Bruce O’Neill

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

St. Louis U.

Grant number

Gr. 9351

Approve Date

October 5, 2016

Project Title

O'Neill, Dr. Bruce Terrence, St. Louis U., St. Louis, MO - To aid research on 'The Underground: Urbanism and its Roots in Romania'

Preliminary abstract: Ethnographers have long used the metaphor of the underground to theorize the illicit economies and the subversive politics that animate the back alleys and neglected neighborhoods of the urban periphery. By extension, the people who inhabit these spaces, the so-called ‘underclass,’ are often taken to be the city’s most vulnerable or most improvisational. While inspiring storied literatures, ethnographers have never actually given the city’s literal underground serious attention. This is an oversight. Building on a decade-long ethnographic engagement with Bucharest, Romania, this proposal descends into this capital city’s subterranean spaces to examine how transit stations, basements, and cemeteries, for example, become key sites for staking claims on belonging. This study’s central intention is to move urban anthropology beyond its well-established horizontal coordinates of center and periphery, bridges and doors, and walls and gates to assess the veritable roots of today’s urban ecology. The guiding claim to be investigated is that the actual urban underground is neither marginal nor unregulated, and that the class of people who inhabit it are not necessarily vulnerable. Rather, in its ethnographic form, the underground is a governing space, one that shapes how city residents imagine and maneuver towards upward mobility.