictions of everyday life in such socio-spatial contested spaces? Lastly, it seeks to provide a terrain of discussion regarding what ludic and physical activities do to the agency of children and youth, particularly in light of the economic and existential uncertainties and opportunities that human mobility entails. Which are the benefits and limits of ethnography in understanding the processes of social change through sport practices? In an attempt to move beyond the definition of development and humanitarian agendas, how do children and youth on the move make sense of ludic and sports activities?



Bourdieu, P. (1978), Sport and social class. Social Science Information 17(6): 819–840

Un/Sustainable Practices in a Scarcity-Driven World

Convenors: Elena Bougleux (University of Bergamo) & Sara Bonfanti (University of Trento)

The issue of sustainability in a global and yet localized sense cannot be postponed nor ignored any longer. Emergencies tied to humanitarian crisis, to unpredictable and unstable climate changes and to a systematically receding economic phase characterize the present scenario, drawing visions of crisis that affect both the material and the immaterial dimensions of existence. Scarcity appears as a keyword that connects heterogeneous elements of instability and determines the modification of life strategies for increasingly large and diverse groups of people and that eventually connotes the main character of the era of the Anthropocene. Presumed shortage of resources vis-à-vis a steady global population rise are depicted as the ubiquitous threat to (not only human) life on the planet.

In the first place, we want to discuss whether the issue of scarcity is rather tied to material dimensions, or socio-economically constructed across multiple relations, or even perceived at subjective level, considering its diffracted implications into environment, resources and human capital sides. In particular, we wish to assess which power stakes define abundance or lack and what impact these grand narratives have over the life chances of different social groups and individuals, and over the capabilities of projecting one’s existence into fragile futures.

As a consequence to this induced circle of factual and fictional hazards, adaptation practices emerge as spontaneous responses to condition of unsustainability, in forms of organized resistance, development of good practices, critical thought and even forms of mobility. These adaptive strategies are also being promoted and supported (or at times limited) at an institutional level (UN agencies included). We would like to draw attention to a great contradiction that emergencies embeds, and to the hypothetical agency assigned to the different actors at stake, which instead often covers concrete situations of marginality or lack of power.

As a point in case, we intend to critically debate the ‘blue alert’ of south Asian climate migrants (Chaturvedi, Sakhuja 2016): global warming, rise of sea level, shrinking of water supplies, all have contributed to ongoing displacements in one of the most populous, and possibly most unequal, area worldwide. This appears a context where the broad concepts of adaptation and agency need to be substantially questioned. This reference will serve as exemplary framework to discuss and reflect on the many global, and yet localized, cases of overheating (Eriksen 2016). All in-depth ethnographic researches on the mixed outcomes of this accelerated pace in environmental, economic and cultural change are welcome.


Chaturvedi S. e Sakhuja V. 2016, Climate Change and the Bay of Bengal: Evolving  Geographies of Fear and Hope, Pentagon, New Delhi.

Eriksen T.H. 2016, Overheating, Pluto Press, London.

What sort of Fieldwork and Participant Observation in today’s Maghreb?

Convenors: Mohamed Kerrou (University of Tunis El Manar) & Paola Gandolfi (University of Bergamo)

Within “The Mediterranean of the antropologists” (Albera, Tozy, 2001), the Maghrebian societies have always been a privileged case study for many qualitative researchers and several anthropologists and ethnographers specialised in the Arabic and Islamic countries. Many authors have debated the ambiguities and peculiarities of achieving fieldworks in the Maghreb of the past.

What about trying “to encounter” (Crawford, Newcomb, 2013) theses societies and cultures in contemporary times? What does it mean to do a fieldwork in a changing society such as one of the Maghreb after 2011? Above all, what does participant observation mean in contemporary Maghreb? Which is the “ethnogrpafic situation”, as Hassan Rachik suggests to call it, or rather the ensemble of the practical conditions permitting the encounter and the observation of the other?

