Antonia Lucia Dawes

Chapter 1 presents a history of culture and communication in Napoli. It explores the significance of multilingual talk in everyday interactions in Neapolitan street markets as a result of overlapping histories of foreign domination, cultural hybridisation, Italian nation-building, fascism, wounded local pride and migration. The chapter argues that multilingual talk shaped transcultural negotiations in a context where localised historic inequalities and power dynamics were encountering an ever-increasing complexity of human movement, global heterogeneity and attendant racist responses. In order to examine this more closely, connections are drawn between the histories of culture and communication in the city and the contemporary multilingual dynamics of the ever-evolving street markets where the fieldwork was conducted. This is a selective account that considers social and political histories of the city as they relate to the question of talk and language use.

in Race talk
Antonia Lucia Dawes

Chapter 5 explores everyday life in Neapolitan street markets by examining them as sites of precarious money-making for internally stratified and subaltern groups of people. Multilingual market cries – greetings, humour and barter, predominantly in English, Italian and Neapolitan – formed a kind of dynamic market know-how through which vendors drummed up business and legitimised their presence in the crowded and contested spaces of the pavement. However, given the increasing political and public pressure to close down, and limit, the amount of street vending in Napoli during the period of fieldwork in 2012, the tactical deployment of these market cries also revealed how street vendors sought to legitimise their presence and continue making a living in a context where their livelihoods were threatened. Market cries thus revealed an oppositional consciousness through which negative ideas about street vending and street vendors were resisted and renegotiated on the ground.

in Race talk
Open Access (free)
Languages of racism and resistance in Neapolitan street markets

Race Talk is about racism and multilingual communication. The book draws on original, ethnographic research conducted on heterogeneous and multiethnic street markets in Napoli, southern Italy, in 2012. Here, Neapolitan street vendors worked alongside migrants from Senegal, Nigeria, Bangladesh and China as part of an ambivalent, cooperative and unequal quest to survive and prosper. A heteroglossia of different kinds of talk revealed the relations of domination and subordination between people. It showed how racialised hierarchies were enforced, as well as how ambivalent and novel transcultural solidarities emerged in everyday interaction. Street markets in Napoli provided important economic possibilities for both those born in the city, and those who had arrived more recently. However, anti-immigration politics, austerity and urban regeneration projects increasingly limited people’s ability to make a living in this way. In response, the street vendors organised politically. Their collective action was underpinned by an antihegemonic, multilingual talk through which they spoke back to power. Since that time, racism has surged in Napoli, and across the world, whilst human movement has continued unabated, because of worsening political, economic and environmental conditions. The book suggests that the edginess of multilingual talk – amongst people diversified in terms of race, legal status, religion and language, but united by an understanding of their potential disposability – offers useful insights into the kinds of imaginaries that will be needed to overcome the politics of borders and nationalism.

Open Access (free)
Antonia Lucia Dawes

The concluding chapter returns to Glissant’s reflections about language to think about how multilingualism can be configured as a provisional politics of liberation from racialised power and domination. It examines the humorous and resilient aspects of multilingual edginess that took place throughout the research as a way to think what that politics looks like on the ground. It argues that, both in its everyday manifestations and as part of organised social movements, edginess is the entrenched, counterpoetical and multilingual response to racism as a scavenger ideology that might rise and then be beaten back, only to reappear in another location, and at another moment, as its persistent shadow.

in Race talk
Open Access (free)
Antonia Lucia Dawes

Chapter 7 explores the ways in which people in street markets actively organised to resist attempts by the State to take away their livelihoods. It looks at the antihegemonic talk through which improvisational and ambiguous forms of solidarity emerged across cultural and linguistic boundaries in the moments when people had to work together as part of an ambiguous, Gramscian-inspired local-popular, and speak back to power. It argues that the multilingual nature of the street vendors’ organisation was central to their struggle and the political transformation they achieved. The chapter offers an opportunity to think about the relations of force that can emerge amongst people subjected to unequal and differential legal and economic statuses – people who also speak different languages, follow different religions, and have different political visions and group interests – but find themselves attempting to transcend these differences and work together to survive.

