Europe Lab

The European Field Studies Program at UMASS is approaching its 50th anniversary. As current director and in anticipation of that celebration, I have been organizing events to reflect on the history the European Program, to vision its future, and to build community around shared interests. This week we hosted “Getting Zen with Zotero” and had a great session building faculty and graduate student bibliographic skills. The final event of the fall will be “Fresh from the Archives” Friday, Nov. 17, Machmer E-24. Think of this as Region Studies 2.0–connections, disparities, possibilities.


Piazza dell’Immaginario, Prato, Italy. © fotografia Andrea Abati, courtesy Dryphoto arte contemporanea

Sabbatical re-entry

I’m just back from a year as a fellow at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C. What a fantastic place to spend a sabbatical! I was so lucky to have a chance to share work space with 35 fellows and associates across the humanities and have such an amazingly nurturing staff. They were so supportive in helping me to reconnect with my intellectual and writerly self. I was able to get three articles out, all on different projects with different co-authors, as well as make substantial headway toward completing my book manuscript, “Tight Knit: A Biography of Globalization.” It tells the story of how families, individuals, and institutions cope with globalization. I encountered lots of surprises. The project allows me to tell a story about how local practices and individual lives create the living biography of globalization.

Faculty Resarch Scholar, Center for Research on Families

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?

Cultural Anthropology has launched its new website on social class and citizenship. It’s a great site! I’m honored to have it feature my work on Italian reproductive politics.