Category: Conference

Ethnographies of asylum seeker reception

Convenors: Michela Semprebon (Università IUAV di Venezia) & Roberta Marzorati (Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca)

Asylum seekers dispersal programmes have been operating across cities and towns in different European countries. Although to varying degrees, a sustained ‘moral panic’ has spread throughout EU countries, in connection to dispersal itself. Yet, the arrival and reception of asylum seekers and refugees have triggered different reactions in local societies ranging from  discoursive opposition up to violent attacks on the one hand to active inclusionary engagement and welcoming practices on the other. On their side, local authorities have shown diverging stances: some have invested symbolic and material resources to favour a more inclusive governance of dispersal; other have dismissed any request to invest in the reception of asylum seekers and refugees, thus legitimizing citizens’ most racist positions.

In Italy forms of resistance, protests and mayors uncooperative stances have gained increasing visibility in the media, particularly with reference to (although not exclusively) small and medium size cities in the North. At the same time, varying forms and projects of inclusion can be found across the whole country, in spite of the fact they have arguably been given less attention by the media. While scholars have been investigating asylum reception policies, on the one side, and the everyday experience of asylum seekers, on the other, there appears to be little empirical evidence on local societies reactions and their impact on more or less inclusive practices.

Against this background, this call for papers aims to collect ethnographic and qualitative studies exploring contentious dynamics and welcoming practices in local contexts of dispersal, with specific reference to contributions focusing on the following:

  • Situations, experiences and initiatives in which inclusionary actions, involving any actors engaged in the governance of reception and inclusion (reception operators, local authorities, Prefectures, local associations, etc.) promote effective possibilities for asylum seekers and refugees to engage in meaningful encounters with local residents and fellow refugees;
  • Situations, experiences and initiatives in which inclusionary or exclusionary actions impact on the post-reception integration of asylum seekers and refugees in the dispersal locality or else on their onward movements;
  • Contentious dynamics between native residents and asylum seekers and refugees.
  • The rise of organized groups opposing asylum seekers arrival and the socio-political elements and organizational setting that make a place more or less welcoming than others.

The overall goal of the proposed panel is to analyse and compare tensions between inclusionary and exclusionary actions (and reactions) of the civil society in dispersal localities and to highlight their positive and/or negative effects on pacific cohabitation and on asylum seekers’ and refugees path towards inclusion.

Comparative contributions will be particularly welcome if they include a transnational comparison between Italy and one or more European country/ies, between the North and South of Italy, between projects promoted in the same locality in different historical periods (ie. after 2011 and during the ex Yugoslavia 1990s humanitarian crisis).


Ethnography of Fascisms

Convenor: Charlie Barnao (University of Catanzaro “Magna Grecia”)

My political sentiments inclined toward the left

and emphasized the socialist aspects every bit

as much as nationalist ones”

(Adolf Eichmann)


What is fascism? Is fascism a social phenomenon that is strictly limited to a certain historical period? Or is it a phenomenon with specific characteristics that can occur at any time and anywhere? What are these characteristics? What are the places of fascism (and fascisms) today? What are its forms? Are fascisms only a political phenomenon? The cultures that make it up are just the extreme right-wing political cultures?

Ethnography is a privileged tool for studying cultures and has great potential (and, we can add, great responsibility) to answer these questions.

In fact, although fascism has been studied and defined in the most different ways, in its many dimensions (political, historical, economic, psychological, etc.), through the most disparate theoretical approaches and disciplines (from sociology to psychology, from anthropology to political science, from history to economics), in this session we are interested in studying fascism mainly (but, of course, not only) through its cultural dimensions.

Our main goals are to discuss the possible different definitions of fascism and suggest links – where it is possible – between the cultural dimensions of the phenomenon and the other dimensions.

Then, we want to study, “not only historical fascism, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini – which was able to mobilize and use the desire of the masses so effectively – but also the fascism in us all, in our heads, and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us” (Foucault 1983, xiii).

Paraphrasing Hannah Arendt, we are interested in studying the “banality of fascism”: the daily “micro-fascisms” which emerge through a culture made of a set of values (including nationalism, statism, sexism, transcendence, cleansing/racism, paramilitarism, syncretism) that have been identified as typical of fascism by some studies in different disciplines.

Therefore, this session wants to collect ethnographic contributions that study fascism (and fascisms) as a culture that is articulated and practiced in social settings such as:

  • school
  • the family
  • politics
  • the  police
  • the army
  • business enterprises
  • religious institution
  • sports


Foucault, M. (1983). “Preface” in G. Deleuze & F. Guattari. Anti-Oedipus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia.  University of Minnesota Press.



