Gaining/regaining housing stability through collective action:

Individual uses and social functions of a migrants’ collective residence

Laura Ferrero

Published in Issue 2.2 // Retrospectives

Keywords: housing occupation, migrants’ occupation, housing alternatives, migrants’ temporalities, collective residence, transnational mobility, precarious work


This article is based on research carried out at La Salette, a former squat in the city of Turin, Italy. The building has undergone a progressive process of legalization and has become a ‘collective transitory residence’ (residenza transitoria collettiva) for migrants. It is now run by a team formed by members of a cooperative organization, architects and volunteers. The internal regulations do not limit the number of months of permanence, in contrast to the rigidity of a refugees reception system that is rarely tailored to the subjectivity and personal trajectories. In this paper I look at how migrants make use of this safe and legal shelter. I rely on observation as well as interviews with inhabitants, social workers and volunteers. Migrants arrive at this accommodation after having experienced institutional reception centers, informal settlements, ghettos and other temporary housing solutions. For many of them, La Salette is their first ‘home’ in Italy. The fact that there is no institution that determines when they must leave the building allowed me to observe the uses migrants make of this house. Although many migrants are facing a housing crisis due to the effective lack of housing alternatives, through ethnographic methods I deconstruct the mainstream idea of ‘home’ as the goal of each and every migrant, and propose to re-build notions of housing alternatives starting from the observation of how actual uses of this collective residence.

Laura Ferrero obtained her PhD in anthropology and has been a postdoctoral fellow at Turin University, where she teaches Anthropology of the Middle East. She is also research fellow at LDF (Fundamental Rights Laboratory), Turin. Outside academia, she works as a teacher of Italian language to migrants. She has conducted research in Italy, Egypt and Palestine and her main research interests are: migration studies; migrants’ access to health and housing; gender and family in Arab-Muslim societies.

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