Snail in the forest

Moving between constraints and possibilities of belonging and outsiderness

Antonella Cuppari (PhD Student, University of Milano-Bicocca)

I have waited three years for that moment
when I would take my last step to the top
carried on my shoulders together with vertigo
and now, looking up, only sky
full not cut out
and everything turns upside down again
the end becomes beginning
again I no longer know who I am anymore.
(My poem, “The End of a PhD path”)
“The unpredictable is a value that must never be renounced,  emptiness must be welcomed and loved, to be amazed by reality is supremely energetic and therefore to be amazed it is necessary to be open to the unexpected, to be, within reality, a stranger.”
Mariangela Gualtieri

Inspired (in an irriverent way) by the multiplicative possibilities of meaning offered by duoetnography (Sawyer & Norris, 2013), I tried to relate two texts: on the one hand, a poem I wrote a few days ago in which I felt the need to give voice to my experience as a still-briefly-doctoral-student and, on the other hand, a thought by an Italian poet I love very much, Mariangela Gualtieri, who invites us to confront the unexpected as a stranger in reality.
These different positionings make me wonder about the theme of belonging and outsideerness. Soon I will no longer be affiliated with the university and, at the same time, this workplace doctorate has changed the relationship with my colleagues and the organisation in which I work, in a way that I cannot fully understand today. During my three years as a PhD student, I experienced belonging and outsiderness in my relationship with both contexts and this allowed me to find a fluid and moving posture, despite the discomfort (Cuppari, 2022). Today, one of two contexts of this belonging is no longer taken for granted and I suddenly feel disoriented. A sense of alienation predominates, also in relation to the impossibility of accessing certain services and opportunities when I stop being a doctoral student. The outsiderness and disorientation generated by not belonging deeply questions my identity (“I no longer know who I am anymore”).
These brief considerations on belonging question me. In my life as a student, belonging has guaranteed me access to rights and opportunities that I feel are being lost today. However, in other experiences it can also become a constraint when it risks becoming a prejudice, a stereotype and a social category that excludes, as in the case of a person with a disability, for example, which is the topic of my thesis.
The evocative dialogue between the poet Gualtieri and myself questions belonging in its aspects of constraint and possibility and in its generative relationship with the complementary dimension, that of outsiderness.
I finish by proposing the listening of a track and the words that accompanies it.

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