Giving a voice to immigrants

Special report: Racialization and public policy
Tensions and paradoxes in participatory theater (Turin, Italy)
By Francesca Quercia


Over the last thirty years, with the redefinition of cultural and urban policies, artists have been assigned social missions: strengthening social ties, contributing to breaking down barriers in working-class neighborhoods and the integration of immigrants. This process concerns many European countries, including Italy. As part of urban renewal programs, many theater associations have become involved in working-class neighborhoods. They have proposed artistic projects with immigrants, with a dual purpose of “integration” and “empowerment” of the projects’ participants. Based on an ethnographic survey carried out within a theater association in Turin, this article examines how its director succeeded in forging a recognized professional role, by appointing herself as an intermediary between immigrants and Italian society. Although her goal was to emancipate these immigrant populations, she faced many contradictions during the implementation of her projects. Despite her antiracist beliefs, she ended up contributing to the minoritization of immigrants. Based on a triple dynamic—of “racialization,” “ethnicization,” and “culturalization”—this process consigns minorities to a radical otherness, over which they have little power.


  • racialization
  • ethnicization
  • culturalization
  • cultural and urban policies
  • artistic associations
  • working-class neighborhoods
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