Embodying Gentrification: A Multisensory Ethnography of Rome’s “Banglatown”

Authors: Elisa Fiore*, Radboud University
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Qualitative Research, Urban Geography
Keywords: gentrification, multisensory ethnography, racialisation, class-based exclusion, Rome
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Gallier B, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Academic literature on gentrification is mostly concerned with its economic, ecological, political, and socio-demographic components. While this literature provides many answers regarding the causes of gentrification, its positive or negative effects, and its insertion into global neoliberal practices for urban regeneration, it does not address its everyday embodied and affective dimensions. The present paper intends to remedy this situation by seeking to understand gentrification as an embodied and affective practice responsible for the shaping and reproduction of unequal social and spatial relations. In order to do so, this paper proposes to read gentrification through the lens of the sensory, i.e. as a phenomenon that entails an aesthetic reorganisation and revaluation of the local sensorium in the regenerated areas. Based on the assumption that sensory practices are implicated in processes of identity structuration, the paper argues that sensory policing – e.g., noise and smell reduction regulations, redesigning of public spaces, “boutiquing” of the retail environment – can be indicative of both moral and sanitary policing, and can thus trigger dynamics of socioeconomic exclusion. Consisting of a multisensory ethnography of Rome’s “Banglatown,” a multicultural neighbourhood located in the Eastern quadrant of Rome (Italy), the paper explores how this sensory transformation connects to processes of racialisation and class-based exclusion in the area. By highlighting the connection between gentrification and everyday sensory practices – understood here as both embodied and affective – this paper draws attention to the practiced dimension of gentrification, and considers bodies and embodied practices as vital dimensions in the process.

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