Category: Sessions

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.

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.

Be(ar)ing witness: Testimony, evidence, and subjectivation in institutional contexts

Convenors: Alessandra Gribaldo (University of Bologna), Tommaso Sbriccoli (SOAS, University of London), Barbara Sorgoni (University of Turin).

Recently, social sciences have devoted much effort to the investigation of processes of subjectivation within contemporary society. Governmental practices intersecting various aspects of life have been approached as instances of how people constitute themselves, or are constituted, as subjects. Although the role of witnesses in legal and institutional contexts is a crucial field to tackle this topic, it has nonetheless remained understudied.

Each instance of testimony in institutional forums goes through processes that force it to comply with specific assumptions and requirements (clarifying the identity of the witness, the need for chronological consistency and non-contradiction, a focus on a coherent space-time framework, coherent narrative of the self, veridicity, objective evidence, and so on).

In order to reach a legal outcome, complex experiences are tailored to fit into adequate narratives by legal and discursive devices, and all subjects involved continuously negotiate the conditions under which a testimony can be acknowledged. Finally, different juridical forms and institutional procedures act within different regimes of truth, each one implying specific epistemic principles. All the above processes get further complicated in intercultural settings, where witnesses’ narratives need to be translated into different languages and format in order to be received and assessed by decision makers.

The panel will focus on empirical research on contemporary institutional practices related to both formal legal settings as courts, and those “middle ground” contexts which are best analysed through the ethnographic method, such as (among many others) asylum cases, human trafficking, domestic and sexual abuse, and forms of assessment of psycho-bodily dimensions in legal and medical cases when diseases or abuses are to be attested. The session invites to reflect on the specific nature of testimonial evidence, the relationship with institutional and formal requirements, the kind of discourses involved in truth assessment, which kind of subject has the chance to make her voice heard and through what kind of testimony.

The aim is to investigate the role of witnesses in these contexts, in order to grasp which juridical and institutional expectations and codes are shared and put into practice by decision-makers and other participants, how subjectivities are produced, and how normative frameworks intersect with moral, political and cultural ones.

Papers should ideally engage with one or more of the following themes:

  • The political meaning of subjectivity construction in institutional settings    

  • The role of ethnicity, gender and citizenship in testimony reception 

  • The role of interpreters and other social and legal professionals    

  • The relationship between testimony and evidence

  • Contestations, agency and strategies in reporting witness



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 (,,


2016 Featured Sessions

  1. Submerged Conflicts. Ethnography of the invisible resistances in the everyday. Convenors: Pietro Saitta (Università di Messina)
  2. Ethnography of predatory and mafia practices. Convenors: Marco De Biase (Université Libre de Bruxelles) & Lucio Castracani (Université de Montreal)
  3. Young people practicing everyday multiculturalism: An ethnographic look. Convenor: Enzo Colombo (Università di Milano)
  4. Innovating Universities. Everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same? Convenors: Daniela Falcinelli (Università di Milano) & Annalisa Murgia (Università di Trento)
  5. NGOs, Grass­root Activism and Social Movements: Understanding Novel. Entanglements of Public Engagement. Convenors: Filippo Zerilli (Università di Cagliari) & Alex Koensler (Queen’s University Belfast)
  6. Immanence of seduction: for a micro-interactionist perspective on charisma. Convenors: Chiara Bassetti (Università di Trento, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche) & Emanuele Bottazzi (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche)
  7. Lived Religion. An ethnographical insight. Convenors: Alberta Giorgi, Stefania Palmisano (Università di Torino) & Giovanna Rech (Università di Trento)
  8. Critical Ethnographies of Schooling. Convenors: Fulvia Anonelli (Università di Bologna) & Marco Romito (Università di Milano)
  9. Subjectivity, surveillance and control. Ethnographic research on forced migration towards Europe. Convenors: Barbara Pinelli (Univesità di Milano Bicocca) & Elena Fontanari (Università di Milano)
  10. Ethnographic and artistic practices and the question of the imagines in contemporary Middle East. Convenors: Donatella Della  Ratta (University of Copenaghen) & Paola Gandolfi (Università di Bergamo)
  11. Diffracting Ethnography in the Anthropocene. Convenor: Elena Bougleux (Università di Bergamo)
  12. Ethnography of labour chains. Convenors: Domenico Perrotta (Università di Bergamo) & Devi Sacchetto (Università di Padova)
  13. The Chicago School and the study of conflicts in contemporary societies. Convenors: Marco Pitzalis & Izabela Wagner (Università di Cagliari)
  14. States of imagination/Imagined states. Performing the political within and beyond the state. Convenors: Federica Infantino (Université Libre de Bruxelles) & Timothy Raeymaekers (Zurich University)
  15. Ethnographies of Waste Politics. Convenor: Nick Dines (Middlesex University)
  16. Experiencing Urban Boundaries. Convenors: Cristina Mattiucci (Università di Trento) & Federico Rahola (Università di Genova)
  17. Ethnographic fieldwork as a “location of politics” – Convenors: Marc Abélès & Lynda Dematteo (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales)
  18. Rethinking ‘Europe’ through an Ethnography of its Borderlands, Peripheries and Margins. Convenors: Ilaria Giglioli, Camilla Hawthorne & Alessandro Tiberio (University of California Berkeley)
  19. Detention and Qualitative Research. Convenors: Alvise Sbraccia (Università di Bologna) & Francesca Vianello (Università di Padova)
  20. Ethnographies of social sciences as a vocation. Convenors: Sebastiano Citroni & Gianmarco Navarini (Università di Milano Bicocca)



