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Naples in the time of the spider: talk and transcultural meaning-making in Neapolitan markets

Dawes, Antonia (2014) Naples in the time of the spider: talk and transcultural meaning-making in Neapolitan markets. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis explores the articulation of cultural meanings about belonging, entitlement and positionality that are emerging across transcultural boundaries in Neapolitan street markets. I conducted nine months of ethnographic fieldwork from licensed and unlicensed market stalls around Piazza Garibaldi central train station, working with Neapolitan and migrant street vendors. Street markets are an important part of the informal economy in Naples. High levels of unemployment and strict EU immigration rules have made market vending into a vital survival strategy for both Italian citizens and newcomers. Markets are thus a key site of encounter across racialised boundaries. My analysis of notes, photos and audio recordings gathered in the field reveals a compendium of multilingual language practices that are used by people in street markets as part of an everyday, pragmatic cohabitation with difference. My work contributes to the existing body of knowledge about ‘race’ and racism, in particular adding to the growing number of studies about postcoloniality in Italy and Southern Europe. In stressing the importance of language in intersubjective interactions I not only tell a story about the particular context and history of race relations in Naples – where different sorts of speaking are central to a fraught history of political, economic and cultural subordination – but also offer a key to understanding what is at stake generally in the complex and ambiguous multilingual reality that has resulted from intensified migration across the world. In addition, the thesis considers the models of collective organisation and resistance that come about amongst people subjected to informal, unstable and differential legal statuses and labour conditions. My research participants are struggling to find ways to live with and survive the fact of their own disposability within the global economy. I argue that this leads to both tactics of racialised closure, exclusion and division; as well as to the exploration of ambivalent transcultural solidarities, collaboration and struggle.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Antonia Lucia Dawes
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Gilroy, Paul and Ali, Suki

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