“Cut and Sew”: Encounter Ethnography, Migration, and Tight Knit — Talk by Elizabeth Krause

12:00 pm on Thursday, April 4, 2019
1:30 pm on Thursday, April 4, 2019
232 Bay State Road, 5th floor African Studies conference room
This paper uses a modest methodological innovation, encounter ethnography, to place into dialogue three different migratory trajectories. It draws from my recent book, Tight Knit: Global Families and the Social Life of Families (University of Chicago Press, 2018). The setting is Prato, a factory-city in central Italy known for its postwar population boom, contemporary concentration of transnational migrants, and births to foreign women. Chinese entrepreneurs and workers occupy a formidable niche in the Made in Italy sector and manage more than 5,200 small family firms, mostly in the fast-fashion sector. The backdrop of ongoing economic crisis and possibility reveals how the hegemony of global supply chains has transformed not only local production systems but also social worlds (Tsing 2016, Becattini 2015). Protagonists’ perspectives illuminate senses of existential despair and possibilities of transcendence born out of economic crisis of a global scale. Stories span local, regional, and transnational histories. Protagonists voice a world unhinged: they use metaphors such as “one world ends, another one begins”; “cut and sew”; and “a world undone.”  As such, they reveal the heterogeneity of global capitalism and its desiring subjects. Their stories make tangible diverse ways in which crisis and transformation manifest. They reveal how individuals encounter global forces resulting from different trajectories vis-à-vis migration and demographic shifts.