I spent more than a year in Palermo, and specifically in the neighbourhood of Ballarò. In this period, I studied four subjects with ethnographic methods, with the specific intent of understanding their inner-workings and political inter-relations:
1) SOS Ballarò is a public assembly of residents, activists, entrepreneurs etc. active in the neighbourhood since late 2015;
2) The historical market is the main economic institution in the area, mainly focused on the commerce of groceries;
3) The flea market right next to the historical one mainly sells used goods obtained from garbage bins scavenging activities;
4) The city council.
I was an active SOS Ballarò member, participating to the weekly assembly and the many meetings with city officials. During my fieldwork I enquired the ways in which the neighbourhood changed, and how these changes were imagined and produced through participatory democratic processes and mediation between the two markets (and residents or shop owners in general) and city authorities.
My research will allow me to investigate further four main topics:
1) Democratic processes and the construction of a body politics in an inner-city neighbourhood;
2) Infrastructural improvements to an area, and how they are envisioned and negotiated in the project-phase;
3) Processes of formalization and creation of political-economic subjects with the intent to manage an illegal reality to bring it to an “acceptable” level of legality, in order to guarantee to disenfranchised minorities dignified and dignifying working experiences;
4) Legislative flexibility obtained through processes of recognition and emersion of existing political realities, avoiding open conflict and “revanchism”.
My main aim is to integrate the four arguments to give back the image of a different way to produce urban change and requalification that starts from the dignity of impoverished strata and the diversity already present in a given area.