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Presentazione a IT.A.CA’ di Specchi Scomodi. Etnografia delle Migrazioni Forzate nel Libano Contemporaneo (Mimesis, 2019)

Ringrazio la Biblioteca Cabral di Bologna, Hayat-Bologna, e IT.A.CA’-Migranti e Viaggiatori per l’invito a presentare il mio libro Specchi Scomodi. Etnografia delle Migrazioni Forzate nel Libano Contemporaneo (Mimesis, 2019).

Qui di seguito la registrazione dell’evento.

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Intervista con Radio Alta Frequenza (Bologna, June 23, 2020)

Categories: Iraq, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestina, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The US protests: Lessons from Syria

Leila's blog

Originally published at Al-Jumhuriya

Floyd Mural Mural by Aziz Asmar and Anis Hamdoun in Idlib. In solidarity with protesters in the US. 1 June 2020

Over the past few days, an uprising has raged in Minnesota and elsewhere in the United States in response to the murder of George Floyd by police. In the spirit of solidarity with those on the streets, I was prompted to think about the lessons from the Syrian revolution that might be applicable to the US context.

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The Covid-19 among MENA Refugees: A Great Humanitarian Concern (April, 2020)

Republished from: https://www.ispionline.it/it/pubblicazione/covid-19-among-mena-refugees-great-humanitarian-concern-25679

While some may have initially underestimated the potentially disastrous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, presuming that vulnerable people such as refugees would have more serious issues to deal with than a bad flu, the new coronavirus turns out to be an uncomfortable litmus test for the current state of aid in crisis-hit areas. There is no doubt that it is, however, premature to assess how the pandemic will affect the ways in which crises have been managed over the years to rehabilitate life and livelihoods in the Middle East and North Africa’s conflict-stricken settings, now home to internally displaced people (e.g. Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen) and refugees (e.g. Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan).

Although (un)forced migrants are often believed to be carriers of infectious diseases, today’s pandemic has actually been caused by the arrival of professional travelers or tourists in spaces inhabited by refugees. Echoing past concerns about the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the 2012 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the imminent outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in refugee camps worldwide is daunting because large numbers of refugeeswho normally do not own equitable access to healthcare and reside in host countries where health infrastructures have been literally eroded by long-standing conflicts– may be particularly prone to respiratory infections. Refugee camps have become a matter of particular concern, as they tend to be crowded spaces across the Middle East region, where (mostly war-produced) refugees have been residing over decades and, at times, since birth.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, among other self-started measures in camps, Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees have begun fabricating masks to protect personal and collective health before the enactment of formal responses. In the framework of UNHCR’s Coronavirus Emergency Appeal, some international humanitarian agencies enforced prevention and protection measures (e.g. temperature screening at camp entrances). The formal COVID-19 response has primarily been coordinated with governments, even when refugees’ lives are endangered by the former. In Jordan’s Za‘tari and Azraq, mostly hosting thousands of refugees who fled conflict in neighboring Syria and are now in lockdown as per national policies, humanitarian workers have been providing guidelines in Arabic through SMS and street posters about how to preserve personal hygiene and health. However, protective material such as latex gloves, surgical masks and disinfectants – whose prices soared dramatically over the last few weeks due to their scarcity – has been distributed in only a small number of cases.

Also non-camp refugees, who actually make up the vast majority across the Middle East region and who are indiscriminately labeled as “urban refugees”, have become the object of great humanitarian concern. Although they are likely to be more exposed to an urban health system and to have easier access to information, many of them still lack potable water, remain unlikely to access healthcare facilities, and cannot afford quarantine arrangements and social distancingrestrictions.

