Diasporas in the city: memories, representations and institutions – CFP

Diasporas in the city: memories, representations and institutions.
Mediterranean Europe, 14th-18th century.

Roma, September 26 and 27,2019

En français : https://mediterrapolis.hypotheses.org/554

In italiano: https://mediterrapolis.hypotheses.org/644

Since the 1990s, questions surrounding diasporas have been investigated in sociology and history. Studies have shown that diasporic groups are formed less by their common inheritance of an “essential” identity (e.g. ethnic, religious, national) and more by the choice of their members to recognise points in common, to build a membership based on relational, social and political aspects. While the concept of the diaspora, and even more so that of the trading diaspora, have been discussed and questioned in recent works (Dufoix 2011, Calafat and Goldblum 2012), here we adopt as a first approach a global definition of the diaspora, as groups of individuals sharing a foreign origin, dispersed and attached to different places, but united by the same sentiment of belonging and a memory linked to an original space from which they are distant.

During the conference, we aim to address the issues surrounding the construction of a diasporic group within an urban framework, taken as the space and territory in which the perceptions and strategies of the actors unfold, and also as a place in which communities interact with each other, local institutions and authorities. We propose to bring together the study of diasporas with two current themes in urban history: the study of the distribution and settlement of foreigners in the city, and the use of urban space (François 1985, Bottin and Calabi 1999, Quaderni Storici 2001). We aim to understand, within the urban context and its specificities, how collective identities evolve – sometimes flexible and negotiated, sometimes assigned in a more authoritarian way – within social groups which end up being thought of and self-identifying as diaspora, even by being institutionalised.

The construction of this feeling of belonging and the resulting memory is found at the centre of a historical investigation which also considers its object in terms of the contributions, tools and methods of urban sociology and geography, as well as cultural anthropology. Over the past decade, important research has shown that various ways of “doing” diaspora exist, depending on the social and demographic morphologies of minority groups, the structure of host societies and even the historical contexts. Many studies highlight the need to restore the “logic of a sedentary lifestyle” in the study(s) of diasporas (Tölölyan 2005, Adjemian 2012). While the society of residence is perceived as a place of exile, a “non-place”, in contrast to the society of origin (Ma Mung 1994, Hovanessian 2007), the diasporas also build their identity, explicitly or implicitly, in negotiation, confrontation, and coexistence with the “urban scenes” (Kunth and Smyrnelis 2016). In the cities of residence, the diasporic communities find individual or institutionalised interlocutors and specific repertoires of action, an urban fabric in which to integrate and build collective memories. The material anchoring this diasporic construction becomes visible in the city in various forms.

The study of the history of emotions combined with that of the construction of a group’s memory and its perceptions, can be a useful approach. Recent historiographical studies have reexamined personal testimonies focusing on the problematic of the sentiments and emotions of exiles, to understand the lived experience of the diaspora (Gray 2008, Skrbiš 2008, Svašek 2012). This subjective anchorage of the diaspora can also be taken in to account with the gendered experience of these events, and the generational identity within the diaspora. We will question the specificity of these emotions and experiences in the urban framwork, notably through their material traces in the city, or their expression in the interactions with interlocutors and urban institutions.

The local anchorage must also be understood in the translocal dynamics of these “circulation societies” (Aslanian 2011). This connects communities and actors within specific urban societies that are integrated into broad networks at the scale of the diaspora, influencing insertion and presentation strategies, and relationships with actors at a local level. A back and forth between the micro and transnational scale (Trivellato 2009, Calafat 2011), as well as a comparative dimension between connected urban lands is therefore necessary to understand the issues of the “community factory” (Grenet 2016).

Conference papers will consider the economic, social, as well as the physical, material and institutional dimensions of the city. In order to go beyond classic case studies and to favour comparisons and discussions between different fields, proposals adopting a translocal and/or comparative approach will be favoured. Historical studies can also be enriched by interdisciplinary perspectives, taking advantage of recent work on diasporas in the city in history, sociology, political science, and also geography. A chronological framework, however, is appropriate for studies from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. The geographical area of focus is Mediterranean Europe, including the Greek islands and Malta.

Practical arrangements:

  • Proposals for papers (max 3000 characters, spaces included) should be sent to the organisers (mathieu.grent@univ-jfc.fr, paulineguena@hotmail.fr, catherine.kikuchi@uvsq.fr, serena.dinepi@uniroma1.it)  by the 3rd of January 2019.
  • Papers are accepted in French, Italian and English.
  • In order to facilitate exchanges and discussions, papers will be sent to participants in advance.
  • Presentations must be 30 minutes.
  • Accommodation for participants will be provided by the Ecole Française de Rome, Piazza Navona. Transport costs to Rome are to be paid by the participants and/or their research institutes.

Organization :

  • Mathieu Grenet (INU Champollion/Framespa),
  • Pauline Guéna (Sorbonne Université),
  • Catherine Kikuchi (UVSQ),
  • Serena di Nepi (Sapienza).

Scientific Committee

  • Marie Bossaert (EFR),
  • Eleonora Canepari (TELEMMe),
  • Constance de Gourcy (Aix-Marseille Université),
  • Anouche Kunth (EHESS),
  • Alessandro Saggioro (Sapienza),
  • Pierre Savy (EFR).

Ces journées d’études sont co-financées dans le cadre du Laboratoire International Associé Mediterrapolis.


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