Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Category: work

Covid-19 and the sudden death of free movement

It has been my dream to appear in a podcast. I was hoping this would happen with L10nel, but Jack never gave me a shot.

Alex Afonso finally made this dream come through. I have been his guest in the latest episode of ‘The Borders of Equality‘, the podcast he manages at the University of Leiden. We spoke about the different ways in which human movement is being restricted by governments all around the world, and what consequences this entails. The conversation is probably too long; but all in all it came out well. Thanks to Alex, we touched upon a variety of different issues and I hope we managed to provide precise figures.

Anecdote: I was supposed to meet Alex in 2013, when I was interviewed for a doctoral position at King’s College London. He was my designated supervisor. Unfortunately, Alex got robbed the night before and could not show up for the meeting. I did the interview with Adrian Blau, an extremely kind and competent professor. I got the position and a scholarship, but in the end chose to go to the European University Institute instead. Alex and I met many times afterwards. He has never been robbed again.

Restrictions on international mobility

To curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, governments worldwide have undertaken measures that radically disrupted human mobility, such as the sealing of national borders, mass evacuations and quarantines. Who are affected and in what ways?

Jelena and I have participated in two webinars, where we have presented some preliminary ideas. The first clip is about nine-minute long. It is only the two of us, discussing the most important trends that we observe. The second clip is much longer. Our presentation is one of three: the others are about the ways in which COVID-19 has curbed mobility in Africa and in South America. If you are curious about the dataset that we present, you can access it here.

I feel a bit ambivalent about these two clips. While very grateful for the opportunity to present my research, I am wary of the proliferation of webinars and youtube clips.


The Migration-Mobility Nexus

The last two weeks I worked on the video below together with a group of colleagues and friends at the nccr – on the move. The purpose of the video is to summarise our research using a simple vocabulary, explain how we work together, and show that in such peculiar times we have to come up with creative proposals.

The video is a bit long, my Italian accent is as strong as ever, and some of you might not like its flashy undertone; I do.

Photos of people on the move

For the last few months I have put aside notables photos of people on the move. There are four somehow symmetrical photos that strike me more than all the others. All of them, I realise in insight, have an aura of sacrality: maybe this is why I like them so much. I post them below, in chronological order. It feels strange to look at them in these times of forced immobility.


Hal Morey. Grand Central Terminal of New York Central Station, 1929. It depicts the sacrality of the places that we use to move around: I had to think of Morey’s picture when reading this article, recently. Here the train station appears like a cathedral. Original here.

Hal Morey - New York Central Station - 1929

Alex Webb. San Ysidro, California, 1979. Mexicans arrested while trying to cross the border to United States. Original.

Alex Webb - San Ysidro 1979.jpg

Sebastião Salgado. Churchgate Station in Mumbai, India, 1979. Original here.

Sebastiao Salgado - Churchgate Station, Mumbai - 1979

John Stanmeyer. Djibouti City, 2013. Migrants in Djibouti searching for cell signals from neighboring Somalia. Original here.

John Stanmeyer - Djibouti City - 2014


Il classismo della pandemia

Ho fatto una breve intervista con Marco Pagani di RSI (Radio Svizzera Italiana). Abbiamo parlato delle restrizioni alla mobilità e di come le loro conseguenze siano particolarmente negative per tanti lavoratori stagionali, richiedenti asilo, e tutti coloro che non possono permettersi il telelavoro.

How will governments decide who can move where in a pandemic?

I have written a short analysis for the Washington Post to explain why, in a crisis-ridden context, asylum seekers, seasonal workers, temporary workers and undocumented migrants face disproportionate risks.

How these groups fare in the 2020 pandemic will depend on how governments define “nonessential movement,” and whether they are willing to make any exceptions.

Coronavirus: borders, citizenship, mobility

This pandemic will impact all of us enormously, and in a variety of different ways. I do not dare venturing into areas I do not know, so my thinking has been focused chiefly on borders, citizenship, and mobility. Here is what came out of it.

In a first article, published on GLOBALCIT together with Jelena Dzankic, we discuss the role citizenship plays in the context of public health responses to emergencies, including evacuations and quarantines, travel and socio-cultural constraints. In a second article, published on the blog of the nccr – on the move together with Joëlle Moret, we write that the current crisis of mobility further reinforces social and national inequalities. In the infographic, which we realised for the nccr – on the move together with Andreas Perret and Jelena Dzankic, we show the quick diffusion of border closure globally and the categories that are most frequently exempted (nationals, residents, diplomats, transport personnel, family members of nationals…).

This is a small contribution to understanding what is happening in the world these days. It has little to do with the medical social implications of this virus: there are other people who are much better situated to explain that. But it is important because, I am afraid, the sudden restrictions to borders introduced in the last few weeks won’t disappear overnight.

Dual nationality among female athletes

Why is dual citizenship way more common for male than for female players?


Jelena and I have written an article to explain that this depends from the interplay of gender inequalities and the male-dominated cultural symbolism of sports in general.

Mobile EU citizens: voting rights

I have written a short speculative article on the electoral rights of my friends and relatives living abroad. I have taken as examples Anna and Daniele to illustrate some of the research on electoral rights that I have conducted together with many friends and colleagues. The idea for this article comes from Martina-t, who has already appeared twice on this blog.

Ho scritto
un breve articolo speculativo sui diritti elettorali dei miei amici e parenti che vivono all’estero. Ho preso come esempio i casi di Anna e di Daniele, tentando di rendere più intellegibile la ricerca sui diritti elettorali che ho condotto negli ultimi anni assieme a tanti amici e colleghi negli ultimi anni. Lo spunto per questo articolo viene da Martina-t, che è già comparsa due volte su questo blog.


euandi2019 is a Voting Advice Application built by some good friends of mine to help citizens make an informed choice in the 2019 European Parliament elections. Take the test and next time we see each other we speak about your results. Mine are below.