Clash of Civilizations: Exploring Global Migration in Rome

This week, ACCENT Rome Programs Coordinator Alice Mangia discusses a new program with the University of Kansas focusing on global migration. The program explores the effects of migration on Italian politics, the experiences of immigrant communities, and the cultural enrichment that occurs when neighborhoods welcome those with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This semester at ACCENT Rome, we hosted a short program from the University of Kansas. The program, guided by Professor Margot Versteeg, focused on the complex phenomenon of migration and its social and political implications.

Through a series of workshops, lectures, and site visits, the students had the chance to explore the effects of migration on Italy’s domestic policies, such as racism and anti-immigration practices, as well as effective measures to foster multiculturalism and integration.

Before the program started, students were asked to read a short novel by Amara Lakhous: “Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio”. The book is a satirical account of the events leading up to a murder in an apartment building where immigrants and Italians argue continuously about the elevator.

The strength of the novel resides in the plausibility of its characters, each with their own rituals, prejudices, and linguistic misunderstandings.

Once in Rome, the students had two weeks to prepare a final project depicting the city of Rome beyond the “postcard stereotype.” There was no better place to start their project than the Piazza Vittorio of Amara Lakhous’ book.

Piazza Vittorio in the Esquilino neighborhood is the perfect example of multicultural Rome. Just a few steps away from the main railway station, the area has been thriving since the 1920’s. People from all over the world have flocked to the Esquilino, transforming the place into not only a culturally rich neighborhood, but also a lively hub of political activism.  The pulsing heart of the neighborhood is certainly its market, where you can find any kind of ingredient you can think of.

The exploration of Esquilino was led by Migrantour, an organization that, in collaboration with the European Union, has created an “alternative” way of seeing the city – one that highlights its multiculturalism and gives a voice to the the migrants who lead the tours.

Students took part in a tour led by Amed, a second-generation Roman of Tunisian heritage, who led them to various shops, associations, and places of worship for an intercultural experience that tourists rarely get to see.

This experience was crucial for the students’ projects. They explored beyond the surface of a city that is much more complex than it appears — where many different rhythms come together to form a magnificent symphony.

~Alice Mangia, ACCENT Rome

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