Ethnography of university life in the era of evaluation

Convernors: Marco Pitzalis (University of Cagliari) & Filippo Zerilli (University of Cagliari)

Universities throughout  the world are today having to deal with three  contradictory goals and processes:

  1. Increasing the number of graduates. This is pursued by adopting a common framework regarding qualifications in the three cycles of higher education. The first cycle leading to a bachelor’s degree was intended to increase the number of people completing a university degree.
  2. The pursuit of “excellence” is achieved by  concentrating resources in a smaller number of institutions.
  3. The globalization of Higher education markets by the utilisation of various “dispositifs”, such as classification in international rankings.

In recent years, the relationship between the State and universities has gradually changed because of the “managerial” paradigm has led to a change in the hegemonic balance by increasing the power of the University Chancellor and introducing a Board comprising academics and stakeholders.  Moreover, assessment has become the essential device of a new form of governmentality. We are observing a kind of transformation of the Centralist State into an “Evaluative State”.  “Legal Homogeneity” and “Evaluative State” can be considered as opposing paradigms that characterize two different periods in the history of higher education systems.

The main educational policy objective is the creation of a competitive higher education market. Indicators and rankings are the main instrument that has brought about marked diversification among universities and has helped create a new paradigm that has led to a redefinition of key resources required to ‘play the game’ within national higher education systems.

In many countries this change has been played out in a framework of historical, structural inequalities among regions and territories.

A further element to consider is the change in the administration and management of universities which has resulted in a radical change in the balance of power between university boards, administration staff and the collegiate power. This has meant that faculty autonomy is affected and professors are caught up in a process of mobilization (Pitzalis, 2016). The shift of focus towards evaluation has created a climate of competition that is changing the modes of working and living at a micro-level, accentuating the effects of struggle and divergence. In the mean time, social actors have readapted their strategies and way of life to fit in with the new framework.

This panel intends to explore everyday current university transformations from the point o view of teachers, students and staff. This panel wishes to collect papers based on qualitative approaches, dealing with the micro-politics of change. Research focused on institutional, organizational and cultural change will be welcomed.

Cultures of Combat’: Qualitative Studies of Martial Arts, Fighting Systems and Combat Sports

Convenors: David Brown (Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK), George Jennings (Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK) & Lorenzo Pedrini (University of Milano-Bicocca)

Within and between the disciplines of anthropology, cultural studies, history, human geography, pedagogy, sociology and the emerging field of martial arts studies, there exist a great variety of research methods used to address themes of the body, education, gender, identity, nationalism, sexuality and technology – to name a few topics. Qualitative strategies including auto/ethnography, documental analysis, ethnography, interviewing, media analysis, netnography (online ethnography) and (auto)phenomenology continue to be tested, developed and combined through innovative projects from researchers from various continents and academic backgrounds.

The theme of culture in its many guises is a unifying factor in many of these academic fields, and ‘cultures of combat’ such as hand-to-hand combat training, traditionalist martial arts and vernacular self-defence systems provide a basis for the study of various aspects of culture more generally. Scholars are adding to knowledge on the fighting systems, martial arts, combat sports, self-defence systems and a number of overall physical cultures that we term for the purposes of this inclusive collection, ‘cultures of combat.’ At the same time, this body of knowledge is contributing to the methodological literature beyond the martial arts, such as the use of the senses, ‘habitus as topic and tool’ as Wacquant puts it, two-handed ethnography and surveys on fans across countries. It is with this burgeoning corpus of work in mind that we call researchers to share their findings, practices and insights from their investigations.

In an effort to explore the ways of researching these cultures of combat, manner of analysing them and possibilities of representing such research, we particularly welcome submissions relating to the following specific themes:

- (Sub)cultures

  • Tradition vs innovation;
  • Values;
  • Embodied knowledge;
  • Violence vs sociability;

- Pedagogies

  • Apprenticeship and mentoring;
  • Education and edutainment;
  • The socialization of senses;
  • Politics, biopolitics and power;

- Infrastructures

  • Objects and weaponry;
  • Space and place;
  • Technologies and mobile applications;
  • Doing research with technologies;

- Cultivations

  • Lifestyle and leisure;
  • Health and wellbeing;
  • Family and community;
  • Environment and ecology;


Street-corner politics. Urban everyday life and the art of living together

Convenors: Sebastiano Citroni (Università degli studi di Milano-Bicocca) & Carole Gayet-Viaud (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociales)

 In this session, we invite presentations based on ethnographic studies of urban public life as an entry into the analysis of citizenship. We welcome studies of both everyday fleeting interactions and of more specific events that all irrigate urban public life and contribute to define, at different scales of our urban environments, what a good life (lived in common) can be. These urban ethnographic studies should therefore help understand how we build our common world, through seemingly trivial forms of togetherness and practices that define our expectations and other normative issues about living and getting along together (encapsulated by the French expression vivre ensemble).

