Looking at the map of most contemporary cities, for example through “Google maps”, no fences, no barriers, no walls are visible. Yet, invisible urban frontiers exist, and divide ethnic groups, socio-economic classes, and cultural communities. Such frontiers are not virtual: they bring about the physical separation of different groups of people as effectively as visible frontiers do. Such frontiers are not neutral either: more often than not, they express the weakness of social cohesion within contemporary cities. A thorough analysis of these invisible frontiers, and possibly a competent elaboration of ways in which they could be bridged, are therefore both urgent. Nevertheless, how is it possible to study something that is invisible, that does not show on the map of cities? The paper will advocate the adoption, for this purpose, of the ethno-semiotic method, that combines ethnographic observation with semiotics (the discipline that studies signification and communication).
|Keywords:||Cities, Frontiers, Shibboleths, Social Division, Ethnography, Semiotics|
Research Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Torino, Turin, Italy
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