Critical ethnographies of cultural heritage in Mediterranean cities. Convenor: Nick Dines

Ethnographies of sport and social change. Convenors: Davide Sterchele & Dino Numerato

Ethnography and the senses. Convenor: Andrea Mubi Brighenti

Ethnography of disasters: history, resistances, struggles. Convenors: Pietro Saitta & Domenica Farinella

Ethnography of multicultural practices. Convenor: Enzo Colombo

Ethnography of populist movements. Convenors: Lynda Dematteo & Marc Abélès

Hegemony/Subalternity. Global scenarios and local practices. Convenor: Elena Bougleux

It’s a free work… When work relations become passionate. Annalisa Murgia & Maurizio Teli

Michel Foucault: ethnography and critique. Convenors: Martina Tazzioli & Orazio Irrera

New ethnographic studies on Italy’s Southern Question(s). Convenor: Domenico Perrotta

Porn Ethnography. Convenor: Gianmarco Navarini

Rhythm in social interaction: some detailed aspects of action-in-interaction. Convenors: Emanuele Bottazzi & Chiara Bassetti

Sacred creativity. Convenors: Stefania Palmisano, Giovanna Rech & Nicola Pannofino

The ethnographer’s body as heuristic instrumentConvenor: Chiara Bassetti

The material infrastructure of ethnography: objects, technologies and artifacts. Convenor: Attila Bruni

Time, Space and Labour. Convenor:  Devi Sacchetto

Urban Conflicts. Convenors: Federico Rahola & Massimiliano Guareschi

Who’s the author? And whose are the findings? Convenor: Paolo Boccagni

Why ethnography today. Emerging ethnographic practices and conventional ethnographic styles.  Convenors: Filippo Zerilli, Franco Lai, Marco Pitzalis

Full Abstract Book

Keynote Speakers

Michael Burawoy and Marc Abélès

Marc Abélès, LAIOS – Laboratoire d’Anthropologie des Institutions et des Organisations Sociales

Directeur d’études à l’EHESS, Directeur de Recherche CNRS, Directeur de l’IIAC

Opening plenary on Thursday 5th:

Globalization and the state

Globalization affects societies by redesigning both global economic space and power configurations. In this context, the states are more and more dependent on economic and the rules of financial markets. Moreover, as a political consequence of the globalization, new forms of transnational institutions are emerging and reshaping the traditional locus of power. We simultaneously experiment with the limits of the concept of sovereignty and the emergence of “multilayered governance” that seems more adjusted to the rise in power of the information society. At the same time, one can question the functionalist perspective which informs most of the studies of the transnational governance, as if the emergence of global-politics could be interpreted as a complexification of institutions necessarily responding to a new globalized order.

In this paper, leveraging on the ethnographies of the political life and institutions I conducted in France and Europe, I will focus on what I call the displacement of politics, i.e. the fact that state is no longer the only protagonist and that the Hegelian dyad of state/civil society has lost its centrality. This displacement is not limited to the appearance of a new political scene in which old institutional powers have been replaced by newer ones, more adapted to deal with the world’s changes. Actually, what can be observed is a global redefinition of the meaning and aims of political action. This redefinition is not simply cognitive. It also shows up in modes of action, in the constitution of organizational and institutional forms, in the selection of issues for public debate, and in the construction of epistemic spaces where this debate will happen. In other words, the redefinition is a matter of governmentality, in its original Foucaldian meaning. In fact, we can speak of a real transition, with a rise in preoccupations of life and survival at the heart of political action, while the issue of the Platonic city and the relationship of the individual to sovereignty, what I call convivance, is relegated to the background.


