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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dead bodies, evidence and the death march from Buchenwald to Dachau, April–May 1945
Christopher E. Mauriello
This article utilises the theoretical perspectives of the forensic turn to further expand our historical understandings and interpretations of the events of the Holocaust. More specifically, it applies a theory of the materialities of dead bodies to historically reconstruct and reinterpret the death march from Buchenwald to Dachau from 7 to 28 April 1945. It focuses on dead bodies as ‘evidence’, but explores how the evidential meanings of corpses along the death-march route evolved and changed during the march itself and in the aftermath of discovery by approaching American military forces. While drawing on theories of the evidential use of dead bodies, it remains firmly grounded in empirical historical research based on archival sources. The archives at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp contain eyewitness accounts and post-war trial testimony that enable a deeply contextualised ‘microhistory’ of the geography, movements, perpetrators, victims and events along this specific death march in April and May 1945. This ‘thick description’ provides the necessary context for a theoretical reading of the changing evidential meanings of dead bodies as the death march wove its way from Buchenwald to Dachau and the war and the Holocaust drew to an end.
This article seeks to show that the bodies of Jewish people who died in the Drancy internment camp between 1941 and 1944 were handled on French soil in a doubly normalised manner: first by the police and judicial system, and then in relation to funeral arrangements. My findings thus contradict two preconceived ideas that have become firmly established in collective memory: first, the belief that the number who died in the Drancy camp is difficult to establish; and second, the belief that the remains of internees who died in the camp were subjected to rapid and anonymous burial in a large mass grave in Drancy municipal cemetery.