Tor Pignattara as Rome’s Banglatown: The Suburb as a Feminine, Racialized Spacetime

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Elisa Fiore, Utrecht University, The Netherlands


    Over the last thirty years, sizeable international immigration flows from Bangladesh have started to influence the physiognomy of Tor Pignattara, a neighbourhood located in South-East Rome, so much so that it has now been renamed Banglatown. The locale has come to be identified, over the years, with the racialized “Other”, and its representation revolves around common narrative tropes such as those of the Roman suburb/periphery as a collector of (im)migration, and its consequent association with exoticized difference and decay, which present the area as assumedly “run-down” and “destitute”. These ‘grand narratives’ inevitably inform and structure everyday experience and perception in the locale: (im)migration is blamed for all the locale’s evils – crime, decay, drug dealing, sexual harassment/violence – as well as for its state of cultural, social and infrastructural impoverishment. The perceived “invasiveness” and “aggressiveness” of Bangladeshi settlement has engendered over the years a process of gendered racialization that simultaneously racialized and feminized Tor Pignattara and the Bangladeshi community residing there, thus producing an alignment of Bangladeshi–ness with exoticized/exoticizing non-whiteness. This research investigates the spatiotemporal practices that structure the determining conditions of social life in Banglatown through a new materialist approach. By conceiving race and gender – and their entanglement – as not exclusively human businesses, but rather as more-than-human assemblages given by the intra-action of all different manner of (human and nonhuman) actants, this research shifts towards a posthumanist understanding of agency and reality, so as to look past identity politics issues and reveal the complexities of identity structurations within the locale. Through multi-sensory (auto)ethnography, the research engages with affective urban materialities – street art and food smells – to understand how bodies and meanings come to matter in Tor Pignattara/Banglatown, enable a historicization of boundaries and separations to see how they sediment, materialize, persist, and contradict each other, and finally produce accountable knowledge that places the relationship between knower and known, subject and object at the center of the knowledge produced, thus operating a reworking of the notion of ethics from human attribute to a politics of possibilities.