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(2016) Critical event studies, Dordrecht, Springer.

An ethnographic approach to the taking place of the event

Andrea Pavoni , Sebastiano Citroni

pp. 231-251

This chapter delineates an ethnographic methodology to explore urban events accounting for the contested contingency of their taking place. This approach marks a difference vis-à-vis more conventional ways to explore urban events, which frame them through static, outcome-oriented, managerial, and de-materialising perspectives that tend to miss and pacify its constitutive conflictuality. Following instead the path opened by a series of recent attempts to address urban events in their material, sensorial, dynamic, and contingent unfolding, this chapter presents a methodology focused on the conflictual taking place of the event: the coming together of practices, bodies, and spaces through which the event emerges, the often uncontrollable narratives, affects, and materialities it produces, as well as the dispositifs put in place to control them, to channel the event's contingency into precise, meaningful, and safe outcomes. It is exactly these frictions—generated at the encounter between the lines of flight of the event and the attempts to control them, which the ethnography permits to unpack and describe. Significantly, this research methodology is applicable to different types of events at different scales, and this is illustrated by a comparative analysis of two case studies of urban events. The first is a neighbourhood festival set in Milan, aimed to foster social inclusion among different ethnic groups. The second is a mega event, the 2010 South Africa FIFA World Cup, as it takes place in the city of Johannesburg. Notwithstanding the sheer difference of scale, organisation, significance, and purpose between them, both events take place in the urban space and thus produce an impact on the pre-existent rhythm and atmosphere of the city, whose outcomes are always to some extent unpredictable and contested, and thus require an appropriate methodology to be accounted for. This comparative analysis shows how this ethnographic approach is fitting to this task, as well as its value in highlighting the emancipatory potential of the event, at its different scales and typologies.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1057/978-1-137-52386-0_12

Full citation:

Pavoni, A. , Citroni, S. (2016)., An ethnographic approach to the taking place of the event, in L. Platt (ed.), Critical event studies, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 231-251.

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