After INGOs implemented anti-COVID-19 measures, some refugees voiced the need to be informed more broadly rather than simply being taught basic hygiene rules: “Aid providers promised Dettol and masks, but did not mention how we can learn what happens outside of here. No family in this camp owns a TV […] What are the most affected countries, and what are they doing to face all of this?”, as a Syrian refugee living in Bireh (northern Lebanon) put it in one of our recent conversations (March 31, 2020). Humanitarian agencies should therefore scale up simple aid and advice to include deeply informative sessions held in the languages of the camps. Mere guidelines like “washing hands with soap” limits aid to an instrument of biological survival and “human dignity’”. Thus far, humanitarian programs have seemingly approached the pandemic as an exclusively health matter that they can only provide technical advice for. Refugees have instead proven to be a key soft-power tool for global and regional power-holders who, in turn, adopt catastrophe as a back-route to convenient politics. For example, some municipalities in Lebanon have enforced extra curfews on Syrian refugees to reassert territorial sovereignty, parading such measures as needed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in a bid to take advantage of the political leverage that states of exception typically provide. Meanwhile, Syrian refugee families in the Greater Beirut area recently (April 2, 2020) told me that local municipalities highlighted the need for refugees to exclusively address their aid requests to UNHCR and UNRWA (respectively addressing non-Palestinian refugees and Palestinians in Lebanon) in order to deal with the current pandemic.

As today’s emergency crises are mostly of prolonged nature, the COVID-19 pandemic certainly amounts to a series of ageing crises, made up of high unemployment rates among older-date refugees, a chronic lack of available cash – mainly needed to cover the costs of home rent and medications – and, sometimes, even food scarcity. During the pandemic, refugee camps and high-density slums are faced with the challenge of rethinking coping mechanisms and rely on weak infrastructure, while global humanitarian actors historically tend to prioritise later emergencies and under-resource the earlier.

In a world of unequal political geographies, Western countries will possibly be prioritized in the future provision of a vaccine. Instead, the virus is likely to affect refugee camps and spaces for a long time. By then, host states may end up using social distancing as a way of further isolating and warehousing refugees while sugarcoating it as public health protection.

 

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Car-sharing in Lebanon: Overlooked practices of collective self-reliance (April, 2020)

Republished from: https://www.rethinkingrefuge.org/articles/car-sharing-in-lebanon-overlooked-practices-of-collective-self-reliance

Since 2011, international humanitarian agencies have addressed Syrian displacement in the countries neighbouring war-affected Syria. Many of these programmes aim to put in place strategies to enhance the economic self-sufficiency and enfranchisement of refugees in the labour markets of the receiving societies.

Indeed, since the late 1990s, the global refugee regime has shifted from a ‘care and maintenance’ approach to refugee support towards ‘self-reliance’ and ‘resilient livelihoods’ in humanitarian programming. This approach focuses on urban environments where refugees are expected to provide for themselves, even when locals are economically vulnerable and often unable to achieve self-sufficiency.

Despite these expectations, few livelihood programmes designed by international humanitarian agencies acknowledge or build on pre-existing networks of mutual support and assistance woven by refugees and local residents. A better understanding of these networks offers a means to rethink the presumed individual nature of livelihoods in exile.

A study I conducted of car-sharing practices in Halba, capital of Akkar Governorate in northern Lebanon, reveals that these networks were often overlooked because of flawed understandings among humanitarian actors of how social groups live, cope, and thrive in crisis-stricken settings. As a result, refugees are often thought of and addressed as newcomers who barely know the host culture and economy. However, Syrian refugees migrating to Lebanon following the large-scale conflict were primarily neighbours or previous seasonal migrants doing menial labour – and even historical subjects of the same country until 1920.

Halba, Northern Lebanon

Halba, capital of Akkar Governorate, northern Lebanon. Photo credits: Estella Carpi.

In Lebanon, refugees (laji’un) are not officially recognized as such but only as displaced people (nazihun), since the country is not a signatory to the 1950 Geneva Refugee Convention and its protocols. Therefore, the search for and management of resources are generally more difficult for refugees in the region, particulary given that they generally have weaker support networks to draw on than the locals. Nonetheless, Syrian refugees and poor Lebanese citizens face the same costs of living, and many of the poorest locals receive virtually the same salary.

