Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2021
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
University of Arizona
Contested Geographies of ‘Welcome’: A Comparative Analysis of Migrant Reception

Over the last decade, the European Union (EU) has faced what the European Parliament describes as “the most serious migratory challenge since the end of World War II” (2017). As a result, EU member countries are increasingly contending with questions around the integration and membership to the national community of non-native populations. The Italian system of integrated welcome enlists the collaboration of municipalities, non-profits, and the private sector to coordinate the housing of migrants in non-traditional facilities such as residential apartments, church-owned buildings, and vacant hotel rooms across the national territory. Along with housing, programs hosting holders of international protections also coordinate an array of integration services, including language courses, employment training, and community engagement activities. This dissertation research will focus on how integrated welcome operates in two cities, exploring the role that these reception programs play in the everyday renegotiation of identities and practices of citizenship at the two sites. Drawing from research in political geography, urban studies and linguistics, this project conceptualizes integrated welcome programs as contact zones (Pratt, 1991), that is, spaces which bring together different groups in the renegotiations of language, belonging, and culture. Through this approach, this research will analyze how these programs enlist not only migrants, but also cities and their residents, in rehearsing and reproducing idiosyncratic versions of welcome and of Italian citizenship. This study contributes to expanding and complicating the concept of contact zone by applying it to integrated welcome, which relies on a diffused network of local service providers and institutional spaces, rather than largely focusing interaction within a more discrete institutional space. To this end, I will conduct an institutional ethnography of integrated welcome programs in Bologna and Turin, carrying out participant observation, in-depth semi-structured interviews, and focus groups with samples of practitioners, migrants, and city residents.