Nicola De Martini Ugolotti
Climbing walls, making bridges in Turin, Italy: migrant youth agency in informal educational settings.

Author: Nicola De Martini Ugolotti, University of Amsterdam.

Title: Climbing walls, making bridges in Turin, Italy: migrant youth agency in informal educational settings”

Youth, born to migrants in Italy are challenged to negotiate the position of invisibility and subordination often given to migrants in Europe. Public policies and mass media discourse position them largely as a problem, a population to be controlled and contained (Lipsitz 2005: x). Periodic waves of moral panic (Dal Lago 1999; Palmas 2009) depict them alternatively and exclusively as: “a risk” or “at risk” in/for the “host” society. In Italy, over the last few years, government cuts to public education funding have seriously influenced the quality of public school services from primary school to university. Youth born to migrants often see their access to the tools and opportunities of integration and upward social mobility, normally offered by traditional educational settings, as severely constrained.
My ethnographic study of youth born to migrants in Turin, Italy, practicing capoeira and parkour in public spaces, aimed to provide insights on how migrant youth between 12 and 20, are able to transform, through bodily practices and creative use of public spaces, in-between urban spaces in places for informal peer education. The research bears witness to the youth’s agency as they create a space outside of schools to shape their “self and identity” within different cultures and reach personal targets of social mobility and well-being. By this action, the youth transform public spaces (i.e. street corners, public parks, parking lots) into informal educational settings. The study was guided by the theoretical concepts of “technologies of the self”, “social navigation” and human geography contributions on space. By observing the physical activities, expression, and forms of teaching capoeira and parkour to young migrant youth by more experienced young practitioners, I highlight the visual and participatory tools required to investigate youth agency in an alternative educational setting. Finally, I call for scholarship that examines both informal and traditional educational settings as connected spaces where children of migrants constantly re-create new forms of identity and self-expression, in the continuous effort to challenge their invisibility and subordination in Italian society and to shape their present and future lives.

The DARE Collaborative is a research partnership focused on the digital arts in education, led by the UCL Institute of Education and the British Film Institute. It has a membership of university researchers, teachers and educators in cultural organisations with an interest in arts, media, culture and new literacies in the context of education and digital media.
Centro en Investigación Avanzada en Educación