Car-sharing and collective tactics of survival

This research shows how long-standing networks of support and assistance point to a local economy of self-reliance strategies that are disentangled from national identity categories, and instead encompass both host and refugee communities. My findings on the everyday practice of car-sharing in a hamlet demonstrate that refugees build their own sustainability by developing networks with those worse-off local families who are unable to afford the purchase and maintenance of private cars. Private cars are an asset in Akkar because public transport in the region is insufficient and expensive with respect to the local purchasing power.

Wa’el, a Syrian refugee living in the small village of western Akkar, shares the cost of car maintenance and fuel with his Lebanese neigbour who, in turn, inherited the old car from his father. Likewise, two Syrian refugee families and a Lebanese family living in Halba chipped in to purchase a car. Many informal tented settlements where refugees live, moreover, are located far away from the main road where people can access pubic transport.

Owning a car provides both refugees and locals with more job opportunities as they thereby can accept jobs in other villages or even opt for jobs which imply some physical mobility (e.g. drivers and delivery services). Furthermore, owning a car enables people in Akkar to sustain their livelihoods more independently, as they can access cheaper shops and markets, which are not necessarily located in their neighbourhood or village. In this way, refugees play a proactive role in sharing their economic lives to mutual benefit.

Parallel Humanitarian Strategies of Livelihoods Creation

However, in Lebanon, international livelihood programmes, implemented by international NGOs and United Nations agencies, tend not to capitalize on pre-existing multi-scale mechanisms of self-reliance, implementing instead standardized parallel strategies aimed at enhancing local and refugee livelihoods. By doing so, humanitarian agencies treat different demographic groups as though they were different national groups that need to be reconciled, while disregarding their similarities and shared history.

The economic life of refugees should not be regarded as an outcome only able to be stimulated by external humanitarian actors, but instead as a set of practices that are generated by multilateral intergroup relationships. In Lebanon and elsewhere, international humanitarian programmes devote insufficient attention and resources to supporting such local arrangements, and instead implement programmes on the basis of individual skills and ability to cope. These limitations contribute to the stymied success of livelihood programmes, which should not be attributed solely to the structural constraints of the economic market in operation in North Lebanon.

Lessons learnt

Socio-economic practices like car-sharing are collective by definition, and therefore confront the humanitarian tendency of thinking labour skills as merely individual. Examining coping strategies and their historical development could enable the effective assessment of real-world social ‘memberships’ and their primary needs.

My study challenges the humanitarian construction of stereotypical and inaccurate identities in their designs for beneficiaries. Humanitarian assistance regimes based on demographic and other largely arbitrary identity categories to determine the eligibility of refugees only encourages claimants to misrepresent themselves in order to qualify for basic necessities and even rights. I highlight the importance of moving beyond rigid conceptualizations of the refugee–host binary. Instead, this research develops a deeper, practice-based understanding of how social identities interrelate through shared practices – an approach that focuses on what people actually do rather than misleading characterizations based on national identities.

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Keeping the Faith? Examining the Roles of Faith and Secularism in Syrian Diaspora Organizations in Lebanon (February 2020)

The “Diaspora Organisations in International Affairs” book, edited by Dennis Dijkzeul and Margit Fauser is now out! Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and I contributed with the chapter Keeping the Faith? Examining the Roles of Faith and Secularism in Syrian Diaspora Organizations in Lebanon. Here below our abstract.

For more details on the other contributions: https://www.routledge.com/Diaspora-Organizations-in-International-Affairs-1st-Edition/Dijkzeul-Fauser/p/book/9781138589131

Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Syrian diaspora organisations (Dos) in Lebanon have been providing diverse forms of support, relief and assistance to Syrian refugees. Whether in areas which are difficult for international providers to access, or in major towns and cities where international actors including the UN, INGOs and state actors have been providing assistance, Syrian Diaspora Organisations (DO)s have played a vital role in providing support and relief to their Syrian fellows. At times, these DO initiatives have been actively funded by international donors or developed in formal partnership with UN agencies and INGOs, while in other contexts they take place on the margins of (or at times in ways that directly challenge) formal humanitarian aid structures.

