1st Edition

Inhabiting Liminal Spaces
Informalities in Governance, Housing, and Economic Activity in Contemporary Italy

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after February 10, 2022
ISBN 9780367373634
February 10, 2022 Forthcoming by Routledge
256 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations

USD $160.00

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Book Description

This book draws together debates from two burgeoning fields, liminality and informality studies, to analyze how dynamics of rule-bending take shape in Rome today. Adopting a multiscalar and transdisciplinary approach, it unpacks how gaps and contradictions in institutional rulemaking and application force many residents into protracted liminal states marked by intense vulnerability. By merging a political economy lens with ethnographic research in informal housing, illegal moneylending, unauthorized street-vending and waste collection, the author shows that informalities are not marginal or anomalous conditions, but an integral element of the city’s governance logics. Multiple actors together construct the local cultural norms, conventions and moral economies through which rule-negotiation occurs. However, these practices are ultimately unable to reconfigure historically rooted power dynamics and hierarchies. In fact, they often aggravate weak urbanites’ difficulties in accessing rights and services. A study that challenges assumptions that informalities are predominantly features of developing economies or limited to specific groups and sectors, this volume’s critical approach and innovative methodology will appeal to scholars of sociology and anthropology interested in social theory, urban studies and liminality.

Table of Contents

Introduction. Rome: The Informal City

Chapter 1. Tracing Informalities Across Scales and Fields

Chapter 2. Residing in Liminality: Housing Informalities and the Public Sector

Chapter 3. Liminality on the Street: The Shifting Rules of (In)formal Vending

Chapter 4. Informal Lending: The Challenges of Financial Liminality

Chapter 5. Garbage: Managing Liminal Matter through Multi-layered Informalities

Chapter 6. When in Rome: Mapping Romans’ Attitudes and Understandings of Informal Practices

Paola Castelli and Isabella Clough Marinaro


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Isabella Clough Marinaro is Associate Professor of Italian Studies at John Cabot University, Italy, where she teaches courses in sociology, urban studies, criminology, and social science research methods. She worked for many years on the political and social conditions of Roma communities in Italy and the policy processes affecting them. Her current research focuses on urban development and governance in Rome, particularly in their interconnections with changing forms of illegal and informal practices. She is the co-editor of Italian Mafias Today: Territory, Business and Politics and Global Rome: Changing Faces of the Eternal City.


"This book is a rare and successful blend of ethnographic thickness and conceptual depth. The fascinating case study of economy and governance in the city of Rome is elevated to a more general discussion of informality and liminality in the economic, political and cultural fields that will be of interest to scholars across a wide range of fields, including sociology, urban studies, economic and political anthropology and Italian studies."

Bjørn Thomassen, Roskilde University, Denmark