Going back to some emblematic names of the anthropology of the Maghreb (from Berque, Westermark, Gellner, Geertz, Rabinow, up to Hammoudi, Rachik, Tozy, Arrif, and others) not only we can analyse the different ethnographic situations illustrated by the multiple paths of the researchers but we also would like to explore the complex interrelations among classical theories and ethnographic practices today

One of our main questions concerns the necessity and the ambiguity of investigating social movements in the Maghreb today (Veriel, Beinin 2013). How can we explore these complex ongoing dynamics by means of a participant observation? Which are the implications of and the conditions for a participant observation today?

Taking into consideration the most recent fieldworks and in-depth qualitative studies in the Maghreb, we will especially explore the meaning of the “ethnographic engagement” (Cefai, 2010) within ongoing change processes and within the social movements (Cefai ,2007). The panel welcomes case studies and fieldworks proposing a critical approach to understand social movements, mobilisations, daily practices of resistance and expressions of contestation within the rapidly and deeply changing societies of the Maghreb region.


Albera D., Tozy M., « Introduction, fractures, filiations, contiguïtés », dans La Méditerranée des anthropologues, A.

Cefai, D. L’engagement ethnographique, EHESS, Paris, 2010.

Cefai, D., Porquoi se mobilise-t-on? La Découverte, Paris, 2007.

Crawford D., Newcomb, R. (eds), Encountering Morocco: Fieldwork and Cultural Understanding, Indiana Unviersity Press, Indiana, 2013.

Veriel, F. , Beinin, J. (eds) Social Movements , Mobilisation and Contestation in Middle East and North Africa, Stanford Unviersity Press, 2013.

Visual research of migrations and other border experiences. What about politics and aesthetics?

Convenors: Annalisa Frisina (University of Padova), Valentina Anzoise (University of Ca’ Foscari, Venezia) and Camilla Hawthorne (University of California, Berkeley)

In the past decades one of the most widespread advancements across the social sciences has been the growth of visual research. Qualitative researchers have become more interested in understanding how visual materials shape social life and have learned to dialogue with visual studies, i.e. studying visual culture as an ongoing contestation between visuality and counter-visuality (Mirzoeff 2011). Moreover, ethnographic research has often included a variety of visual methods (Frisina 2016; Pauwels 2015), especially collaborative or participatory, working with visual materials produced by the participants, by the researchers, sometimes in cooperation with professional photographers, film-makers and visual artists.

This panel aims to bring together the two sides of visual research (the study of visual culture and the uses of visual methods in ethnography) in order to explore migration and other border experiences by reflecting on the role played by visual representations in reproducing patterns of differential inclusion, in challenging exclusion and in negotiating ways of belonging in material and symbolic borderlands, peripheries and margins around the world. Building on the work of Mezzadra and Neilson (2014) on the proliferations of borders in contemporary global society, the panel seeks to reflect on how visual research can contribute to the study of the production of new classed, racialized/ethnicized, and gendered configurations of insider/outsider to the nation-states and deserving/underserving of socio-political forms of solidarity. Understanding borderscapes as areas “shaped and reshaped by transnational flows, that [go] beyond the modernist idea of clear-cut national territories” (Dell’Agnese and Amilhat Szary 2015, 80), the panel explore visual borderscapes as “signifying systems”, with specific histories and ways of seeing that are constantly reinterpreted in different ways by diverse social actors. Furthermore, the panel aims to open a dialogue on the ways of connecting border experiences with border representations, by rethinking the relationships between politics and aesthetics (Brambilla 2015).

In order to hold this conversation, the panel welcomes empirically-grounded papers that study borderscaping (also) as visual practices through which the imagined border is established and experienced as real. Possible topics include, but are not limited to: the performative nature of borders and ways through which visual objects – but also music and arts – (un)make the border; visual research of de- and re-bordering processes; ways of doing visual activism to challenge dominant representations and hegemonic discourses; visual borderscapes as sites of resistance and struggle.

