Summer School

International Summer School in Ethnography

9th edition - Mobilities and Borders
On the border between South and North Cyprus, April 2023 (by Paolo Boccagni)
5 September 2023
6 September 2023
7 September 2023
8 September 2023
Palazzo di Sociologia - Via Verdi 26, Trento
Meeting Room 2nd floor
Chiara Bassetti, Andrea Cossu, Ester Gallo
Target audience: 
University community
Registration fee – Registration required


Theoretically-informed ethnographic research offers a distinctive and unique approach. The Trento Summer School has all along its history provided a forum for informal, in-depth reflection into social research methods as well as the underlying questions of social theory. 
The Summer School provides participants with an inside view on the practice and the skills of ethnographic research across the social sciences. The School offers a forum where adepts, students, and scholars can familiarize themselves with the status of the discipline, absorbing the tools and ‘tricks of the trade’ directly from long-time practitioners. The teaching format is grounded in frontal lectures, where cutting-edge research is presented, complemented by interactive workshops, data sessions, and roundtables. Participants have a chance to present their current research projects, so as to receive commentaries and recommendations from the guest professors. Reading materials are circulated well in advance among participants, ensuring that they arrive at the in-person meeting with a shared focus. This 9th edition’s running theme is “Mobilities and Borders”. Addressed from several disciplinary standpoints, the theme embraces issues concerning migration; global and local flows of people, products, information, labor and money; everyday mobility, mobile lives and social relationships. Moreover, particular attention will be devoted to ethnographic restitution: from writing to the visual and other “creative” methods.


Doctoral students and postdocs are the ideal target, but also motivated M.A. students who are conducting ethnographic research or plan to do so, are very welcome to apply.


Tuesday September 5


  • Lecture by Bin Xu, Emory University 

Mao’s Children: Generation and the Politics of Memory in China

In the 1960s and 1970s, around 17 million Chinese youths were mobilized or forced by the state to migrate to rural villages and China's frontiers. In his book Chairman Mao’s Children: Generation and the Politics of Memory in China (Cambridge 2021), Bin Xu tells the story of how this 'sent-down' generation has come to terms with their difficult past as part of a large-scale, forcible migration program. Exploring representations of memory, including personal life stories, literature, museum exhibits, and commemorative activities, he argues that these representations are defined by a struggle to reconcile worthiness with the political upheavals of the Mao years. These memories, however, are used by the state to construct an official narrative that weaves this generation's experiences into an upbeat story of the 'China dream'. This marginalizes those still suffering and obscures voices of self-reflection on their moral-political responsibility for their actions. Drawing on his decade-long, mixed-method study, which includes ethnography, interviews, and textual analysis, Xu provides a careful analysis of this generation of 'Chairman Mao's children', caught between the political and the personal, past and present, nostalgia and regret, and pride and trauma.


  • Workshop with Bin Xu

Studying Memory, Mobility, and Forcible Migration

In this workshop, Xu will draw on his book Chairman Mao’s Children: Generation and the Politics of Memory in China (Cambridge 2021) to discuss how to study the memory of a generation whose life courses have been permanently altered by forcible migration. The workshop will cover both theoretical and methodological topics related to the topic. Theoretically, Xu will discuss how personal biographies are intersected with a historical event, what the intersection meant to people who did not have agency in deciding on their personal fate, and how such an intersection is remembered in light of their class positions and mobility after the event. Methodologically, Xu will talk about studying memories in different forms (life stories, museums, reunion activities, literary works, etc.) and at different levels of society (individual, community, and public levels). Xu will also share his views about the researcher’s role in an ethnographic study that involves subjects from a different generation and various backgrounds. 

Coffee break

  • Participants’ project presentation and discussion with the School professors

Welcome drink

Wednesday September 6


  • Lecture by Ruba Salih, University of Bologna 

Refugees and Im/mobility, Thinking the human in the 'grey zone'.

