A collective study lab

Lab participation in the “Urban Life at the Extensions” programme in Paris

During the week of the 17-23 April, Beyond Inhabitation Lab’s members participated in Urban Life at the Extensions”, a rich, week-long programme of seminars and panel discussions hosted by the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP), supported by the Lab and curated by its co-director AbdouMaliq Simone.

Steering committee members Cristina Cielo and Irene Peano opened the week on Monday 17th with their contributions to the panel On Habitability – propositions beyond capture”. Drawing on their ethnographic work, and alongside other international scholars, they discussed the inevitable specificities of extensions and habitability as a process – one that reclaims inhabitation beyond capture and can extend unpredictability as a possibility for solidarity, but which remains in tension with dominant subjectivities, relationalities and dispossession. During the second panel of the day, Extensions within and beyond home”, Lab co-director Michele Lancione and Hagar Kotef drew on postcolonial debates to discuss home as violence. Michele’s presentation focused on the role of expulsion and extraction not only in the historical making on the Italian “home” but as central ideas that underpin contemporary imaginaries and practices of home. These contributions were followed by presentations on the theme of “Home as intersection”, which included Lab researchers Chiara Cacciotti and Daniela Morpurgo’s talks unpacking the inherent relational spaces of being at home, respectively in the aftermath of displacement and in its intersections with sex work. In the same panel, Lab’s steering committee member Alana Osbourne shared a reflection on the intersection of race and home, and on the im/possibility of ‘home’ in family stories of the Afro-Caribbean diasporas.

For Tuesday’s seminars we were welcomed by organisers at La Station Gare de Mines, by la Porte d’Aubervilliers. Part I of the panel Extensions of and beyond the notions of suburbs, peripheries and diasporas”, in the morning, included presentations by three Lab members. Steering committee member Margherita Grazioli drew on long term ethnographic work with squats belonging to Blocchi Precari Metropolitani movement in Rome, to show how marginalized neighborhoods can be read as spaces of ‘thrown-togetherness’ and as mobile commons of material and immaterial infrastructures that make peripheral spaces inhabitable. In the same panel, Lab’s Turin associate Silvia Aru used the writings, drawings, and narratives of ‘Eufemia’ — a project supporting migrants in a town at the border — to challenge dominant constructions of these locations as ‘views from nowhere’. Lab researcher Devra Waldman presented her study on the aftermath of extended urbanization in NOIDA, a place consistently positioned as the urban and housing future of Delhi, yet made, remade and unmade through different kinds of urban interventions, from mass demolitions to land occupations. On Tuesday afternoon, Lab’s Turin associate Camilo Boano contributed to the panel “Experiments on uncertain terrain: extensions as re-composition” by asking how to think urban extensions from the ‘futuring’ disciplines of design and architecture, as proposing forms of ‘destituent design’. Steering committee member Rupali Gupte discussed possibilities of corrosion, porosity and continuums in forms of inhabitation that are not neatly captured by the episteme of architecture and planning, and their statistical and cartographic tools.

On Wednesday morning, Lab’s member Mara Ferreri chaired Part II of the panel Extensions of and beyond the notions of suburbs, peripheries and diasporas”. The panel brought together scholars, artists and activists working with excluded people and places, questioning the construction of ‘urban life’ in relation to peripheral geographies, specifically in France and its former colonies, and drawing on intersections of race and class, popular economies and situated research, art and action in precarious neighbourhoods, to ‘provincialize’ notions of the urban core. In the afternoon, steering committee members Äicha Diallo chaired Part I of the panel “Extensions of and beyond the concept of blackness”, which explored the concept of ‘extensions’ in relation to Black Studies through anthropology, literature and cultural practices.

Thursday began with Part II of the panel “Extensions of and beyond the concept of blackness”, chaired by Alana Osbourne and Äicha Diallo, with steering committee member Asha Best, which further extended theorizations and reflections on blackness as method with Black activists, artists, researchers and writers, working through and across postcolonial geographies. Finally, on Thursday afternoon, the Urban Extensions Collective – which includes Beyond Inhabitation Lab’s co-director AbdouMaliq Simone and researcher Rodrigo Castriota – presented a diverse array of conceptual propositions arising from grounded studies of urban life at the extensions. In their individual and collective reflections, as well as in the concluding remarks, was highlighted that urban extensions much more than spatial configurations, including the temporal, the existential and the corporeal, and the ways in which these can open up new, and unpredictable possibilities for life. The day ended with a dinner and fundraising party for the Coucou crew at La Station Gare de Mine.