We especially welcome works where the positionality of the visual researcher is questioned and which make explicit the role played by the visuals in the research process and in the research presentation.

New patterns of intra-EU migration? Ethnographic insights on labour and welfare experiences of migrant workers

Convenors: Gabriella Alberti (Leeds University Business School), Diego Coletto (University of Milano-Bicocca) & Giovanna Fullin (University of Milano-Bicocca)

Since the financial crisis in 2008 and the effects of austerity policies, we have witnessed new patterns of intra-EU migration especially of young people in search of opportunities. Between 2009 and 2014 the largest increase of arrivals was registered in countries like Germany, Austria, the UK, and Denmark. Just considering flows to Germany, the 2014 saw 1.4 million arrivals, with 60% of the new residents being from EU countries (primarily Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, but also “old EU” Southern members). Moreover in 2012-13 immigration from the South of Europe in the UK has surpassed that from Eastern countries (EC 2017).

Numbers however can only reveal the scale of the phenomenon, while there has been only limited fine-grained research on the subjective aspects of these “new” European migrants’ experiences of mobility, on their motivations and expectations, their efforts to access the local labour markets and their relationship with the welfare state systems. Besides “life-style migration” of people with affluent family background, there are high skilled youth of “Erasmus generation” looking for better career opportunities and also low skilled economic-oriented migrants escaping the effects of prolonged social and economic crisis and austerity. The lack of opportunities for the present and the negative or limited perspectives for the future are likely to impact on mobility decisions of people and, in particular, of young people (both high and low educated) living in Eastern and Southern European countries, which have been strongly hit by the economic crisis.

Indeed there has been a shortage of empirical research on the experiences of EU citizens exercising their labour mobility and social rights in the common market, while recent research has shown barriers on the ground to the implementation of equal access to social protections for EU ‘movers’. At the same time and despite the rhetoric around migrants as “welfare tourists” at the core of the nationalistic anti-immigrant discourses, there is evidence that migrants apply for benefits less than citizens, and tend to still rely on elements of their country’s welfare system for their social reproduction.

Against this background this stream aims to explore the lived experiences of migration, and labour market and welfare integration of this “new generation” of migrants, with a focus on the “revived” migration from the East and South to the North of Europe. Are South and East Europeans who emigrate to Centre and North European countries very different from other migrants coming from outside EU in terms of motivations, expectations and individual strategies? How do mobile EU citizens experience access to employment and welfare support measures? What kind of new forms of temporary or onward migration are emerging? How do they address welfare conditionality and labour precariousness and organize their welfare transnationally?

We believe that in-depth qualitative and ethnographic studies can critically contribute to the knowledge of this topic and provide more insights in the current transformation of the social aspects of internal mobility in the EU.

Specific themes include but are not limited to:

  • Conceptualization of new migrations and comparison with previous migrations;
  • Motivations and expectations of new migrants from Southern and Eastern European  countries to Northern Europe;
  • New geographies of migration intra EU: the attractiveness of big cities     and of other destinations;  
  • Policy reforms/discourses about welfare tourism/their impact on migrants’     everyday lives;
  • How do new migrants organize welfare access across borders;
  • Experiences of EU migrants’ labour market (selective) integration;
  • Low-skilled and high-skilled new migrants;
  • Transnational lives and strategies, onward migration, multinational worker;
  • Relationship between multiple welfare entitlements and employment condition;
  • Use of mix of traditional qualitative research tools with more innovative research tools to study labour and welfare mobility (for instance digital ethnography).


Informal labour brokers and contemporary capitalist economies

Convenors: Timothy Raeymaekers (University of Zurich) & Domenico Perrotta (University of Bergamo)

In comparative sociology and anthropology, the concept of broker remains of great relevance.  Famously, Jeremy Boissevain defined a social broker as a “professional manipulator of people and information”, who “places people in touch with each other either directly or indirectly for profit” and “bridges gaps in communication between persons, groups, structures and even cultures”. Such brokers are seen as central figures in the spread of colonial power, the development of patronage as well as a particular type of social and economic system, defined “broker capitalism”, typical of so-called ‘peripheral’ economies and States.