Such a perspective allows to address politics in a particularly broad way: no longer through the prism of our relationship with the state or with political decision-making, but rather through the lens of what shall be defined here as streetcorner politics, civility and ordinary citizen experience. We are interested in the forms of coexistence between strangers as involving typical (situated) elements of commitments and interventions: disputes, mutual aid, tensions, emotions and discussions on fair or relevant ways of acting, of behaving with others or of judging one another.

How do public settings and relations in public perform (or not) the political dimension of the publicity principle? Urban coexistence gives place to situations where “public spirited interactions” are put into play, both in informal settings and in more formal ones, such as pre-organized events and civic initiatives aimed at ‘bettering’ the city, promoting citizenship and the quality of life in a neighbourhood, or many other ways and contents through which the urban common good and the urban good life are searched for. By analysing these situations and actions, we encourage to examine the ways in which people see their place in a wider community, gauge their commitments and explore their own responsibility within it,– that is to say, what they are permitted or able to do with and among others.

The Intimate Life of Power

Convenor: Pietro Saitta (University of Messina)

A particular asymmetry is active within the social sciences: one that derives from favoring even the microscopic knowledge of subaltern experiences and, to a lesser degree, that of the middle classes, while neglecting to steer this “will to know” with same intensity and frequency in the direction of the upper classes. This is certainly an effect of the secretive nature of power, which speaks predominantly through its acts, rituals and “controlled” representations (those, for example, today offered on social networks for the benefit of the poor’s “voyeurism”), and hides itself when viewed too closely by outsiders. However, despite some significant exceptions, the social sciences did not generally apply towards the powerful the same methodological imagination utilized to observe poor and deviants. The effects violated the aura of untouchability and danger of this latter group, but confirmed the implicit nature of the order governing social relations, including those linking researchers to their human objects/subjects.

Thus, what about the intimate life of power? And what about the modes of production and reproduction of a class ideology that passes through the socialization or attendance of homogeneous and exclusive circles (from school to work, and mundane events)? Yet, what about the common sense – if this ever existed – emerging from a daily life characterized not only by ease, but also by the possible coexistence of different senses of responsibility? Also, what are the specific cultural elements of the powerful classes that compose those economic and political decision-making processes capable of generating dramatic effects for the lower sphere of the workers or the populations subject to these decisions? How are the forms of distinction that typically separate the upper segments of society from the rest of the social body reproduced, extended or virtually annulled? And how do the plurality of class identities (inadequacy, natural reluctance, or the frantic need to exhibit new status) coexist – especially in the case of parvenu and latecomers – accompanying the lives of those who have come late to power or to wealth?

The present call for papers solicits either ethnographic or qualitative contributions that deal with the theme of the intimate life of power, highlighting aspects related to everyday life as well as the ideology of the upper classes (e.g., managers, political bankers, entrepreneurs, heirs, new rich and influencers) caught in the system of relations within their group as well as in the “interplay” that opposes, resembles and overlaps other classes for varied purposes – linked to domination or “existential” needs. Methodological contributions, based both on primary research accounts and secondary data, that reflect on the problems of access to social spheres characterized by asymmetries working against researchers, are also encouraged.



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.



Bergamo (Italy) – June 8-11, 2016


Organized by:

University of Bergamo

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

il Mulino

Since 2006, the Bergamo conference of ethnography has become an increasingly recognised and established scientific meeting for social researchers at the Italian national level. In 2014, the conference has been opened to international participants adopting English as second working language. The 2016 Conference aims to preserve and renew the rich intellectual discourse engaged in the previous editions. Researchers from across the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, political sciences, arts & humanities, education, social work, geography, cultural studies, science and technology studies, and gender studies are invited to present their research and discuss their findings in a lively, relatively informal environment. The mission of the conference is to:

  • foster scholarly exchange and facilitate collaborative research among senior and junior scholars based at different universities and research centres in Europe and abroad;

  • support the dissemination of fresh research;

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

  • welcome graduate and under-graduate students as audience to the conference and active participants in the discussion.

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 to the conference can be based on a variety of methods, including but not limited to participant observation, in-depth interviews, focus group, auto-ethnography, visual ethnography, discourse studies, video-based research and other forms of inquiry inspired and informed by ethnographic sensibility. The Conference welcomes theoretically informed and methodologically sound proposals that contribute to the substantive knowledge of the social world.The format is based on 3-hour sessions with 5 paper presentations per session, leaving as much room as possible to open discussion.


