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Celebrating the World Anthropology Day 2019 in Milan, Italy

On February 21st, Maria Vasile, one of the PhD students of the project participated to several events organized in Milan by the University of Milano-Bicocca for the celebration of the World Anthropology Day.

Discovering the city, discussing public anthropology.

By: Maria Vasile

For the occasion of World Anthropology Day, a series of workshops, seminars and guided tours were organised in Milan. They all occurred around the city and aimed to discuss “public anthropology”: the public face of anthropology, possibilities for its concrete application and examples of such activities developed in the city. The main questions guiding the initiative were the following: “how can anthropology contribute to ameliorate the life of people? How can it facilitate a better understanding of the world in which we live and contribute to the development of practical solutions to problems we face in our everyday life and society?”.

During the morning, I partook to a guided tour organized by the association In My Backyard in the neighborhood of San Siro. This peripheral area of the city is usually negatively depicted in the media as site of poverty, marginality and difficult integration processes. During the tour, we (the visitors) got the opportunity to speak directly with some of San Siro inhabitants. This way we discovered a multitude of local stories and experiences.

First, we stopped to chat with women of the Comitato di Quartiere (neighborhood committee) to discuss the history of and life in the social housing system that characterizes the neighborhood and the different activities the committee promotes. Among other things, the group has developed community centers and mutual assistance systems such as spaces for the integration of mentally disabled people otherwise often isolated. Later, we got to discuss with a local social worker who presented her work and the social projects developed in collaboration with volunteers. We also got introduced to a concierge who had quite recently migrated to Italy and gave us his perspective on the life in the building he takes care of. At the end of the tour, we gathered in the center of the initiative Mapping San Siro to discuss the themes that had emerged from these encounters: the different local challenges, the diversity of perspectives and the ways in which transformations can be thought together with inhabitants.

Social housing in San Siro, Milan, February 21st 2019 (Photo: Maria Vasile)

The words of others

Later that day, I joined a laboratory on communication entitled Le Parole degli Altri (the words of the others) promoted by the Associazione Antropolis. The laboratory was an occasion to reflect on the ethnographic experience and, more precisely, on the process through which we encounter, interpret and narrate the words of the others. We were engaged in a series of exercises in which we had to explain a word discovered in our field, listen to the one of others and later explain the latter to the rest of the audience. In this way we played the part of the research participant as well as the researcher and were directly confronted with the ways in which different interpretations become part of the narration we produce. We then reflected together on ways of reporting as well as engaged in interesting discussions on some of the words and concepts brought by the different participants.

For more information on the World Anthropology Day 2019 in Milan:

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