More recently, in the study of transnational mobility and labour markets, the role of the informal brokers has taken an prominent position. Over the last years, even if European labour market scholars have noted a trend towards the formalization of (migrant) labour intermediation (for instance through temporary work agencies, “posted workers” and governments’ schemes for the recruitment of seasonal workers), the role of informal brokers seems to remain important in bridging formal-informal ties.

But what kind of role such brokers play in contemporary capitalist economies is far from foreclosed. Some scholars depict a  downward exploitative relationship to so-called ‘informal’ labourers, assuming brokers become complicit in the formers’ “adverse incorporation” (Philips 2010) and channeled (hyper)mobility (Xiang and Lindquist 2014). As “thuggish” intermediaries, labour brokers are kept particularly responsible for debt bondage and human trafficking in complicity with smuggling and exploitation networks. Other scholars insist nonetheless on the more ‘positive’ role such brokers may play in enhancing ‘social capital’ and fostering trust in what are commonly described as ‘fragile’ social contexts. The underlying theory here is that of the “strength of weak ties” (Granovetter), which starts from the presupposition that networks with social ties in different environments than their close family and community are more likely to develop their social capital, and thus, to foster economic development.

This dichotomy between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ brokers has served little to explain the important institutional function of informal brokers in bridging formal and informal capital accumulation, however: the question how labour intermediaries may perform and even transform certain regulatory functions either beyond or within state frameworks. Nor does it explain much about the political subjectivity of such intermediary figures, and the ways they are themselves part of “systems in the making”.

Inspired by the recent literature on migrant infrastructure, with its emphasis on the channeling, filtering and circulation of migrant mobility, this panel aims to focus on alternative conceptualizations of the relationship between migrant mobility, informal intermediation and contemporary capitalist institutions. It invites contributions from all social science disciplines. We give special priority towards longitudinal ethnographic work that challenges existing paradigms.

Possible questions to be addressed by the presenters are:

  • the transformations that systems of informal brokerage foster, prevent or delay in the economic sectors in which they are inserted;
  • the relationships between informal brokerage and public regulations of labour market and transnational mobility;
  • the conflicts over the figure, role, and activities of informal brokers;
  • the question of scale: how broker figures are capable of navigating and challenging spatially embedded distinctions between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ ‘sectors’.


Boissevain, J. (1974): Friends of Friends. Networks, Manipulators and Coalitions. Basil Blackwell, Oxford.

Granovetter, M. (1973) The strength of weak ties, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 78, n° 6 (May),  pp. 1360-1380.

Phillips, N. (2013) Unfree labour and adverse incorporation in the global economy:  comparative perspectives on Brazil and India, Economy and Society, 42:2, pp. 171-196

Xiang, B. and Lindquist, J. (2014) Migration Infrastructure, in: IMR, 48 1 (Fall 2014), pp. 122–148.



Ethnographies of racialized labour processes

Convenors: Vando Borghi (University of Bologna) & Devi Sacchetto (University of Padova)

The production system, organized in chains of global value, is characterized by increasingly extensive processes of segmentation of labour. The structure of production is stratified with a division of workers thanks also to subcontractors and to (international) recruitment agencies. The distribution of workforce in these segments is often linked to the characteristics of individuals at the crossroads of a set of elements such as ‘race’, gender, class, citizenship, age, religion, language. These processes overcome labour markets and workplaces, extending to aspects of social reproduction.