In the Social Sciences the time and space of refugeehood is conventionally conceived as one of passive waithood, a suspension of an order that is soon to be re-stablished through resettlement or repatriation and access to citizenship rights and camps are often represented as spaces of exception in opposition to cities. The national-statist time- space horizon continues to be the bedrock against which experiences and subjectivities of those on the move are read and interpreted. A long time since Lisa Malkki wrote her pioneering book which challenged the metaphysics of sedentarism and the national order of things, we often find that most scholarship on forced migration still operates through a nation-statist methodological framework that assumes a rigid dichotomy between refugees and citizens, where rightlessness is opposed to permanent and fully fledged rights holders, whose lives unfold in the time-space of normality and to whom we attribute political agency. This may partly stem from the pervasive influence of European paradigms on the legal cultural and political understanding of contemporary global mobility, paradigms that reflect a distinct European history of state formation and the role that borders and migration played in that formation. In this lecture I would like to challenge these established tropes and think of borders, states and sovereignties from the perspectives of those lying permanently in temporal, juridical and spatial 'grey zones'.


  • Workshop with Ruba Salih 

Mobilites, Ethics, Affects. Notes from fields of protracted suffering

Coffee break

  • Participants’ project presentation and discussion with the School professors

Social dinner

Thursday September 7


  • Lecture by Tim Cresswell, University of Edinburgh

On Routes

People and things do not move at random across an isotropic plain. This is the first lesson of mobility – people and things follow, and create, routes. This talk will make a series of connections, digressions and short cuts in order to delineate the politics and poetics of routes. We will explore how routes create infrastructures of power as well as the use of self-made routes – desire lines - to trace out possible alternatives to the infrastructural present. Where you start, how you get there, what direction you take, and where you end up are all part of this equation. The analysis of routes and routing forms a key part of a wider politics of mobility separating citizens and vagabonds – key figures in the histories and geographies of mobility. 


  • Workshop with Tim Cresswell

Writing Place (and other things)

This workshop will explore the intersection of academic and creative writing and will examine the possibilities that different forms of creativity offer to academics concerned with place, mobility, borders, or any other theme. We will consider how academic writing has conventionally been framed and how recent scholarship in geography, anthropology, and beyond has begun to explode these conventions - including some of my own work as well as that of Anna Tsing, Lauren Berlant, Kathleen Stewart and others. We will also consider how the academic/creative writing interchange is a two way process by looking at how creative writers such as Maggie Nelson have embraced academic writing as a form. Come ready, with an open mind, to share your own ideas with the group.

Coffee break

  • Participants’ project presentation and discussion with the School professors

Friday September 8


  • Concluding keynote by Anna Casaglia, University of Trento 

Climate Security, Mobility Justice and Borders

The present climate scenario is considered as a “threat multiplier” and framed, at the political level, as a security issue, by looking at diverse menaces related to the changing conditions of life on earth. This happens specifically in relation to climate change’s presumed primary or secondary outcomes, such as geopolitical instability, conflicts, or so-called environmental migration. At the same time, the politicisation of concepts such as those of environment, climate change, and global migration is reinforcing “boundaries of collective identity, behaviour, political activity, security and, most importantly, power and resource distribution” (Chaturvedi & Doyle 2015: 134). The result is that environmental and climate security are the new frameworks in which mobility inequalities are articulated. This presentation discusses the increasing relevance of nation state borders as a defence from threats arising from climate change apocalyptic scenarios, especially with regard to mobility.
Coffee break

  • Roundtable with Professors Chiara Bassetti, Paolo Boccagni, Andrea Brighenti, Anna Casaglia, Andrea Cossu, Francesca Decimo, Ester Gallo

Guest Professors Biographies

Anna Casaglia

Anna Casaglia is a political geographer with a critical, decolonial and feminist approach. Currently Associate Professor in Political and Economic Geography at the University of Trento, she is interested in bordering processes and migration management, the spatial character of power relations, right-wing populism, and environmental injustice. She published the book Nicosia beyond partition. Complex geographies of the divided city (Unicopli 2020) and several articles in international geography journals. She is the Vice-President of the Association for Borderland Studies.

Tim Cresswell

Tim Cresswell is Ogilvie Professor of Geography at the University of Edinburgh. He is a cultural geographer by training, and the author or editor of a dozen books and over a 100 articles on the role of space, place and mobility in social and cultural life. He has PhDs in Geography (Wisconsin) and Creative Writing (Royal Holloway, University of London). Cresswell is also a widely published poet with three collections – most recently Plastiglomerate (Penned in the Margins, 2020). His most recent academic books are, Maxwell Street: Writing and Thinking Place (University of Chicago Press, 2019), Moving Towards Transition (co-authored, Zed Books, 2021) and Muybridge and Mobility (co-authored, University of California Press, 2022).

