Multicultural Communication, Racial Identity and Neapolitan Market Vendors
Published by the Manchester University Press in 2020, Race Talk: Languages of Racism and Resistance in Neapolitan Street Markets, written by Antonia Lucia Dawes, has recently become available in Open Access at the Open Research Library, as part of the KU Select 2019: HSS Frontlist Books collection.
A Blog Post by Pablo Markin.
Race Talk is a monograph that explores language use as an anti-racist practice in multicultural city spaces. The book contends that attention to everyday discourse reveals the relations of domination and subordination in heterogeneous, ethnically diverse and multilingual contexts, while also advancing the understanding of how transcultural solidarity might be expressed. Drawing on original ethnographic research conducted on licensed and unlicensed market stalls in in heterogeneous, ethnically diverse and multilingual contexts, this book examines the centrality of multilingual verbal communication to everyday struggles about difference, positionality and entitlement. In these street markets, as Antonia Lucia Dawes argues, Neapolitan street vendors work alongside documented and undocumented migrants from Bangladesh, China, Guinea Conakry, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal as part of an ambivalent, cooperative and unequal quest to survive and prosper. As austerity, anti-immigration politics and urban regeneration projects encroached upon the possibilities of street vending, communication across linguistic, cultural, national and religious boundaries has underpinned the collective action of street vendors struggling to keep their markets open. The edginess of their multilingual organisation has offered useful insights into the kinds of imaginaries that will be needed to overcome the politics of borders, nationalism and radical incommunicability.
This is how Antonia Lucia Dawes introduces her research to the readers:
“Napoli is a city that has always been described as both ordinary and unique. Ordinary in the way it has been swept up by the unequally ebbing tide of enlightenment modernity. Ordinary in its commonalities with the rhythms, bureaucracies, informalities, convivialities and conflicts present in other cities in the so-called Global North and South. But unique because it has also been claimed as a place outside time; a place where, because of its complex and porous geography, architecture and social relations, particular things are possible that cannot happen elsewhere; a place that both welcomes and repudiates, is nurturing and neglectful, eluding definition. […] In trying to resolve the dilemma of how to write about Napoli, as somewhere both universal and culturally specific, I have turned to the work of postcolonial anthropologist Anna Tsing. In Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection, she examined the ways in which global forces were negotiated by both local and global interactions. She sought to locate the global, or the universal, by examining the unequal, unstable and creative interconnections or ‘friction’ that emerged in particular places, suggesting that the universal might be better understood as a series of ‘sticky engagements’ (Tsing 2005: 1–6). The idea that it might be possible to comment upon global issues from the messy, immersive and sticky depths of an ethnographic study is something that has always been important to me. I have also been influenced by Achille Mbembe when he explained, in the first chapter of Necropolitics, that he wrote ‘from Africa, where I live and work (but also from the rest of the world, which I have not stopped surveying)’ (Mbembe 2019: 9). Thus, my invitation to the reader is that they might adopt the sensibility of looking out from Napoli but also from the rest of the world. Napoli is not an urban conglomerate from which theorising is generally thought to happen. But, perhaps, it is possible to use the unstable, unequal, sticky interconnections that are present there in order to think about the current state of things” (Dawes, 2020, pp. 1-2).
Edited by Pablo Markin
Dawes, Antonia Lucia. Race Talk. Manchester University Press, 2020. Accessed September 4, 2020. https://openresearchlibrary.org.
Featured Image Credits
Fish Market, Spaccanapoli, Naples, Italy, 2014, May 11, 2019 | © Courtesy of Eric Parker/Flickr.