Panel 09

(Re)thinking “the social” through relatedness and reproductive practices

Panel 09 / Quarto Convegno Nazionale SIAC “Il ritorno del sociale”, Sapienza Università di Roma, 21-22-23 settembre 2023

Proponenti: Giulia Consoli (Università di Pavia), Alessandra Gribaldo (Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia)


The ethics, aesthetics, practices, and policies of kinship are played out in the interstices of the social, blurring the boundaries of private and public. The fields of relatedness and the lens of (non)reproductive practices are thus exceptionally helpful in attempting to grasp tensions, anxieties, challenges, and imaginaries within societies and societal ideas in their making, unmaking and spreading. Indeed, the very concepts of intimacy, domesticity, sharing of substances, goods, assets, experiences, or memories shape and are shaped through different ways of conceiving kin, relatives and relationships. The aim of the panel is to explore how relatedness practices are “good to think” different ways of conceiving societies or the social fields, confronting major challenges such as migration, climate changes or new technologies and taking into account the plural intersections of gender, generation, citizenship and class.

We welcome contributions on (but not limited to) the following issues:

– The relationship between relatedness and reproductive practices
– Reproductive practices and life histories
– Unnamed family forms and “other intimacies”
– Migration and kinship: strategies, desires and constraints
– Cultural meanings of reproduction and kinship, public discourses and the production of “the social”

Keywords: kinship, relatedness, reproduction, imaginaries, intimacies

Lingue accettate: Italiano / English / Français


Sessione I

Giovedì 21/9/23, ore 14.30-16.15, aula Simonetti, Terzo piano

Hatim Rachdi ( (Hamad Bin Khalifa University), Ibrā in Relation: An ‘Auditoire’ for Poetic Queer Mutuality

In this paper, I explore how Tilila, a trans Moroccan asylum seeker living in Athens, uses poetic performances of ‘ibrā to generate mutuality and create new forms of belonging and community. Drawing on three months of ethnographic fieldwork between May 2022 and January 2023 and subsequent virtual engagement, I argue that ‘ibrā performances provide a foundation for queer kinship ties that surpass conventional legal and bio-genetic structures. Using Carsten’s work on kinship and migration (2020), Freedman’s conceptualization of “queer belonging” (2007) and Sahlins’ theorization of ‘mutuality’ (2013), I argue that Tilila’s recitations of poems, proverbs, and religious texts embody a profound performative power that facilitates the flow of affect between herself and the audience, creating a relational space oriented towards saʿāda, or happiness. By engaging with me and her imagined audience through poetic performances of ‘ibrā, Tilila forges a bond that transcends conventional structures and offers a powerful alternative to the oppressive forces of migration and border regimes. This paper contributes to kinship studies and queer migration by showing how imaginative practices and affective performances like ‘ibrā challenge traditional notions of kinship and create new possibilities for connection and continuity that work with and against the migration regime.

Selenia Marabello ( (Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia), Reproduction and migrant reception spaces: unexpected forms of relatedness? 

How do we re-articulate the dimension of relatedness in migrant reception spaces, where the public/private boundary is both viscous and unstable? Based on ethnographic research carried out since 2018 in shelters for migrant mothers with young children (0-6 years old), we focus on the practices, aesthetics and rhetoric in which the idea of relatedness takes shape, materializes and is recounted. While taking into account the central role the state plays in determining who can inhabit these temporary reception spaces and the practices of governance that hinge on gender and family, we investigate in particular the ideas of relatedness that are constructed, circulated, and developed in these spaces. The analysis considers biographical narratives but also pays special attention to architectural spaces and the ways they are used, as well as donated and exchanged objects. Focusing on these elements, it seeks to capture the ways migrant mothers from West Africa formulate ideas and practices of relationality and coexistence in the present and future of their lives amidst established procedures and binding constraints and under the conditions of reception system living.

Chiara Baiocco ( (Ricercatrice indipendente), Make home and family facing societal challenges: a focus on refugees’ practices and imaginaries

This work is based on a seven-month research experience inside semi-institutional refugee houses located in the northern Italy countryside. The analysis will focus on relatedness through a perspective that wants to overcome the traditional idea of kinship connected with blood relations, suggesting a fluid dimension more stick to social field, to relational practices and to everyday life processes (Brun 2012). The case study displays how, even in temporary and uncertain contexts, refugees “make home and family” through relational practices, creating familiar and intimate universes and binding material and imaginative geographies. The paper collects the reflections of Carsten and Grilli & Zanottelli on relatedness, together with the studies conducted by Wall & Gouveia on young people sharing houses.  From an inter-relational point of view, sharing routine-based time and places, cooking, and eating with others creates a sense of familiarity and intimacy and shapes fluid and strong ways to “make family” and ” be in a family”. I will underline how practical and emotional support, sharing and care allow young refugees to overcome institutional and societal challenges as scarce institutional involvement on welfare assistance, local integration, and job search. Finally, I will present how male refugees were assuming different role and positions as a reproduction of social and familiar roles based on respect, value, age, and experience rather than gender fixed division

Magnus Course ( (University of Edinburgh), A Face in the Crowd: reflections on death, kinship, and crowds at a Neapolitan shrine

In a narrow side street in Naples’ Quartieri Spagnoli, a small shrine literally overflows with the massed faces of the dead. What was once a traditional memorial to a single deceased relative has over many decades become something quite different as people have forced passport photos of their own dead – young and old, male and female – through the cracked glass until nothing of the original memorial can be seen. We might approach such a phenomenon as being situated at the interstices of religion and kinship, tied to both theologically-elaborated ideas – concerning Purgatory, the intercession of saints, and the contagious virtue of a grace acquired through proximity – and kinship rooted emphases on a love for kin that does not end at death but is maintained through an ethics of continuing care. And both of these, both kinship and religion, are clearly an essential part of any analysis. But what would happen if we remained on the surface of the images for just a bit long and took the shrine at face value (pardon the pun)? What we see is a crowd, and in this paper, I explore the shrine as an exemplar of a particular way of thinking about sociality in Naples that is rooted in both religion and kinship, yet also supersedes and perhaps even encompasses them.

Valentina Vergottini ( (Università di Roma Tre), Humanitarian projects and reproductive strategies in southern Benin

In many African contexts, and particularly in Benin where I carried out ethnographic research, there are many international humanitarian and “development” projects aimed at promoting women’s “empowerment”. One of the objectives of these projects is to raise awareness of the use of contraceptive methods and the reduction of birth rates through the promotion of reproductive, maternal and child health services. In contrast, in the Beninese cultural context, beliefs in existential continuity place the emphasis on numerous filiation and progeny. According to local conceptions of kinship and reproduction, parenthood plays an important role both in the construction of gender identities and in the definition of power relations within collectivities. The aim of this paper is to investigate how these humanitarian projects are perceived locally and what are the polyvocal and multifaceted views of those involved, both among users and staff members. The focus will be on the reproductive strategies and agentive practices that individual subjectivities enact in their life histories, moving through the intricate and complex tangles of development, moral economies, and kinship. This makes it possible to show how the idea of contraception can also be redefined and considered by some as an integral part of broader family planning or even as a strategy to increase their number of children.



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