in Race talk
Antonia Lucia Dawes

Chapter 2 develops the project’s conceptual and methodological framework. To do this, theoretical work on language use, ideologies and practices is placed in conversation with some of the key debates in critical race-and postcolonial studies. The chapter starts by considering Edouard Glissant’s arguments about postcolonial intersubjective dynamics – what he calls ‘Relation’ – being guided by a fraught, linguistic principle. Other literatures, on the significance of linguistic dexterity, on humour, on mourning, and on urban multiculture and struggle, are then explored. Finally, the chapter considers how the work of Bakhtin was used to develop a heteroglossia of dialogical speech genres over the course of the reserch. This literature allows for connections to be made between everyday talk and highly contested ideological debates around difference, belonging and entitlement.

in Race talk
Antonia Lucia Dawes

Chapter 3 explores how people in Napoli described their use of language in relationship to ideas about difference. Talk about talk shaped communication in a number of ways: as a way of reflecting melancholically on what Napoli was, as well as what it was in the process of becoming; as a practical necessity whereby migrants and Neapolitans had learnt from each other through socialisation and working together; and as a means of making claims about belonging, or expressing ambivalent forms of solidarity. People talked about being able to talk, but also sometimes claimed they were not able to talk to, or be understood by, each other. Thus, this chapter explores how people talked about talk, but also considers the problem of communication breakdown, seeking to define the threshold where interactions reached the edge of sociality and failed.

in Race talk
Open Access (free)
A tool of environmental justice in Ecuadorian toxic tours
Amelia Fiske

Drawing on scholarship in citizen science that has documented the enrollment of lay practices of knowledge production to denounce assemblages of capitalism, pollution, and inequality, this chapter turns to “toxic tours” in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Toxic tours began informally in the 2000s by a non-profit organization affiliated with the plaintiffs in the Aguinda v. Texaco lawsuit. In these tours, Donald Moncayo takes journalists, tourists, lawyers, and politicians to visit contaminated oil sites, using ordinary objects to assist visitors in seeing, smelling, and touching oil pollution for the first time: a glove, a long stick, a large recycled water bottle, a hand auger. These assorted tools work together to enable a direct engagement with the materiality of toxicity and legacies of extraction that would not otherwise be possible. In focusing on ordinary tools, this chapter brings the auger to bear on the public discernment of contamination and accountability, exploring how questions of industrial contamination are adjudicated, and what tools of knowledge production illuminate and what they occlude in the process. Toxic tours constitute a critical move beyond a notion of toxicity based on the triad of causality, individual bodies, and bounded environments, and toward conceptions based on porosity, relationality, and justice.

in Toxic truths
Environmental enumeration, justice, and apprehension
Nicholas Shapiro, Nasser Zakariya, and Jody A. Roberts

This chapter resituates discussions of community-based science beyond the emancipatory rhetoric of democratization, creative commons, and the blurring of the bulwarks of expertise to include consideration of the potentially constrictive instrumentalist scientific idiom produced by and through these practices. This chapter asks: what are the approaches to apprehending the environment that might not so easily boil down to binaries of benevolence or harm, or to renderings of uncertainty confined to the specifications of statistical confidence intervals, that in turn justify further scientific inquiry? We gesture toward an expansive conversation that we call “inviting apprehension.” Such approaches beckon multiple strata of apprehending the environment to provoke public inquiry and intervention into the questions that undergird what we assume are the problems of today and the avenues through which we must engage them.

in Toxic truths
Open Access (free)
Community-based research amid oil development in South Los Angeles
Bhavna Shamasunder, Jessica Blickley, Marissa Chan, Ashley Collier-Oxandale, James L. Sadd, Sandy Navarro, Nicole J. Wong, and Michael Hannigan

The Los Angeles basin contains one of the highest concentrations of crude oil in the world. Today, thousands of active wells are located among a dense population of 10 million people. In poor communities and communities of color, distances between wells and residences, schools, and healthcare facilities is closer than in wealthier neighborhoods. These communities are further exposed to contamination via outdated emissions equipment. In partnership with two South Los Angeles community-based organizations, we gathered data on health and experiences of living near to oil wells. The partnership utilized a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to conduct bilingual surveys of 205 residences within 1,500 feet of the oil field and used low-cost sensors to measure methane emissions, correlated to CARB’s (California Air Resources Board) emissions inventory. Rates of asthma as diagnosed by a physician were significantly higher (18%) than in Los Angeles County (11%); 45% of respondents had no knowledge that they lived near active oil development; and 63% of residents reported they would not know how to contact the local regulatory authority. This research is part of an ongoing effort to support community organizing to establish a health and safety buffer between active urban oil development and neighborhoods.

in Toxic truths