Prin Miserabilia_National Maps Workshop

On the Traces of Misery

Architecture Philosophy Visual Arts Sociology

PRIN "MISERABILIA: Spaces and Specters of Misery"

Call for Proposals “On the Traces of Misery”

“Miserabilia” investigates spaces and spectres of misery in the imagination and reality of the contemporary Italian urban context. The main objective is the definition of tools for the recognition and investigation of the tangible and intangible manifestations of misery and the development of methods and languages to narrate and design it. In Western societies today, misery turns out to be unspeakable and invisible, ousted into a historical, geographical, cultural elsewhere, emptied of phenomenologies, evidence, qualities, quantities, dimensions, extensions, discourses. It is unthought and unrepresentable, but it is a matter of space and spatiality. First, architectural space: the obvious, theatricalized and overexposed one in the past and the invisibilized, anonymous, residual, and looming, therefore spectral, space that has gradually taken its place. Second, the philosophical space of words. Third, the space of words between people, that is, the social space, what Henri Lefebvre designated as the territory of representation. Where misery is not portrayed, it does not vanish at all: in anonymity it ends up being internalized, expressing itself in the blaming and even criminalization of poverty, which is counterbalanced by the moral immiseration of affluent neighborhoods, increasingly closed to the rest of the city. Poverty is thus the specter that haunts contemporary social reality, often intuited as the trace of a social condition, an edifice, a right that being no longer there for something or someone manifests its disturbing presence to others. As in Avery Gordon’s Ghostly Matters (1997), it is not a matter of making this one relief, but of depicting that which has no appearance, which remains concealed, which is not given but is there and inhabits, even politically, cities; in essence, of overcoming certain dichotomies and making sense of a brutal black and white. The dialogue to be opened, in disciplinary and epistemological terms, thus relates the different practices of these spaces and their haunting and phantasmal presence. It is a question of detecting and mapping the spaces, positions, and meanings that the concept of ‘misery’ has occupied and occupies today in a whole series of defined, distinct, and overlapping areas or fields: political, architectural, anthropological, philosophical, sociological, psychological, artistic and landscape spheres. The narrative of misery has taken different forms over time. From the realisms described by Linda Nochlin in her Misère: The Visual Representation of Misery in the 19th Century (2018), to Abraham Bosse’s storyboards The Works of Mercy taken up by Jean Starobinsky in his Largesse (2007) to talk about the traces left in cities and architecture by the gesture of giving, to the poems where Pier Paolo Pasolini gives space to misery both as a form of life and as a means of transforming reality. Misery can be unformed matter of expression as in the brutalist diagrams that emerge from Deleuze and Guattari’s reading of Kafka’s work (1975), or as in the Prague writer’s drawings where those who converse through the projection of their own shadowy presence venture (Andreas Kilcher, ed., Franz Kafka: The Drawings, Yale University Press, 2022). Exposing misery can mean constructing psychogeographic maps like the Situationists’ The Naked City, where the city is not certain and total but formed of fragments held together only by movements, desires, tensions and wanderings. It is precisely the journey of a vagabond that is at the center of Takehiko Inoue’s dark manga Vagabond: signs and texts that unite space, time, and society, while the torment of the rejected in John Hejduk’s drawings refuses to leave the city, reinforcing its discomfort (Anthony Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny, 1992). To map the antiheroes Massimiliano Frassi in his I bambini delle fogne di Bucarest (2001) juxtaposes written and photographic narrative with each other, and Giuseppe Barile uses the tool of video: his documentary Canal (2021) also lets us hear the voices of the inhabitants of the city’s own basements. And Ladj Ly raises a quote from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables (2019) as a coda to the film of the same name he directs: “Remember this, my friends. There are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators”. Welfare associations, living and walking through misery firsthand, map latent experiences every year, publish lists of spaces (Community of St. Egidio, Guides Where) to orient themselves in the new shadow city (Robert Neuwirth, Shadow City. A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World, Routledge 2006). But one can also map misery without looking it directly in the face by drawing other lines of value. Michel Houellebecq’s topologies, studied by Clémentine Rachet (Topologies. Au milieu du monde de Michel Houellebecq, 2015) are the mundane spaces of the city and its neighborhoods, or islands to flee to, platforms, supermarkets, spaces that trace archipelagos of non-functionality and form a Night City yet to be represented (William Gibson, Neuromancer, 1984). In Genoa, the demolition of the Dighe di Begato, on the hill between Bolzaneto and Rivarolo, began on April 20, 2021. This is not the first time that grands ensembles of social housing have been materially erased from the urban landscape, with structural, social, and securitarian justifications (Gérard Baudin, Philippe Genestier, Faut-il vraiment démolir les grands ensembles?, “Espaces et sociétés”, 2006). The nonconforming is combined with the undignified, the inadequate, the unseemly, the embarrassing, the haunting, and what was a dream of redemption is transformed into a place deplorable and as such to be emasculated. Demolition thus works as erasure. And it seems to indicate an act of deconstruction, the act that by eliminating reveals its presuppositions (Jacques Derrida, On Grammatology, 1967). To surface is nothing spectacular, only the profane illumination of conjecture and posthumous testimony: the imprint of a project, a design, a plan; and thus of subaltern histories and lives. Wandering into the void, in the wake of this elision, one comes across a series of disjecta membra today. The bare essentiality of the signs left on the ground of what was returns an aberrated scale, something on the order of a reduction: a paltry space compared to the vertical monumentality of the building; the meager two-dimensional scale of a plan on which a “monster” had been built. Brought back to the ground, its gigantic volumetry erased, this trace, however, contains the imprint and rationality of a design, the imploded energy of a project and a betrayed promise. Instead, the fragments, that is, what remains, seem to lead back unintentionally or unconsciously to a memorial to the unknown inhabitant, a memorial stone, a cenotaph however sidereally distant from any possible celebration, if it is true that miserable always indicates a reduction, as well as a failure, an unreconciled leave-taking.



