It’s buzzing. Yes, that is partly because of the Dutch elections for the new government, which are taking place today, but five people at UCG are buzzing for a different reason: it’s time for Project Rome! After a last meeting on Tuesday to finalize the theory and our program for next week, we are ready to fly off to warm Italian spring weather this Friday.
It will be a very welcome reward for the hard work we have been putting into this project for the past six months. Not to say that it will just be a holiday, don’t get me wrong, we still have to do plenty of work – fieldwork specifically – but who can resist the relaxing pull of a beautiful city like Rome, warm weather and Italian food?
In the months leading up to this week, we busied ourselves with the necessities. Firstly, deciding on a topic: after the pitch on all the second-year projects at UCG, this was only partly set: ‘Public Spaces in Rome’. Seeing that most of our project team (Hilde, Laura, Sinja, Tom and me) is not familiar with the humanities but major in different disciplines (Cognition and Behaviour, Health and Life Sciences, Politics, Philosophy & Economics and Humanities respectively), this was a very vague concept to us. After some much needed clarification by Margriet, our supervisor, we were quick to get on our way, and we formulated a topic and research question within the month. The literature we read suggested that a topic concerning ethnicities, cultures or migration would suit well, regarding Italy’s relative intolerance towards the above. Therefore the research question we started with was: How do ethnicities come together in the public spaces in Rome? We would start with a literature review of the migration history of Rome and Italy, to conclude with a possible solution to the problems after a detailed study on at least to public spaces in the city.
Unfortunately though, after the Christmas Break we realized much of this research would entail talking to Italians and other users of Roman public spaces and we had – even after vigorous use of DuoLingo – to admit that our Italian is not nearly good enough to facilitate such interviews. Thus, we had to find something more suitable for our practical research abilities. This turned out to be the following question: How do the public spaces of Rome facilitate its social arena? One method that does not require any speaking in a foreign language but would still provide us with useful results in light of this question, is ethnographic sketching/observation, which entails that we would sit in one of the public spaces and observe, both in drawing and in writing, what we see, hear, feel happening around us. In this way we could carefully observe how people interact in public spaces and among which people interaction takes place, as well as whether tourism is a barrier for such interaction.
So, tomorrow we will have a small workshop on ethnographic sketching, to get our skills going, and next week we will be staying in beautiful Rome at the Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut Rome (KNIR), who will very kindly provide our accommodation and will support our research with their rich library and archives. We are extremely looking forward to this amazing experience!
I will keep you posted,