Performing the nation between us: urban photographic sets with young migrants
Keywords:Nation, Italy, Scale, Transnational urbanism, Urban performance
First developed during the 1990s, the transnational paradigm in the study of migration has been associated with the notions of displacement, deterritorialisation and frictionless-ness. In more recent times, there has been a growing tendency to spatially ground transnational studies by locating and emplacing transnational practices. The emergence of the so-called transnational urbanism has led to a prolific urban stream within transnational research. With respect to the growing diversity of Western societies, this literature has tended to emphasise the potentialities of the city as the location of lived diversity, sharing, dynamism, vibrancy and encounter, in contrast to the deficiencies of the nation, identified with formal politics, discourse and ideology, singular belonging, fixity and constraint. Against this narrative of the city/nation divide, this article draws attention to the alternative conceptualisations of the nation that have emerged in recent debates and have embraced local, material and agency-based, rather than discursively-oriented approaches to the nation. As well as the city/nation divide, a progressive idea of the nation as shared experiences is analysed within an urban performance project which involved young migrants in the city of Padua (Italy) during winter 2013. These performances are read from the particular perspective of the scale debate, suggesting that, through the performance of urban heritage sites, those migrants physically and emotionally locate themselves within the hosting nation. Finally, I discuss this scalar shift and I propose extrapolating the concept of the “urban unconscious” to the national level, thus suggesting a way to think about the nation as a frame of co-existence and not as an identity bond.