The Call for Proposals “On the Traces of Misery” asks doctoral students, research fellows, and freelance researchers in architecture, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psychology, educational sciences, visual arts and design to represent misery. Proposals should take the form of an abstract-comprising a title, a map and a text of up to 2,000 characters (including spaces and references, American-style notation with a final bibliography) that exposes the framed “misery”. Maps may take different forms: photographs, drawings, diagrams, videos. Texts may be short essays, poems, short stories, reports. At the end of the abstracts evaluation procedure (double blind review) the selected authors will have to produce a full paper, consisting of a text of up to 10,000 characters (including notes, American notation with final bibliography) and 3 images. All materials, the abstract and the full paper, should be copyright free and sent collected in a folder named “Last Name_ First Name” to specifying “Call for Proposals_Miserabilia” in the subject line.



Call for Proposals: February 29, 2024 Submit abstract: March 29, 2024 Notification of abstract acceptance: April 19, 2024 Submit full paper: June 3, 2024 Notification of congress program: June 10, 2024 Congress: June 27-28, 2024



The congress “National Maps Workshop”, curated by Alberto Bertagna, Stefania Consigliere, Massimiliano Giberti, Federico Rahola, will be held in-person at the University of Genoa, June 27-28, 2024. Each author will have 15 minutes to expose their misery. A seminar discussion will follow at the end of each session. The conference will also be an opportunity to present the Italian translation of Avery Gordon’s book, Ghostly Matters, with the author, Federico Rahola and Stefania Consigliere.



The congress proceedings will be published in a volume of the “Miserabilia” series directed by Sara Marini. The volume will be edited in print and digital form will be available in open access.


Scientific Committee

Daniela Angelucci, Università degli Studi Roma Tre | Alberto Bertagna, Università degli Studi di Genova | Francesco Careri, Università degli Studi Roma Tre | Stefania Consigliere, Università degli Studi di Genova | Giuseppe D’Acunto, Università Iuav di Venezia | Martino Doimo, Università Iuav di Venezia | Dario Gentili, Università degli Studi Roma Tre | Esther Giani, Università Iuav di Venezia | Massimiliano Giberti, Università degli Studi di Genova | Andrea Guerra, Università Iuav di Venezia | Luigi Latini, Università Iuav di Venezia | Sara Marini, Università Iuav di Venezia | Annalisa Metta, Università degli Studi Roma Tre | Ivelise Perniola, Università degli Studi Roma Tre | Jonathan Pierini, Isia Urbino | Luca Queirolo Palmas, Università degli Studi di Genova | Federico Rahola, Università degli Studi di Genova | Valter Scelsi, Università degli Studi di Genova | Elettra Stimilli, Università degli Studi Roma Tre | Tamara Tagliacozzo, Università degli Studi Roma Tre | Alessandro Valenti, Università degli Studi di Genova | Laura Zampieri, Università Iuav di Venezia.


Organizing Committee

Guelfo Carbone, Università degli Studi Roma Tre | Giulia Dettori, Università degli Studi Roma Tre | Laura Guarino, Università degli Studi di Genova | Alberto Petracchin, Università Iuav di Venezia.

PRIN “Miserabilia: Spaces and Specters of Misery”, call 2022, SH5, Research Units: Università Iuav di Venezia, Principal Investigator Sara Marini; Università Roma Tre, Associated Investigator Dario Gentili; Università degli Studi di Genova, Associated Investigator Federico Rahola. 



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