Against this backdrop, and based on long-standing research vis-à-vis local, national and international responses to displacement from Syria within Lebanon, this chapter examines the diverse roles that faith and secularism play in the initiatives developed by Syrian diaspora organisations based in Lebanon, exploring how and with what effect faith, religion, secularism (and secularist frameworks) relate to Syrian DOs’ relationships with different local, national and international actors, including Syrian refugees, members of host populations and diverse UN Agencies, NGOs and INGOs.

Syrian DOs in Lebanon include organisations established and led by activists, ex-protesters, established Syrian migrant workers, and religious leaders who have ‘become’ relief providers since the crisis broke out. On the one hand, by drawing on interviews with members of a range of Syrian DOs in Lebanon, this chapter explores the personal and collective reasons behind the act of establishing these organisations. On the other hand, it will investigate the social roles played by secular and faith-based DO members who engage in relief work, and their contextual relationship with their international and secular counterparts. This is particularly important in light of the strong financial and political support that a core group of popular secular(ist) Syrian DOs have received from international donors/agencies. In contrast, faith-based diaspora organisations have often been viewed by members of the international community (both in the context of Syria and more broadly) as exiled communities that do not fulfil key international humanitarian principles such as neutrality, impartiality or universality as they are assumed to prioritise political or sectarian dimensions through providing assistance (only or primarily) to their co-nationals/co-ethnics. This secular-centric interpretation of the partialist nature of faith-motivated assistance remains particularly biased towards diaspora groups that mobilise within the global South, where the source of crisis supposedly lies.

By providing examples from Beirut and from northern Lebanon, this chapter will show how DOs’ configuration and engagement with specific international and local communities have been changing since the outbreak of the crisis in Syria in 2011. By analysing the organisational configuration (including partnership models) and the forms of provision of these secular and faith-based DOs, we are particularly interested in examining how intra-community solidarity is (or is not) built within southern host societies through Syrian DOs’ initiatives – this is a dynamic that has received hardly any attention from scholars examining diaspora transnational endeavours.

With the purpose of investigating the human and social geographies of such secular and faith-based DOs, our chapter aims to draw on lessons from anthropological, sociological, and IR studies, in a bid to construct a deeper understanding of secular and faith-based DO-led aid provision and their social impacts in settings of the global South which geographically (and geopolitically) neighbour new and ongoing crises.

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On Motherhood and Unspoken Violence. From a (nearly ungendered) individualist to a tortured site of mass expectations (and a furious feminist)

This post is for ‘mums-to-be’ that want to build their damn free mothering Self.

Pre-reading note: If you are keen to get the spirit of this post, consider that it does not reflect my intimate choices. It simply conveys my politics around motherhood.

After nine months of pregnancy and a few weeks of motherhood, I feel the need to share what we, ‘new mums’, need to get through. This post also wants to be an expression of empathy for all of the women that reject their body being a site of external expectations and social disciplining. 

Few experiences in life as much as motherhood can make you realise how small is the number of women who genuinely empathize with you, respect you as a self-worthy individual, and support you as such. Every piece of ‘advice’ – especially when unsolicited – is often loaded with ideologies and intents of proselytization. By writing this I’m probably doing proselytization myself 🙂

To begin with, during pregnancy, I had always thought that sharing stories – like birth, breastfeeding and parenthood stories – had the extraordinary potential of creating spaces of empathy and mutual support for both women and men. Indeed, I think sharing stories can still be all of that in some – maybe exceptional – cases. Over the last year I immersed myself in several readings and conversations, and I actually realized that such spaces are tragically transformed into platforms of judgmentalism, competition and disrespectful-towards-others self-realization. All of this showed me the unspoken symbolic violence behind the act of telling some birth, feeding, motherhood and so forth stories. 

I premise I publicly apologise for all of the times I have embodied one of the following categories as a past childless woman, without realizing how loaded my words can become to mums-to-be. 

