Camilla Howthorne

July 5, 2016.

‘Come parli bene l’italiano!’ Feminist Fieldwork Praxis and Adventures in (Mis)recognition in the Study of Black Italian Diasporic Politics, live video-broadcast from Milan, Italy.

Camilla’s talk summary:

My doctoral research explores the diverse ways in which the children of African immigrants in Italy lay claim to Italianness in the seemingly paradoxical context of both the growing Italian citizenship reform movement and the ongoing southern European refugee crisis. By focusing on the children of African immigrants who were born in Italy, I argue, we can begin to tell a different story in which Italy (and Europe) is being actively remade through the everyday activities and political mobilizations of those groups who inhabit its physical and symbolic border­spaces. These young people are simultaneously incorporated into new nationalist projects and excluded from multiple forms of belonging. Though they are frequently characterized as invisible, tragically and hopelessly caught between two worlds, Black youth in Italy are actively involved in the ambiguous process not only of producing an emergent Black Italy, but also of producing Italy itself.

As my fieldwork ongoing, I will also reflect on my situated research praxis as a scholar who is Black Italian—though by a slightly different set of “roots and routes” than many of my interlocutors. What does it mean to live the everydayness of ethnographic research on the surface of your skin? How do the politics of diaspora and mobility affect the ways in which I conduct fieldwork? I am profoundly cognizant of the networks of power that infuse my ability to conduct research in Italy. At the same time, I also attempt to actively draw out these ambiguities during my research—as do my interlocutors, who are always eager to compare Italian racial formations to their stateside counterparts in dialogical exchanges of what Campt has called “intercultural address.” The moments in which I am varyingly read as African-American, Italian, mixed, or something else entirely can reveal a great deal about the fraught and contradictory ways language, birthplace, phenotype, popular culture consumption, and myriad other factors are assembled in particular historically- and geographically-situated interpretations of one’s own identity and allegiances.

The European Union enlargement policy is a powerful tool being used to encourage certain policy implementation and the harmonization of EU standards and rules within countries that wish to become members. Looking at Croatia as a case study, what we can see is a clear correlation between the development of their Asylum Law and the degree of cooperation with the European Union. The question I am tackling is whether such engagement, which is discussed under Chapter 24 of the acquis, has brought about adequate implementation. More importantly, has it led to success in regards to the provision of services being offered to asylum seekers in reception centres?