This thesis explores the interplay between practices of activism and planning through a focus on place. By developing an understanding of place as a multi-situated and multi-scalar concept, I show how a theoretical approach based on a revision of the concept of place can bridge and contribute to both the fields of anthropology of planning and of social movements. Providing a series of insights into the Milanese urban periferia (outskirts) this research argues that activism and planning are continuously engaged in redefining the field of political action. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, archival and historical research, my work shows the empirical interplay between planning and politics as a central arena for the shaping of broader historical and geographical tensions. A number of controversies and episodes of protest are examined to illustrate the experiences of activists and citizens involved across different periods of contemporary Milanese history. I approached these events as elements of place-making; processes where different subjectivities, practices and ideas come together as transformative, ever-changing instances.
The neighbourhood of Quarto Oggiaro in the extreme outskirts of the city has provided a setting for fieldwork research to address the idea of the anthropological places as the result of a mutual constitution between myself as the researcher and the people I encountered in the field who were engaged in defining their environment. This approach resulted central to producing collaborative processes and for unfolding a relational interpretation of places. By engaging with these experiences this thesis demonstrates the need for examining the categories and practices of political and planning imagination and the multiple practices of world-making to make a significant contribution to understanding the human and social contexts of modern urban realities.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.