Here’s the prototypes I have come across throughout the last few months:

  1. The anxious ‘selfist’: this category includes all of those who tell you that you need to do something if they did it (Eg. breastfeeding), but without challenging the quality of their performance. Let’s take this unsolicited advice I have received once: “Don’t breastfeed for more than three months because it’s impossible”. This message carries two logical implications: 1. You will want to/be able to breastfeed. 2. You will be unable to do it for more than three months, because you cannot beat the patience and nipples’ resilience of your interlocutor. This category of mums entitled themselves to be not necessarily the best but surely the only possible ‘model’ of motherhood. Many of these category members compete about who coped longer with pain during birth before begging for an epidural, or who breastfed their baby for longer. The same category compete about the babies’ weight after birth, the babies’ most generous sleeping patterns and, in a farthest future, the babies’ social skills. For this category, going back to work has been (either a liberation or a difficult) experience that you also need to have. Their life events and experiences will mark your future! Try not to have these people around 🙂
  2. The performative (at times even fake) alternative: this is the category of women that will always tell you they think outside of the box. During pregnancy, they had all of the food they would have not been allowed to wolf down; they drank all of the alcohol they would have not been allowed to have; they ran and jumped while in their pregnancy third trimester; and they even did not prepare their hospital bag until week 39. An applause for these outlaws!
  3. The fundamentalist naturalist: this category ranges from those who feel hippies, in peace with the natural world and their own body (alias the ‘Woodstackians’) to the radical Catholics, for whom women need to suffer terrible pains to give birth and rely on no medical intervention (no epidurals, no c-sections, etc.) in order to be real mums. Typical comments of this category sounds like “I wish I had had a C-section!”, or “I am so sorry for women who underwent a C-section, some of them don’t know how contractions are like… and I mean, I feel like a heroin ‘cause giving birth is somehow like experiencing your own death first”. In other words, to the eyes of fundamentalist naturalists, women that had to/chose to have a Caesarean are presumed not to have felt any pain at all, or not to have the guts of giving actual birth. Departing from such presumptions, any illness that hits the caesarean-born baby is motivated by the way (s)he was born: “Does he often have a cold? It’s because (s)he was born with a caesarean”. “Does (s)he sleep a lot? It’s because (s)he was born with a caesarean”. For this category, feeding the baby is another battle field: if you bottle-feed you are a loser. Most fundamentalist naturalists, however, will come to tell you that they actually respect anyone, and understand everyone’s choices. 
  4. And now the unquestionable heroine, whatever her choice is. This category tend to heroicize what they have chosen for themselves or somehow happens to them: it can be about coping with contractions without epidural, delivering a baby within one hour, or crowning in the twinkle of an eye. For this category, what is choices, personal adaptation, or mere contingency, become an heroic act.

When you are pregnant, everyone will tell you “your life is not going to be the same”, because everyone has already decided what your life should primarily be about when you become a parent. After nine months of judgments and unsolicited advice, they are actually right: their voices made my days way worse, and my feeling about becoming a mum had somehow become ‘polluted’ by some of these voices. But parenthood really does not need to become a ‘model’… the way you live it makes it all.

Dear future mum, that’s my two cents. Speak how you feel only to the people you really trust and you care about. And in spite of all of what I have vented here: do not get isolated, because it’s definitely not what we need as women and mothers… But do not over-communicate either, because what you will get back might be a more acute sense of isolation.