The flexible segmentation of the European labour market seems to be supported by the reactivation of devices of racialization placing workers within a hierarchical scale in the concrete dimension of production systems. Diversity thus contribute to control and help to produce increasing value. These racialization devices need to be analyzed in close connection with the global value chains structure, the state policy and union strategies. It would be wrong, however, to consider the segmentation of occupational systems as a passive pigeonholed of the workforce because these ‘colour lines’ are crossed by continuous tensions with conflicting phenomena in and out of work.

These forms of conflict are often supported by migrants in workplaces that have already been racialized, as it is evident by the experiences of Italian agriculture and logistics. On the other hand, the mobility processes of Central and Eastern European citizens show that the ‘colour line’ does not run out in the skin colour element as they are affected by further stratification processes.

There are several “lines” of separation also among white workers that affect both the ‘new’ European (Eastearn) citizens as well as the ‘new’ migrants from Southern Europe. In the division of labour, we can also note the specific role played by gender, with migrants women that are mainly placed in the domestic services and often separated based on the country of origin and on the skin colour.

In this panel, we invite to submit papers focusing on the impact of the segmentation of the labour market, particularly with regard to social relations within the workforce. The ethnographic gaze could therefore offer a contribution to analyze the experience that workers make in the labour process both as form of representation and disputing, and finally of justification. Papers may include, but are not limited to, these topics:

  • Subjective perception and the ways in which individuals experience the processes of segmentation and racialization in workplace;
  • The different structure of production processes within which racialization patterns develop;
  • The role played by the institutional dimension;
  • The forms of critique, conflict and emancipation as a response to the experiences of racialization;
  • The problems of ethnographic research in investigating labour processes segmented.


Critical ethnographies of African media and creative industries

Convenors: Alessandro Jedlowski (University of Liege)

The introduction of new media and telecommunication technologies, coupled with ongoing processes of political and economic liberalization, has opened up new economic possibilities and provoked the emergence of entirely new sectors in the economies of most African countries. The rapid growth of media industries around the continent that resulted from this trends has attracted much scholarly attention over the past few years, and the study of modern forms of what Karin Barber (1987) famously defined as “African popular arts” made the object of several publications in Africa as elsewhere. Simultaneously, in a global context that is marked by the price volatility of raw materials such as oil and copper, media and creative industries, described as the new “African black gold”, have attracted the interest of a large number of both African and non-African players, making the African creative sector the object of unprecedented corporate interests.

The majority of the studies which focused on media and creative industries in Africa have adopted research methodologies drawn from the field of cultural studies and critical political economy, and have thus focused mostly on the analysis of the contents produced and circulated by these industries, or on the analysis of the larger web of political and economic factors influencing them. These studies tended to share a common optimistic assumption: in societies considered (from a western point of view) as generally lacking freedom of expression, the introduction of new technologies and the exponential increase in creative expression would provoke an acceleration in processes of democratic transformation and an increase in the chances for upward social mobility. This optimism has often hidden the complex intertwining between the opportunities for the formulation of critical thinking that this emerging production has created, and the forms of political control and economic marginalization that it has equally helped in consolidating, and has thus participated in obscuring rather than highlighting the complex processes “by which art is produced and meanings conveyed” (Cooper 1987: 102).

As Brian Larkin underscored, “what media are needs to be interrogated and not presumed. The meanings attached to technologies, their technical functions, and the social uses to which they are put are not an inevitable consequence but something worked out over time in the context of considerable cultural debate. And even then, these meanings and uses are often unstable, vulnerable to changing political orders and subject to the contingencies of objects’ physical life” (2008: 3). In this perspective, ethnography acquires a central role for the interpretation of the wide range of social and cultural practices that surrounds media production, circulation and consumption. In fact, media do not only transmit contents, they also “represent cultural ambitions, political machineries, modes of leisure, relations between technology and the body, and, in certain ways, the economy and spirit of an age” (Larkin 2008: 2).

On the ground of these assumptions, this panel invites contributions based on a critical ethnographic approach to the study of media and creative industries in Africa that can offer a more nuanced understanding of the historical, social and cultural processes from which these industries have emerged and within which they operate. We welcome papers on all aspects of media production, distribution and consumption which can participate to the production of a thick description of the ongoing transformation of the creative sector in Africa and further our understanding of its implications for larger political and economic issues affecting the continent.


