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Ethnic enclave or transcultural edge? Reassessing the Prato district through digital mapping

  • Francesco Ricatti (a1), Matteo Dutto (a1) and Rita Wilson (a1)

Abstract

Relations between Italy and other countries – such as China – are often imagined within a binary frame that essentialises national and ethnic communities and fails to recognise the complex transcultural ramifications of an increasingly globalising world. This is particularly problematic when studying those social and cultural spaces that Ilaria Vanni (2016) has described as transcultural edges. These are marginal spaces of transition and encounters between different cultures and societies, which have the potential to create new, innovative and productive ecosystems. We argue that one such space is Prato, an industrial town near Florence, well known for its textile district, and host to one of the largest Chinese communities in Europe. Significant academic attention has been devoted to the Chinese community in Prato, including studies of its social and economic impact on the host local community and the textile industry. Most of these studies tend to isolate the Chinese community from the ethnic complexity of the area, within a binary frame that fails to acknowledge the large presence of other migrant groups and the reciprocal permeability and transculturation between the Chinese community, the Italian community, and other ethnic groups. As part of a larger project, a group of scholars is currently digitally remapping Prato, to include quantitative and qualitative geolocalised information collected through a multidisciplinary method that includes ethnography, media analysis, translation studies, transcultural studies, and digital participatory action research. Through a brief description of the aims and characteristics of this research project, the paper will discuss the importance of rethinking the relationship between Italy and China, and between Italians and Chinese, within a more complex and nuanced transcultural frame.

I rapporti dell'Italia con altre nazioni, compresi i rapporti fra Italia e Cina, sono spesso immaginati all'interno di una costruzione binaria che essenzializza la natura delle comunità nazionali e etniche e non rende conto delle complesse ramificazioni transculturali di un mondo sempre più globalizzato. Questo è particolarmente problematico quando si studiano quegli spazi sociali e culturali che Ilaria Vanni (2016) ha descritto come ‘transcultural edges’. Questi sono spazi di transizione e incontro fra culture e società diverse; spazi che hanno la potenzialità di creare ecosistemi nuovi, innovativi e produttivi. In questo articolo sosteniamo che uno di questi spazi è Prato, una città industriale vicino Firenze, che è conosciuta per il suo distretto tessile, e in cui vive una delle più grandi comunità cinesi d'Europa. Molti studi accademici si sono concentrati sulla comunità cinese di Prato, compresi molti studi sull'impatto sociale ed economico sulla comunità locale e il suo distretto tessile. La maggior parte di questi studi tende ad isolare la comunità cinese dalla complessità etnica di Prato, all'interno di una cornice binaria che non riconosce la presenza significativa di altri gruppi di migranti, e la reciproca influenza transculturale fra la comunità cinese, quella italiana e gli altri gruppi etnici. Come parte di un progetto più ampio, un gruppo di studiosi intende mappare digitalmente Prato, per includere informazioni quantitative e qualitative geolocalizzate, che vengono raccolte attraverso un metodo interdisciplinare comprendente l'etnografia, l'analisi dei media, gli studi sulla traduzione, gli studi transculturali, e la ricerca digitale partecipativa. Attraverso una breve descrizione degli obiettivi e delle caratteristiche del progetto, l'articolo sostiene l'importanza di ripensare le relazioni fra Italia e Cina, e fra gli italiani e i cinesi, all'interno di un quadro transculturale più complesso e articolato.

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References

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Ethnic enclave or transcultural edge? Reassessing the Prato district through digital mapping

  • Francesco Ricatti (a1), Matteo Dutto (a1) and Rita Wilson (a1)

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