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Migrants' Associations and Their Attempts to Gain Recognition: The Case of Milan


  • Ilenya Camozzi

    1. University of Milan-Bicocca
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    • Ilenya Camozzi is Assistant Professor of Sociology of Culture and Sociology of Intercultural Relations at the Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Milan-Bicocca. She is also assoziierte Mitarbeiterin at the Institute for Social Research, Frankfurt am Main. Her research interests are in everyday multiculturalism, migrants' associations and political participation, the theory of recognition, and youth cultures. She is the author of Lo spazio del riconoscimento. Forme di associazionismo migratorio a Milano (Il Mulino, 2008).


In the late 1970s, Italy switched from being a source of émigrés to becoming a recipient of immigrants. The city of Milan and its surrounding region led the way. A multitude of migrant associations sprang up as migrants pursued their quest for recognition as subjects and citizens. This study draws on the author's interviews with members of Milan's migrant associations to examine the inner dynamics both between migrants within associations, and between migrant members and those volunteers, both Italian and of other nationalities, who work with the associations. This study shows that the forms of solidarity and engagement offered by Italian activists represent a platform where the process of identity construction occurs and (mis)recognition practices are played out. As the article will point out, migrants are sometimes quite critical of the activities of Italian activists. In short, the study suggests that the consideration of two dimensions – identity and recognition – as they arise within everyday social practices, could make a useful contribution to the further study of the social phenomena of migrants' associations and political participation.