 

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Towards a Neo-cosmetic Humanitarianism: Refugee Self-reliance as a Social-cohesion Regime in Lebanon’s Halba (December, 2019)

https://academic.oup.com/jrs/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jrs/fez083/5686415?guestAccessKey=e4723362-7099-4f7c-b004-4066dde039f8&fbclid=IwAR1ZQzuTyqQs88J33TGnZKfbeA35IndU7paBiQBiFbw97-L_H89RFagsqHo

Abstract

This article focuses on Syrian-refugee self-reliance and humanitarian efforts meant to foster it in Halba, northern Lebanon. I argue that humanitarian livelihood programming is ‘neo-cosmetic’, as the skills refugees acquire through humanitarian programmes turn out to be little more than a cosmetic accessory. While the humanitarian apparatus deliberately limits its action in order not to challenge host economies, the acquired skills do not practically enhance refugees’ possibility to be employed. Instead, refugee self-reliance is reconfigured as the ‘inter-ethnic promotion of host stability’. Relatedly, I propose that the aim of implementing social cohesion in multi-ethnic areas reveals a new ethnicization of care within the humanitarian system. Within this framework, the citizen practice of running hardware stores on a permanent basis coexists with the temporariness of refugee livelihood practices. Lastly, I rethink social membership in a refugee–host setting by adopting a practice-based approach to the research subjects in an effort to challenge the ethnic definitions of social groups and other pre-established forms of belonging.

 

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Lebanon Support Migration Study Week (August, 2019)

Enjoy the video on the Lebanon Support Migration Study Week’s walking tour that took place last August 2019 and the overall video documenting the whole week:

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Il mito dell’apolitico e il ritorno del conflitto ( by Marina Calculli, December 2019)

20 December 2019

C’è una tendenza paradossale che attraversa oggi i movimenti di protesta nel mondo: i manifestanti sfidano il sistema politico, eppure si definiscono ‘apolitici’. Il paradosso è lampante quando si ascoltano le domande degli attivisti contro le autorità nazionali o l’ordine globale. Ma scrutando più da vicino questa strana popolarità dell’apolitico, l’impressione è che i movimenti stiano piuttosto cercando un linguaggio smarrito per poter articolare politicamente la propria contestazione, contro una élite politica che ha sfigurato l’essenza della politica, ovvero la dialettica ideologica.

Dalla crisi economica del 2008 sono cresciuti nel mondo i movimenti “apolitici” o “apartitici”. Accanto al movimento no-global, la cui linea ideologica è chiara ma più datata, i movimenti nazionali e transnazionali sono andati via via edulcorandosi politicamente. I loro riferimenti ideologici sono diventati più sfuggenti, fino a un’esplicita rivendicazione di apoliticità. Extinction rebellion si definisce un “movimento apolitico che usa azione diretta e non violenta per persuadere i governi ad agire con giustizia sull’emergenza climatica ed ecologica”;i gilets jaunesfrancesi o le sardine italiane (in espansione verso l’Europa) sono per la maggior parte contro tutti i partiti politici e anche contro la proposta di un loro partito all’interno dell’élite attuale. Una simile tendenza attraversa i movimenti del 2019 in Libano, Iraq e Cile. Diversamente dalle rivolte del 2011, in cui alcuni segmenti delle piazze erano apertamente con gli islamisti, le proteste del 2019 sono molto più coese sulla linea apartitica e nell’ostinazione a non voler accettare neppure riforme parziali dei governi in carica che possano distogliere dall’obiettivo ultimo: sostituire l’intero sistema politico o ottenere un cambiamento sistemico. Persino quando i manifestanti si appropriano di emblemi dall’eredità inequivocabilmente politica, come Bella ciao, il canto della Resistenza partigiana italiana, diventato simbolo delle proteste arabecosì come delle sardine, lo fanno nel segno della decontestualizzazione. Bella ciao è potente ma sospeso, tranciato dalla radice della guerra al nazifascismo ed elevato ad anatema di qualsiasi generica lotta anti-sistema.

Questa rivendicazione di apoliticità è tuttavia fuorviante. A partire dallo scarto tra discorso e realtà: coloro che si appropriano dello spazio pubblico per protestare contro un sistema politico o un patto sociale scaduto stanno già dando forma a un momento puramente politico. L’effetto politico delle piazze si evince peraltro dalla contro-mobilitazione delle classi politiche che, per screditare e delegittimare i movimenti, sventolano lo spettro del populismo, del pericoloso vuoto di potere e della guerra civile, senza risparmiare la violenza. In Francia il presidente Macron ha dato feu vert alla polizia per sedare le manifestazioni di inizio dicembre 2019. In Iraq e Cile le forze di sicurezza hanno rapito e sparato contro attivisti e giornalisti. In Libano, le forze di sicurezza stanno diventando sempre più violente verso i manifestanti che da ottobre 2019 continuano a mantenere il presidio della piazza.

