Marco Di Nunzio

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United Kingdom
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Department of African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham

United Kingdom
Research Profile

As a social anthropologist, I am concerned with understanding urban inequalities and forms of political domination as contingent historical outcomes. I argue that marginality is not an economic or social condition produced by invisible hands, operating through invisible structures. Rather, present forms of subjugation are historical and political products contingent on how rights, privileges, and inequalities are codified and enforced in society. As such, my anthropological and ethnographic work in cities both examines how marginality and inequalities persist and, at the same time, explore how people’s moral and existential quests for better lives can help question subjugation and imagine novel forms of progressive urban politics.

With these concerns in mind, I carried out fieldwork first in Addis Ababa, then in my hometown Naples and lastly in Washington DC, where a number of my informants from Addis Ababa now live. My research has explored youth, uncertainty and life trajectories; the street economy and crime; migration; elections and authoritarianism ; urban politics ; entrepreneurship and micro-finance ; the debate on neoliberalism and ‘development alternatives’ ; community policing and political surveillance ; labour and the construction business; professional ethics and architecture practice; urban value and the right to the city

Ethiopia, Italy, Nigeria
Amharic, English, French, Italian

2019 ‘The Act of Living. Street life, Marginality and Development in urban Ethiopia’. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles
2019. ‘Not my job: Architecture, Responsibility and Inequalities in an African metropolis’. Anthropological Quarterly. 92 (2)
2017. ‘Marginality as a Politics of Limited Entitlements. Street life and the Dilemma of Inclusion in Urban Ethiopia, American Ethnologist, 44 (1): 91 - 103
2015. ‘What is the alternative?: Youth, Entrepreneurship and the Developmental State in Urban Ethiopia’, Development & Change 6 (4) : 1179-1200
2014. ‘Do Not Cross the Red line: the 2010 General Election, Dissent and Political Mobilization in Urban Ethiopia’, African Affairs 113 (452): 409 - 430
2014. ‘Thugs, Spies and Vigilantes: Community policing and street politics in inner city Addis Ababa’, Africa 84 (3): 444 - 465
2012. ‘ “We are good at surviving”. Street hustling in Addis Ababa’s inner city’, Urban Forum 23(4): 433 - 447
2009. ‘ ”Voglio essere come l'obelisco”: identità giovanili ad Axum, Etiopia [“I want to be like the obelisk”: youth identities in Axum, Ethiopia], Afriche e Orienti 11 (3-4): 170 – 185

Peer Reviewed Book Chapters
2015. ‘Embracing Uncertainty. Young people on the move in Addis Ababa’s inner city’, in Cooper L., Pratten D. (eds) Ethnographies of Uncertainty in Africa. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 149 – 172
2010. ‘Amm Adam: analytic problems and interpretative perspective’, in Szwewcyz M., Zych I. (eds) Between the Cataracts. Proceedings of the 11th Conference of Nubian Studies. Warsaw: Warsaw University Press: 329 – 357

Book Reviews
2013. A review of ‘Andrew Burton and Hélène Charton-Bigot (eds.), Generations Past: Youth in East African history. Athens: Ohio University Press’, Africa 83 (2): 347 - 349
2013. A review of ‘Daniel Mains, Hope is Cut. Youth, Unemployment and the Future in Urban Ethiopia. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press’, Journal of Modern African Studies 51 (2): 366 - 367
2012. A review of ‘Paula Heinonen Youth Gangs & Street Children. Culture, Nurture and Masculinity in Ethiopia’. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books’, Africa 82 (4): 662 – 663

Blogposts, Reports, Popular Press and Interviews
2018. ‘Anthropology of Infrastructure’. Governing Infrastructure Interfaces. LSE Cities. Research Note 01. ( )
2018. ‘Requiem for Arat Kilo’, in Burdett Ricky, Rode Philipp, Griffiths Peter (eds) Developing Urban Futures. Urban Age. LSE Cities: 62
2018. ‘Unequal Measures: the right to the city in Lagos and Addis Ababa’, Architectural Review, 1452: 58-61 ( )
2017. ‘Vivere ad Addis Abeba. Il racconto di Ibrahim e Haile’. [Living in Addis Ababa. The story of Ibrahim and Haile”] Gli Asini 42-43: 42 - 45
2015. ‘Back to the Present: Economic Growth, Youth and Development’ – Democracy in Africa ( )
2014. ‘Urban Development in Addis Ababa: An Interview with Marco Di Nunzio’ – Fondation Wiener Anspach Website ( )

Under Preparation
• “Development through dislocation: Aesthetics and the Governance of Urban Futures in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia”.
• “Work, Hustling and the Politics of Refusal in urban Ethiopia”
• “Marginality, Multiplicity and Becoming: A View from an African Success Story”