Barber, Karin. 1987. “Popular arts in Africa” African Studies Review 30.3: 1-78

Cooper, Frederick. 1987. “Who is the Populist?” African Studies Review 30.3: 99-104

Larkin, Brian. 2008. Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria. Durham: Duke University Press.


Contested Rights: Minorities and Justice

Convenors: Paola Bonizzoni (University of Milano) & Alberta Giorgi (University of

A growing body of literature focuses on the concept of Eurolegalism and, more broadly, judicialization of politics to highlight the increasing relevance of the courts and the ‘language of rights’ for dealing with politically controversial issues.

Indeed, the increasing role of the judicial power in politics has been connected to the difficulties in accessing the political venue, to the growing dissatisfaction with the principles and institutions of representative democracy and to the demands for transparency and accountability. According to some scholars, thus, the expansion of the judicial field may be interpreted as a form of democratization, to the extent that it provides windows of opportunity for otherwise unheard voices, by increasing groups’ and individuals’ opportunities to bring rights claims, and to intervene and participate to the collective regulation of societies.

On the other hand, ‘turning to law’ and mobilizing the judiciary may be costly (requiring different forms of cultural, economic or relational capital) and even risky, unintentionally jeopardizing public processes of issues’ legitimation. Moreover, groups may have other, relevant, reasons to restrain from taking legal action (such as cultural and identity-related preferences and considerations).

In this sense, cultural understandings of the law, attitudes toward the judiciary and broader processes of social inequality can be understood as relevant factors to explain to what extent minorities decide (not) to “turn to the law” either individually or collectively, to challenge discrimination, as well as to claim and expand their rights.

In this session, we solicit ethnographic and qualitative studies (including comparative ones) that examine, from different angles, methods and theoretical perspectives, the judicialization of minority groups issues – particularly in the fields of religion, immigration, and LGBT, women’s and Roma rights.

We especially welcome studies tackling:

  1. Strategic litigation, either through national and supranational/international courts (to overcome national veto-players through processes of venue-shopping). How do minority groups conceive of and mobilize the law?
  2. Rights claim via lobbying activities and public campaigning centred on issues of legal reform and/or the mobilization of the ‘language of rights’ to frame minority issues.
  3. The role played by gatekeepers (legal and para-legal experts) in providing individuals and groups critical resources to navigate the law and concretely mediate access to rights.


Experiencing the Sacred between Religion and Spirituality

Convenors: Stefania Palmisano (University of Turin), Nicola Pannofino (University of Turin) ed Emily Pierini (University of Wales Trinity Saint David/The American University of Rome)

Religion” and “Spirituality” are terms of a binomial that is at the core of recent debates in the field of religious studies. Their relation is variably understood either as opposition or complementarity. In the first instance, according to the formula “spiritual but not religious” used by those who cultivate a personal relationship with the transcendent beyond institutionalized religions. In the latter one, spirituality expresses the subjective dimension of religion. Both these definitions emphasize lived experience, and especially a sacred that permeates everyday practices, close to the body, to sensory perception and to the agency of the person in transition between multiple secular spheres of society.

In order to delve into this field, we invite contributions grounded in ethnographic research focussing upon the relationship between religion and spirituality in the concrete social contexts of everyday life, and that stress a methodological reflection upon the status of ethnography in the study of lived religion and spirituality.

Some of the areas around which this theme can be developed are:

  • spirituality and religion in everyday life
  • spirituality and gender
  • body, emotions and spirituality
  • the perceptive dimension in the experience of the sacred
  • health, wellbeing and spirituality
  • spirituality and the notion of personhood
  • creative expressions of the religious in secular contexts
  • the ethnography of spirituality: how the ethnographer perceives the experiences of others