Marc Abélès is an alumnus of Ecole normale supérieure (Paris). He holds a ‘Doctorat de 3e cycle’ and a ‘Doctorat d’Etat’ in Anthropology. Marc Abélès first worked under Claude Lévi-Strauss’s supervision on the political practices of the Ochollo in southern Ethiopia. After joining CNRS he was a member of the Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale from 1979 to 1995. Based on his work among the Ochollo, his subsequent research was devoted to political life and institutions in France and Europe. Elections, assembly practices, and political symbolics lie at the core of his work on political life in Burgundy (Quiet days in Burgundy: a study of local politics, 1991, orig. 1989), on the political rituals orchestrated by François Mitterrand (Anthropologie de l’État, 1990), the French Parliament (Un ethnologue à l’Assemblée, 2000), the misadventures of political representation (L’Echec en politique, 2005), and on European parliament (La vie quotidienne au Parlement européen, 1992). In 1993, Marc Abélès directed anthropological research within the European Commission at the latter’s request. More recently, his research has focused on founders of startup companies and philanthropists in Silicon Valley (Les Nouveaux riches. Un ethnologue dans la Silicon Valley, 2002), and on new powers and countervailing powers at play in globalisation (Politique de la survie, 2006). MA sat on the Comité national of CNRS from 1990 to 1998. He has run the LAIOS since its creation with other colleagues in 1995. He was also elected Directeur d’Etudes at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in 2005, where he teaches anthropology of institutions. Marc Abélès was a Visiting Scholar at Brown University (1997), Stanford University (2000), and invited Professsor at New York University (2004), Boston University (2006), and Universidad de Buenos Aires (2006).


Michael Burawoy, University of California Berkeley

Plenary session on Friday 6th:

Philosophy of Praxis: A Gramscian Approach to Ethnography

The main thesis of this paper is that theory and method are inextricably interconnected. Starting from the subjectivity of the dominated, Bourdieu’s theory of symbolic domination leads to notions of misrecognition and the method of participant objectivation, while Touraine’s theory of postindustrial or programmed society leads to notions of historicity and the method of sociological intervention. Antonio Gramsci’s notion of hegemony combines and transcends the theories of Touraine and Bourdieu, leading to the idea of good sense within common sense, built on his philosophy of praxis and a theory of intellectual engagement.The ethnographer elaborates the good sense contained in the practical life of the subjects while combating the bad sense contained in hegemonic ideologies. This method is illustrated with the author’s ethnographies of workers in the United States, Hungary and Russia.

Michael Burawoy has studied industrial workplaces in different parts of the world — Zambia, Chicago, Hungary and Russia — through participant observation. In his different projects he has tried to cast light — from the standpoint of the workplace — on the nature of postcolonialism, on the organization of consent to capitalism, on the peculiar forms of working class consciousness and work organization in state socialism, and on the dilemmas of transition from socialism to capitalism. During the 1990s he studied post Soviet decline as “economic involution”: how the Russian economy was driven by the expansion of a range of intermediary organizations operating in the sphere of exchange (trade, finance, barter, new forms of money), and how the productive economy recentered on households and especially women. No longer able to work in factories, most recently he has turned to the study of his own workplace – the university – to consider the way sociology itself is produced and then disseminated to diverse publics. Over the course of his research and teaching, he has developed theoretically driven methodologies that allow broad conclusions to be drawn from ethnographic research and case studies. These methodologies are represented in Global Ethnography a book coauthored with 9 graduate students, which shows how globalization can be studied “from below” through participation in the lives of those who experience it. Throughout his sociological career he has engaged with Marxism, seeking to reconstruct it in the light of his research and more broadly in the light of historical challenges of the late 20th and early 21st. centuries.

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Poster Session

Posters will be on display during the whole conference.

Posters must be prepared accordingly to the guidelines and the template / editable template.

Authors must bring a printed copy of their poster with them at the conference. Poster presentations may also be accompanied by a 1-sheet handout (if so, authors must bring printed copies of the handout too).

Authors must register to the conference and pay the fee by April 30th at the latest to be included in the Conference Programme and the Abstract Book.

Authors that find themselves unable to attend the conference in person can send their Poster to Please specify  ”Poster: unable to attend in person” in the e-mail subject.

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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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Porn Ethnography

Convenor: Gianmarco Navarini (Università di Milano Bicocca)

A man attending a slide show on Africa turns to his wife and says with guilt in his voice: “I’ve seen some pornography this night”. (Trinh T.Minh-Ha, Reassemblage)

On the xvideo website, one of the most popular among the fans of this genre, each video is given a score defined as “porn quality”. However it seems that no one ever understood what that means.

In 1955 Geoffrey Gorer argued that natural death had turned into pornography. Half a century later Jean Baudrillard attributed the same character to new wars.

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