Tight Knit: Two Familisms in One Country
My current research seeks to illuminate how families negotiate the terms of transnational capitalism and the novel models of social organization and practices that underwrite its dynamics in one region of southern Europe. Here, a demographic “crisis” of very low fertility collides with an economic “crisis” of globalization. The “family” as a social unit has become politically charged. An industrial district in Central Italy serves as an ethnographic laboratory to explore how two populations contend with the structural inequalities, power dynamics and governing strategies of globalization. My new project focuses on relations between and within local Italian and transnational Chinese families in Prato, Italy, where small- to medium-sized firms predominate. Each of these populations has specific histories of flexibility and networking strategies moored in familistic regimes. The project seeks to understand how different varieties of familism persist or morph. It pursues three interrelated lines of inquiry: 1) How do meanings and practices related to familism manifest and matter within and between Chinese and Italian textile entrepreneurs and workers? 2) How do Italian and Chinese families recollect and deploy diverse histories of flexibility and deep values of trust, reciprocity and obligation to negotiate globalization? and 3) How do these familistic regimes respond to local-global formations and conditions, such as new forms of surveillance, intervention, and discipline directed at the body?