Lo scarto tra rivendicazione di apoliticità e azione politica dei movimenti sembra essere tutto nella confusione tra contingenza politica e sfera del politico. In altri termini, i manifestanti non si fidano dei politici attuali, responsabili ai loro occhi della diseguaglianza sociale e dell’asimmetria esistente nell’accesso alle opportunità, in un contesto globale in cui queste appaiono sempre di più un privilegio di pochi, precluse a priori ai molti, allacciando questione sociale, economica, climatica ed ecologica. Da questo punto di vista le proteste contemporanee si inscrivono in quella che Camila Vergara chiama la “lunga tradizione della politica plebea” – ossia la rivendicazione delle classi basse di maggiore equità sociale –, oggi troppo spesso schiacciata nel calderone della categoria di “populismo”. I movimenti sembrano voler affermare la propria autonomia rispetto alla politica attuale, cioè alla costellazione di attori e partiti che adesso popolano l’arena politica e tra cui i cittadini possono, in questa fase, scegliere. È un fenomeno che si inscrive nella più complessa crisi della rappresentanza del XXI secolo ma non implica una delegittimazione della politica tout court. Invocando un cambiamento sistemico, anzi, i movimenti sembrano richiedere un rinnovamento radicale della politica. In sostanza, l’apolitico non segnala l’indifferenza alla politica, ma piuttosto la sua assoluta rilevanza.

Questo perché, oltre alla confusione tra contingenza e sfera politica, l’apoliticità degli attivisti è spia di uno smarrimento semantico più profondo che ha a che fare con il modo in cui le pratiche della politica nell’ordine neoliberale ne hanno gradualmente trasformato il significato. Infatti l’universalizzazione dell’ordine neoliberale dopo il Washington Consensus ha trasformato la politica da luogo essenziale di una pluralità di discorsi e visioni della società a luogo artificialmente neutro e de-ideologizzato. Aristotele scriveva che il logos – nel duplice significato di “discorso” e “ragione” – è l’essenza della vita politica, in quanto permette agli uomini che ne sono dotati di dialogare su cosa sia giusto e cosa sia ingiusto. La politica è per Aristotele dialettica perenne, ossia un continuo confronto tra logoi differenti e, nello stesso tempo, quello spazio in cui gli uomini negoziano visioni differenti della città e della società.

L’ordine neoliberale ha tuttavia progressivamente atrofizzato il conflitto politico, riducendolo a tecnica funzionale alla sua realizzazione. L’obiettivo principale è stato sempre quello di strozzare e occultare il conflitto ideologico entro le trame di un lessico fuorviante. La neutralizzazione si è realizzata prima di tutto nel campo del discorso o, più precisamente, nello scorporare la politica dal linguaggio politico, tendendo – come scriveva Pasolini, profetico già nel 1973, in Scritti Corsari – a “identificare borghesia e umanità” per sopprimere la lotta tra classi sociali. Privando così i gruppi più fragili del sistema del lessico necessario per poter rivendicare e negoziare il proprio spazio nella sfera pubblica. Nel proposito di trascendere destra e sinistra, l’obiettivo delle classi dirigenti liberiste è sempre stato quello di camuffare misure ideologicamente liberiste sotto il cappello di “governi tecnici” o “soluzioni tecniche”, facendo passare come neutrali e necessarie misure partigiane e violente.

