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Building comics, composing ethnographies: narrating migrants’ stories from the multi-ethnic neighborhood of Arcella (Padua, Italy)

The encounter between the interdisciplinary field of comic book geographies (Dittmer, 2010; 2014) and the recent ‘creative turn’ (Madge, 2014) suggests that we think about comics not only as finished stories, that enable geographers to encounter migrants’ narratives in an apparently more accessible form, but also as storytelling practices with which to engage as creative methods of research, that can help us let migrants’ stories emerge.

In this paper I will focus on a creative practice in which I am involved in as both a cultural geographer and a comics author myself: with an urban sociologist, Adriano Cancellieri, I am currently curating the anthology Quartieri. Un viaggio al centro delle periferie italiane [Neighborhoods. A travel through Italian peripheries] (Cancellieri and Peterle, 2019) and composing one of the 5 short comics stories collected in it. These short stories will be set in 5 peripheral neighborhoods of 5 Italian cities (Padua, Bologna, Milan, Palermo and Rome), each of which faces issues concerning integration/migration; spatial/social marginality; the perception/narration of identity and of a sense of community. In particular, our short story on the ‘multi-ethnic neighborhood’ of Arcella, in the city of Padua, is a result of ethnographic accounts we collected during fieldwork, interviewing recent migrants and long-term residents, shopkeepers and private citizens, representatives of associations and resident committees. Through its creative composition practice, the comic book emerged as a ‘place of mediation’ between different cultural and geographical perspectives (Hawkins, 2015). Constantly unfolding in the confrontation between authors, stories, and the protagonists of the stories collected during fieldwork, comics build potential ‘spaces of encounter’ for disparate subjectivities and voices to emerge, meet and dialogue.


RGS-IBG | Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers | Annual International Conference 2019, London, UK


27th-30th August 2019

Schermata 2019-09-15 alle 22.47.00