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An Alliance of Women: Immigration and the Politics of Race

Heather Merrill
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsjrd
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  • Book Info
    An Alliance of Women
    Book Description:

    Heather Merrill investigates how migrants and Northern Italians struggle over meanings and negotiate social and cultural identities. Using rich ethnographic material, Merrill traces the emergence of Alma Mater—an anti-racist organization formed to address problems encountered by migrant women. Through this analysis, she reveals the dynamics of an alliance consisting of women from many countries of origin and religious and class backgrounds._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9484-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Immigration and the Spatial Politics of Scale
    (pp. xi-xxx)

    While in Cameroon as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1980s, I began to realize how little I knew about the world outside my birth country, especially Africa. Before I lived in Africa, my understanding was gained for the most part from popular ideologies and images about the place and its peoples, namely, jungles, wild animals, and primitive “tribes.” Although I suspected that there was greater complexity to the continent than I had been taught, I was more surprised by the similarities than by the differences between the people I came to care about in Cameroon and my...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Spatial Politics of Race and Gender
    (pp. 1-22)

    Georgette was a headstrong young woman in her early twenties from the Ivory Coast. She had lived in Italy for several years, having made the journey for the purpose of improving the life she would have led had she remained in Abidjan. Arriving in Turin with a minimum amount of secondary schooling but fluent in French, she rapidly learned Italian by “watching television soap operas.” An observing Catholic, she and her husband belonged to a church in their neighborhood and participated regularly in church activities. Georgette was a woman of many trades, driven by the desire to improve her social...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Alma Mater: The Architecture of an Interethnic Social Politics
    (pp. 23-36)

    Alma Mater opened in December 1993 in a large, brown and white stone, three-and-one-half-story building with a handicapped entrance.¹ In the basement there is a Turkish bath (hammam), a laundromat,² a seamstress shop, an office, and a kitchen. Coming up a flight of stairs to the first floor are colorful posters of Alma Mater events, images of women, and a large office, which always appears to be private. Up another flight of stairs to the main floor is the Office of Cultural Mediation, a day care center, a library, a central office, a sitting and meeting room with an adjoining...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Limiting the Laboring: Industrial Restructuring and the New Migration
    (pp. 37-54)

    Afternoons in Alma Mater are often buzzing with intense activity. The Almateatro theater group may be dragging props into the large third-floor conference room in preparation for a rehearsal. In the library, there is frequently a meeting between staff and trade union representatives, civil servants from public social service offices, or university professors. Young children may be heard playing in thenido, or day care room. And visitors may be milling about in the hallways and sitting room or reading wall postings, such as articles about immigrants or leaflets about courses, initiatives, ethnic dinners, or African dance courses. Most days,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Extracomunitari in Post-Fordist Turin
    (pp. 55-74)

    Recent shifts in Turin’s economy and occupational structure—its movement from an economy based principally on Fordist-style automobile production and stable, relatively unskilled employment toward decentralized production and a more polarized labor market—can be understood as part of one phase within the continual process of capitalist expansion. There is a great deal of discussion today about what is often assumed to be a new process of “globalization,” a term employed to describe the free movement of capital around the world, the implosion of boundaries between nation-states, and the domination of transnational corporations. Although there is little doubt that Turin’s...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Race, Politics, and Protest in the Casbah, or San Salvario, Africa
    (pp. 75-116)

    Racial stigma is ascribed directly to physical bodies and their locations, produced not only by the state, but also by the institutions of civil society (Jackson 1987; Hall 1996a). Gramsci’s writings on modern Italy suggest that serious attention be given to the everyday world of civil society, including institutions such as neighborhoods and communities, ethnic institutions, and cultural and church organizations that play a vital role in producing and reproducing different societies in a racially structured form (Hall 1996b). For Gramsci it is in these institutions, as well as in state institutions, where power is produced and reproduced, where particular...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Turin Feminism: From Workerism to Interethnic Gender Alliance
    (pp. 117-154)

    In 2001, Alma Mater had become well known all over Italy as a site where immigrant women might receive advice, cultural representation, and work. It was one of the first places visited by migrant women after arriving in Turin via the Porta Nuova train station, where other newcomers often directed them to the organization. Many heard about Alma Mater through recommendations from various Italian civil servants and immigrant cultural mediators at the Officio Stranieri. Almost ten years after opening its doors, Alma Mater was a thriving site where immigrant women from all over the world hoped to improve their lives...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Making Alma Mater: Gender, Race, and Other Differences
    (pp. 155-188)

    Alma Mater appeared at a historical moment when the “third sector” of nongovernmental organizations commonly equated with the interests of civil society took on increasing spatial significance in Italy and around the world. Some have suggested that the third sector embodies a means of dealing with global economic crises, when the states’ weakening capacity to provide social services for its citizens could be resolved by empowering civil society (Korten 1990; Rifkin 1995). From both sides of the political spectrum, scholars contend that democracy can be fully achieved only through the agency of civil society, that is, the nonprofit sector as...

  12. CONCLUSION: Speaking Subjects
    (pp. 189-192)

    Contemporary Europe is constituted not only by the unification of nation-states, but also by the growing presence of international migrants. These newcomers arrive at a moment of radical disjuncture and uncertainty, when post-Fordism is producing insecurity in the labor market, unemployment rates are relatively high, and jobs are often temporary, and when discourses of terrorism have instilled a state of fear that resonates through the popular imaginary. Despite tightened legal restrictions, labor, refugee, and other migrants continue to enter Europe, contributing to growing social heterogeneity and to shifts in daily practices that will in time produce new meanings. However, in...

  13. EPILOGUE: >Gender and Globalization at the G8 in Genoa, July 2001
    (pp. 193-202)

    It was a hot day in June 2001 when, with other members of Alma Mater, I boarded a train in Turin headed for Genoa to attend an international conference about gender and globalization. The conference was organized as a feminist response to the July meeting of G8 leaders scheduled to take place in the struggling port city of Genoa, and as the country was bracing for anticipated popular demonstrations, in which police later killed an Italian youth.

    Several Turin feminists from Alma Mater invited me to accompany a group of some fifteen women, also from the organization. Six Italian women...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 203-218)
  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 219-236)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 237-258)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-259)