I greci antichi usavano la parola technē per indicare la “perizia” – ossia qualcosa che esula dal controllo democratico del popolo, ma anche qualcosa che può finire per giustificare forme non democratiche ed élitiste di governo. Soprattutto se questioni essenzialmente politiche, come le politiche economiche e fiscali, vengono de-politicizzate e rese prerogative degli esperti. Questo perché, per quanto la politica possa essere ritenuta un’arte o una tecnica (politikē technē), come fa Protagora nell’omonimo dialogo di Platone, la politica resta un’arte peculiare ed essenzialmente dialettica. Nel dialogare con Socrate, Protagora esalta la peculiarità dell’arte politica, in quanto questa presuppone la “virtù politica” che per Protagora tutti gli uomini possiedono (a differenza delle altre technai) e che è ciò che conferisce a tutti il diritto di parlare nell’assemblea della città, contribuendo con il proprio giudizio al bene collettivo. L’arte politica in sostanza presuppone che l’essere un buon governante sia la stessa cosa dell’essere un buon cittadino e in quanto tale è il fondamento della democrazia, mentre si dissipa nelle forme di governo autoritarie.

Il neoliberismo ha fatto un salto ulteriore. Nel tentativo di elevarsi da ideologia a meta-ideologia (da logos a meta-logos), ha sfigurato la politica da contenitore di logoi a veicolo di un solo logos. È questo il motivo per cui, come molti osservano, il neoliberismo ha portato a una convergenza tra sistemi politici democratici e autoritari. Questo fenomeno viene spesso affrontato come crisi della democrazia, quando in realtà è una crisi della politica. Sopprimendo la dialettica, l’ordine economico neoliberale ha sfigurato prima di tutto i contorni delle famiglie politiche, con un’evidente contrazione della sinistra, trascinata verso il centro, diversa nello stile ma non nella sostanza dall’agenda politica delle destre, oppure ostracizzata laddove si propone come antitesi al capitalismo neoliberista.

Quando attori già presenti nell’élite avanzano proposte che escono dai parametri dell’ortodossia liberista per correggere la diseguaglianza interna agli Stati e tra gli Stati – è il caso del Labour britannico o dell’ala progressista del Partito democratico americano – la guerra diventa esistenziale. La campagna di delegittimazione che le classi dirigenti liberiste – dall’estrema destra al centrosinistra (Tories e Lib dem nel Regno Unito, Repubblicani e Democratici centristi negli Stati Uniti) – hanno portato o stanno portando avanti contro Jeremy Corbyn e Bernie Sanders non è ascrivibile alla competizione politica contro un “avversario”, ma piuttosto a una demonizzazione grottesca, personalistica e spesso calunniosa, per eliminare il “ribelle ideologico” dalla sfera dell’ideologicamente consentito, nella difesa a tutti i costi di una politica senza conflitto, ovvero una politica priva di se stessa.

La compressione della politica si appoggia sulla compressione della società, ovvero una pluralità che va a comporsi, senza mai annullarsi, nell’unità. Fu Margareth Thatcher a dire per prima: “Non esiste la società, c’è solo la nazione”. Non è difficile vedere oggi nelle destre ultraliberiste una tradizione che, presentata come novità, è in realtà il trascinamento di una continuità che pone sempre più aggressivamente al centro del loro discorso la nazione o il popolo. Diversamente dalla società, qui la moltitudine si scioglie nell’unità e dunque il conflitto non è previsto né ammissibile.

Ma ciò che sembra emergere dai movimenti di protesta nel mondo è proprio la ricerca di un’antitesi alla tesi onnipotente che domina oggi la politica nazionale e globale. Seppur orfani di un lessico e di referenti ideologici, perché soppressi o bollati come tabù, i manifestanti sembrano voler chiedere qualcosa che in realtà riescono a invocare solo implicitamente: ovvero il ritorno della politica come dialettica ideologica. Lo fanno mettendo in questione la nozione di “popolo” e riscoprendosi “società” – ovvero un organismo entro cui interessi diversi di classe, genere e identità sono necessariamente in dialettica perenne – reclamando una nuova sfera pubblica e una nuova rappresentanza che non può che essere ideologicamente e irriducibilmente plurale.

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