HOMInG’s Paolo Boccagni will give a presentation at an International workshop on Time for utopia: Youths and Islam between past and future, to take place in Rome (Sapienza University) next January 16-17. The title of Paolo’s presentation is “From a frozen present to a frozen future? Waiting, negotiating temporalities and envisioning a better future within a refugee centre in Northern Italy“.
See the abstract below.
Paolo Boccagni (University of Trento)
From a frozen present to a frozen future?
Waiting, negotiating temporalities and envisioning a better future within a refugee centre in Northern Italy
The temporalities of the migration process have been the subject of a rich and fruitful discussion, in recent years, with regard to the “protracted displacement” condition of a number of asylum seekers and refugees on a world scale. In Europe, most notably, research on everyday life in camps and reception facilities has emphasized the weight of waiting as a major aspect of the asymmetries of power to which asylum seekers, many of them youth in their 20s, are exposed under their legal, social and temporal liminality. While several studies have illuminated the regimes of forced time immobility in which they are caught up, less common is the study of their ways of coping with this, and of their own constructions of the future. This research prospect is as fundamental as complex, given the intersection of multiple time transitions in the refugee life experience; and considering, furthermore, the frequent traps of victimizing, ideologically biased or unnecessarily abstract accounts about it. Against this theoretical background, I present some early insights out of an ethnography of the everyday “semi-domestic” life in a refugee centre in Northern Italy. In a setting where an apparently immobile and repetitive present dominates the perception of time, and all that has to do with the past is as critical as removed and hard to uncover, discussing the future is a challenging and elusive task. Yet, it is only by shifting their gaze towards the future, however uncertain, that asylum seekers can make sense of their present there – and an ethnographer can make sense of their own constructions of time, as they are “stuck” both in time (waiting for their cases to be processed) and in space (as guests of “camps” with little room for autonomous initiative and self-realization).