Climbing Walls, Making Bridges
: Capoeira, Parkour and Children of Immigrants' Identity Negotiations in Turin's Public Spaces

  • Nicola De Martini Ugolotti

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis illustrates the relationship between body and space in the process of identity construction amongst groups of young men of migrant origins between 16 and 21 practicing capoeira and parkour in Turin's public spaces. Urban spaces in contemporary Turin, Italy, are contested sites where competing images of society, politics and citizenship are (re)produced and negotiated. While at a national level, widespread xenophobic discourses define immigrants and their children as alien bodies in Italian cities, Turin leaderships and cultural entrepreneurs aiming to attract visitors and capital investments have based the city's urban renewal on an image of multiculturalism and inclusiveness. The intersection of such discourses shapes the manifold ways through which immigrant bodies, and identities, become valorised, pathologised and essentialised in Turin. Based on fourteen months of ethnographic research conducted with a multi-method qualitative approach, this study explores how participants negotiated identity and processes of inclusion/exclusion in Turin, through engaging with capoeira and parkour. The analysis of participants' embodied and emplaced identity negotiations enacted through capoeira and parkour addressed the shifting articulations of race/body/marginality, and the relationship between physical culture(s), spaces and subjectivity within the rebranding urban landscape of early 21st century Turin. The exploration of participants' contested practices of diasporic cosmopolitanism and (contingent) citizenship provided insightful perspectives to address the changing meanings, and stakes of multiculturalism, citizenship and social justice in contemporary European societies. The critical analysis of capoeira and parkour also interrogated the ambivalent nature of participants' negotiations in a historical global context, marked by ubiquitous bio-political health imperatives and individualizing moralities of self-fashioning. The study findings therefore contribute to a scholarship aiming to recognize and articulate global processes within local sites of inequalities and negotiations, in exploring how contemporary identities are constructed and (re)produced within the spaces of our cities.
Date of Award3 Oct 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSimone Fullagar (Supervisor) & Michael Silk (Supervisor)


  • Capoeira
  • Parkour
  • Identity
  • Youth
  • Migration
  • Urban Regeneration
  • Ethnography
  • physical cultural studies
  • Visual Methods

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