* * *

Organizing Committee

Chiara Bassetti, University of Trento & CNR ( /

Elena Bougleux, University of Bergamo (

Andrea Mubi Brighenti, University of Trento (

Luca Carollo, University of Milano (

Nick Dines, Middlesex University (

Giolo Fele, University of Trento (

Elena Fontanari, University of Milano (

Paola Gandolfi, University of Bergamo (

Pier Paolo Giglioli, University of Bologna (

Marco Marzano, University of Bergamo (

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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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 (,,


Fieldwork as location of politics

Convenors: Marc Abélès (EHESS – Centre national de la recherche scientifique), Lynda Dematteo (EHESS – Centre national de la recherche scientifique) & Mariella Pandolfi (Université de Montreal)

Human sciences generally tend to look at engagement as taking sides with the disadvantaged, sometimes risking uncritical praise. Patterns of engagement with dominant actors, whose social interests are not shared by the researcher, are rarely taken into account. These fieldwork situations are much more frequent today. On the one hand, ethnographers venture into territories that had not been acknowledged as pertinent until recently. On the other hand, they are often led to defend their work within a reticent, if not outright hostile, social environment.

Ethnographers discarded the idea of a dominant point of view and intangible othernesses, and opted for a bottom-up approach that is necessarily positioned. Some ethnographers are therefore led, throughout their meetings, to conduct specific studies in order to develop diversified forms of engagement.

The ethnographer is constantly pushed into social configurations that she cannot fully master, and on which she has equally unpredictable effects. Her presence questions her respondents, who ultimately find her a place, even if the latter is not necessarily the object of an explicit agreement. On the field, the ethnographer is caught into power relations that are destabilizing, and at the same time are destabilized by her own presence and questions. She always feels uncomfortable, and at the same time it is exactly this unease that produces critical knowledge. Each field condensates a singular political question that the researcher will try to focus on through reflective working. The point is to clarify the way this critical knowledge is elaborated.

We start from the principle that fieldwork position is never defined once and for all. On the field, the point of view of the ethnographer evolves according to the encounters she makes, and those that define her. Very often, she is led to endorse stereotypes she disagrees with, she is called names, she feels lost, she constantly feels her limits. The ethnographic relations that are the backbone of her fieldwork are never crystal-clear, but rather shifting and charged with tensions. There are phases of identification and disidentification. There are emotions that are put to test in the analytical effort. Each time, it will be a matter of finding the correct distance in order to describe what is at stake in these encounters, and seize what is intrinsically political.

We welcome all proposals that can grasp this dimension, irrespective of the research area. We are not only addressing those who usually work on institutions and analysis of political power.

Thinking at the ethnographical fieldwork as a “location of politics” has metaphysical, epistemological, and methodological consequences at the same time. We strive to explore these three domains in order to better grasp what the engaged ethnographies of the 21st century will be like.

Ethnographies of social sciences as a vocation

Convenors: Gianmarco Navarini (University of Milano Bicocca) & Sebastiano Citroni (University of Milano Bicocca)

Nowadays in circles of youth there is a widespread notion that science has become a problem in calculation, fabricated in laboratories or statistical filing systems just as “in a factory”, a calculation involving only the cool intellect and not one’s “heart and soul”. First of all one must say that such comments lack all clarity about what goes on in a factory or in a laboratory.[1]

Max Weber, Science as a Vocation.

The approaching centenary of the well-known lecture by Max Weber (Munich, November 1917) constitutes both a rite and an opportunity to shed light on how  we now practice and produce “social science”.

The rite is the conference’s panel: a small gathering of researchers who undertook ethnographic research in and on the settings in which social science is produced, or on types of “products”, in different disciplines (sociology, anthropology, economy, pedagogy, history et al…), devoting specific attention to:

- the relationships between, on the one hand, everyday practices in the settings of researchers’ ordinary work and, on the other hand, the broader frame in which such practices take place and which is subject to recent institutional, administrative, bureaucratic and political shifts.

- the implications deriving from the logic (or rhetoric, narration, “doxa”, ideology) of academic “evaluation”, grasped in their concrete outcomes and in the everyday social organization of doing research.

The afore-mentioned opportunity implies setting out from Weber in order to move beyond the German sociologist, also thanks to researches carried out on the two themes – the relationships and the implications – before singled out.  The quotes that follow suggest, but do not exhaust, further ethnographic research topics to be discussed in the panel:

  • «To let “facts speak for themselves” is the most unfair» method. That is to say, how are “facts” used in research reports, writing practices, scientific arguments and public debates?
  • «The concept, one of the great tools of all scientific knowledge». What is the practical use of categories (as a marker of belonging or as a way of thinking) in projecting, doing, analyzing, defend, legitimize and reporting social research?
  • «Only by strict specialization can the scientific worker become fully conscious, for once and perhaps never again in his lifetime, that he has achieved something that will endure». What is now at risk  because of this rigorous specialization?
  • «To raise this question is to ask for the vocation of science within the total life of humanity. What is the value of science?» What and who is social science – particularly ethnography – for? What can ethnographies tell us about the general reception of social research? How and in which circumstances does social research, particularly ethnography, have something to offer to people’s “practical life”?

[1] Quotes from Max Weber in this page are taken from the English translation made by H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills: From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (1946; Routledge 2013)