Ruba Salih

Ruba Salih is a Professor of Anthropology at the Department of the Arts, University of Bologna. After a Laurea in Political Science at the University of Bologna in 1994, she was awarded a PhD in Social Anthropology in 2000 at the University of Sussex where she was a Marie Curie doctoral student. From 2010-2012 she was Professor at the Department of Anthropology and Sociology of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Prior to joining SOAS she was a Senior Lecturer in Gender and Middle East Studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exter (2007-2010). Her research interests and writing cover transnational migration and diasporas across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Islam and gender, the Palestine question and refugees. She has been a visiting scholar at Brown University, at the University of Cambridge and at the University of Venice, Ca’ Foscari. She is the author of Gender in Transnationalism. Home, Longing and Belonging among Moroccan Migrant Women, and of Musulmane Rivelate. Donne Islam Modernità (winner of the Premio Pozzale 2011).  Currently she is working on a book on the aesthetics of waiting and the politics of return among Palestinian refugees (Cambridge University Press). She has edited several volumes, which include two edited special issues (with Sophie Richter-Devroe): ‘Palestine and Self-determination beyond National Frames: Emerging Politics, Cultures, and Claims’ in South Atlantic Quarterly (2018) and ‘Cultures of Resistance in Palestine and Beyond. On the Politics of Arts, Aesthetic and affect’ in Arab Studies Journal (2014). Her most recent articles comprise: ‘Displacing the Anthropocene: colonisation, extinction and the unruliness of nature in Palestine' in Environment and Planning E. Nature and Space, 2021 (with O. Corry) and (with Zambelli E., Welchman, L.) ‘”From Standing Rock to Palestine We are United”: diaspora politics, decolonisation and the intersectionality of struggles’ published in Ethnic and Racial Studies 2020. 

Bin Xu

Bin Xu is an associate professor of sociology at Emory University and a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin) in 2023-2024. His research interests are the intersection between politics and culture, including civil society, collective memory, symbolic politics, and disaster. He is the author of The Politics of Compassion: the Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China (Stanford 2017), which won the Mary Douglas Prize for Best Book in Sociology of Culture and Honorable Mention for Best Book on Asia, both from the American Sociological Association; Chairman Mao’s Children: Generation and the Politics of Memory in China (Cambridge 2021), which won Choice Reviews Outstanding Academic Titles in 2022 (one of the five books on China), and The Culture of Democracy: A Sociological Approach to Civil Society (Polity 2022). His articles have appeared in leading journals in sociology and China studies. 


Call for Papers: open till June 5, 2023 at 12.00 Noon (CET)

Selection: from June 6 till June 19, 2023

Notification of selection results: June 19, 2023
The selection results will be posted on this web page, in the Download section. All participants will also be promptly notified via email.

Registration and payment: from June 19 till July 15, 2023 at 12.00 Noon (CET)

How to Apply

In order to apply please follow the link-call (open till May 28, 2023 at 12.00 Noon (CET))
You need to register for the Call for Papers in order to participate in the Selection.
Here below the list of documents you need to upload in the Upload section of the Ethnography-2023 Call:

  • 2-pages CV
  • 1-page motivation letter
  • 2-to-4-page research proposal

Please upload the required documents in PDF format (not password protected), thank you. (max.1,2 Mb per document)


  • Once selected, you will need to register to the School. The link will be active starting June 14, 2023 (after the Notification process). 
  • The fee to enroll in the Summer School in Ethnography-2023 is 250€, and it includes the lectures and workshops, the educational materials, the welcome reception, social dinner and all the coffee-breaks.
  • Lodging and travel expenses are up to the Participant. We do have some discount rates agreed with the Trento Hotels (see the section below); please mention you are coming to a University event when you contact the selected accommodation.

For more information

For general information (related to the application procedure and the school organisation) contact:

  • ethnography.soc [at]

  • Paola Di Carlopaola.dicarlo [at]


For specific information (related to the proposed project and the contents of the summer school) contact:

  • Chiara Bassettichiara.bassetti [at]

  • Andrea Cossuandrea.cossu [at]

  • Ester [at]


How to reach us - Hotels

How to reach us


Form "Enti pubblici italiani" - after selection available in download