In the mean time, time has flown by. We’re already at the end of day 3 of our research! To update you on the days past and the excitement of today, do read on.
Yesterday, Tuesday the 21st, was a busy day with a lot going on. We started, right after breakfast, with a debriefing and a good discussion about where our project is actually headed. During the past days we had been subject to so many different impressions that we needed to get our heads straight and on the same page as to what the direction is that we’re going in. This actually resulted in a change of the research question, but even though this takes some time and (extra) effort, I think this kind of self-reflection and critical stance on one’s own research pays off. In the end, we all (including the research) get better from it. To enlighten you on what this new research question is, I will state it here: How is the social arena shaped in Rome’s public spaces? Sub-questions that we thought relate to finding out what the social arena is like in Rome are, for instance, what are the interactions within the social arena? Such kinds of interactions could be between locals themselves, as well as between non-locals – such as immigrants and tourists – and locals. Another sub-question is whether these types of interactions change during the day and how the above compares to the historical use of the public spaces we picked: Piazza Navona and the neighbourhood Trastevere.
So after we cleared this up in the morning, enjoying the warm Italian sun, we took the generous opportunity given to us by Jeremia, a researcher at the KNIR, to enjoy a tour around the Capitol. He told us about the rich history of these impressive buildings, set upon one of the hills Rome is built on. Because Romulus himself was a foreigner conquering the area of Rome, the city is built upon values of openness, accepting all foreigners into citizenship. The only thing they had to do in return, was provide armed forces for conquering of more land. Now, this all sounds very nice, but it collided with the literature we had read back in Groningen, which actually stated that Italy and Rome, are not that tolerant towards foreigners as this historical account suggests. Jeremia then told us that this can be seen as separated: with respect to their public spaces, Italians tend to tolerate anyone, because they see these spaces such as streets as ‘no man’s land’, they do not feel connected to it. However, they will not easily allow someone into their social networks, which is generally what constitutes Italian society.
After this educational tour, we went to Trastevere to observe how this might have changed as compared to our observations on Monday. It turned out that, according to our observations, the tourists had largely left the piazzas and the locals were ‘taking over’, mostly the youth between 16 and 25, drinking beers and talking together. The same turned out to be the case at Piazza Navona, thought this was now largely empty except for some Bangladeshi street vendors (we talked to them) and locals that crossed the square.
Today was a little less hectic, though still quite exciting. Wednesday was the day of our presentation, which we had to give in front of the other resident researchers at the KNIR. Seeing that they are professional researchers, we were quite nervous to present our bachelor research to them. We took the whole day to prepare our presentation, which included an introduction as to what UCG is about, our processes within the project so far, and the content that we will discuss in our resulting paper. At 17.00 it was time to present, which went well, despite our hesitations. Afterwards it was very good to discuss some vital questions with the researchers, which we had been asking ourselves as well: how to define locals/non-locals, what is really the ‘problem’ and/or ‘solution’ we’re working towards and are our research methods inclusive enough. For all of these questions, I think we haven’t formulated an answer yet, hence it is a good thing that we still have some days of fieldwork left here, and even months of research in Groningen!