CITY-OF-CARE requires a combination of comparative and multi-scalar research design to understand the interdependence between the macro-societal transformations of global processes of housing financialization in financialized capitalism and the micro-behavioral tactics and strategies of resistance to it at the community level. In support of this methodological intervention the project takes a “personal network” approach to elicit the dynamics and the relevance of interconnected care providers in tight-knit vulnerable urban communities. This approach views networks from the standpoint of an individual - ego - managing his or her ties with alters. To do so, the principal investigator - Lidia K.C. Manzo - is conducting a comparative/mixed-methods research in the two European cities of Milan and Dublin.

CITY-OF-CARE scales of relevance

(source: Lidia K.C. Manzo)

Example of personal network 

(source: permission granted by Grafo lab)

A personal network approach
to ethnography and community research

Personal network analysis and visualization combined with biographical interviews and participatory technique have the potential for researching creatively integrating qualitative inquiry and network analysis, based on the assumption that it is due to the extended contact time between researchers and the community of participants that we characterize ties. This method directly measures the individual’s capability to obtain access to diverse resources embedded in their community networks and whether they know somebody who possesses that resource, which together represents the various dimensions of social capital.

Personal networks are practiced every day. Personal networks are complex, dynamic entities that change over time: they get reconfigured, they dissolve, become diluted or remain dormant; they are partly coordinated with other ties and are partly in isolation. Personal networks offer an in-depth view into the social world of research participants, including contacts from any possible social circle and setting. Personal networks are a tool to analyze relationships that cross-cut social and spatio-temporal configurations. Such personal communities are important to the routine operations of households, crucial to the management of crisis to help cope with a variety of stresses and strains and this is particularly so for vulnerable social housing communities (see the special issue edited by Lidia K.C. Manzo in 2021 here).

Most participants of #cityofcare research are going to be women, as gender is a major predictor of family care, given the prevalence of the gender division of labor and the major role it plays in low-income communities. Women in such communities tend to have more kin, and they are also active networkers with their neighbors and extended kin. Consequently their networks revolve around densely localized contexts and are governed by diffuse reciprocity norms, trust and commitment.

About the collaborative photo-ethnography between Lidia Katia C. Manzo and Pierluigi Cattani Faggion

Ethnography is an artisanal practice that involves interpretive and political choices. On the one hand, the researcher merges into the environment, relaxing into conversations, friendships, and interactions and participating in everyday activities. On the other hand, the observer is mentally racing to register the significance of what is occurring and to conceptualize strategies to deepen that understanding (Bourgois and Schonberg 2009).

“Truth” is, of course, socially constructed and experientially subjective; nevertheless, we did our best to seek it out.

Photography’s strength comes from the visceral, emotional responses it evokes. Interpretation, judgment, and imagination move to the eyes of the beholder. The personality, cultural values, and ideologies of the viewer, as well as the context in which the images are presented, all shape the meaning of pictures (Berger 1972).

Participant-observation, however, has an inherently anti-institutional transgressive potential because, by definition, it forces academics out of their ivory tower and compels them to violate the boundaries of class and cultural segregation. Although it is framed by the unequal relationship of “investigator” and “informant,” ethnography renders its practitioners vulnerable to the blood, sweat, tears, and violence of the people being studied and requires ethical reflection and solidary engagement.

It is important to remain critically reflexive though. For this reason, we insist that without our text much of the meaning of the photographs we present in this website could be lost or distorted. Most important, however, there is urgency to documenting the lives of our research participants. They survive in perpetual crisis. Their everyday physical and psychic pain should not be allowed to remain invisible.