Sandra Annunziata, in memoriam

Guest authors: Marco Cremaschi (Sciences PO, Paris), Carlotta Fioretti (European Commission, Joint Research Centre), Clara Rivas (University of Leicester)

On Friday, 4th of January, a few days before turning 40, Dr. Sandra Annunziata passed away suddenly. A regular contributor to the AESOP’s initiatives, she was a tireless and committed researcher, bringing the whole of her originality and curiosity into her studies.

Profile picture of Sandra Annunziata

Sandra was incomparable: a force of nature, a well of never-ending generosity and openness, on top of an outstanding academic, an expert of her field, a dedicated researcher that never ceased to question injustices, a kind colleague that always had time for anyone and everyone, regardless of the status they held and the field they worked in.

Sandra graduated in Architecture at the IUAV of Venice in 2004. In 2008, she defended her Ph.D. thesis at the University of Roma Tre. “Un quartiere chiamato desiderio: la transizione dei quartieri popolari in Brooklyn e Roma”. Prepared under the supervision of Marco Cremaschi, the dissertation dealt with the processes of gentrification and neighbourhood change in contemporary cities in Rome and Brooklyn (NY), investigating the process of change occurring in two neighbourhoods in Rome and New York. The complete empirical fieldwork comparison, can be found in Later, she investigated the forms of urbanity in a few newly built urban developments in Rome. After her PhD, she carried out studies and fieldwork at Columbia, New York (2007), Cornell, Ithaca (2011), as well as at Weimar (2008-9), the Institute de Research Social of the University of Genève (2012) and Leicester University. 

Between 2008 and 2009 she directed with Marco Cremaschi the Strategic plan of the city of Arezzo, coordinating the research team of the Department of Urban Studies. The Plan was the first awarded by the Region Toscana.

The team included a number of young researchers and doctoral students from the same Department that became eventually a close-knit group of friends and the core of Eticity. Sandra established this association with Mara Cossu, Claudia Faraone, Carlotta Fioretti, Claudia Meschiari, Viola Mordenti and Alice Sotgia with the motto “Exploring Territories, Imagining the City”. A successful crew of reflexive planners and engaged young women that often met around a dinner looking in turn after the children of Mara, the first to experience motherhood.

In 2009 she was awarded the Giovanni Ferraro Award for her PhD dissertation; and in 2011 the prestigious Clarence Stein grant for independent research as Visiting Scholar at the Department of City and Regional Planning of Cornell University, USA. The scholarship allowed her to carry on an interesting study on tenurial change in historical garden cities comparing Garbatella in Rome and Sunnyside in New York (Annunziata, 2017). Once back in Rome, Sandra continued her collaboration with Cornell University, being involved from 2012 to 2018 as visiting critic for the course European Cities, held in Cornell in Rome.

Sandra was an enthusiastic teacher, who transmitted to students most important challenges European cities are facing (housing, migration, gentrification) through direct experience: often lecturing not in class but in the lively spaces of the city, involving local communities as well as international scholars.

Between 2013 and 2015 Sandra has been involved in a research project of national interest (PRIN) on the inclusion of migrants in small municipalities. The project was aimed at shading light on a phenomenon not enough studied yet but increasingly relevant especially in Italy where nearly half of the foreign-born people lives in small sized urban centres. Sandra conducted a thorough fieldwork in Roccagorga, a town of 4500 inhabitants located in the mountains of Lazio region, in central Italy. In particular, her research was able to highlight strengths and criticalities of the Italian reception project for refugees known as SPRAR (Asylum Seekers and Refugees Protection System), showing the potentiality for combining the inclusion of migrants with the local development of inner areas. The results of the research have been published in several articles (Annunziata, 2015; 2016; 2017) which are even more valuable today, that the existence of SPRAR has been questioned in the national debate.

Thanks to a Marie Curie, she engaged in her postdoc work with Prof Loretta Lees in Leicester where she met Clara Rivas. Together, they wrote articles wondering about resistance to gentrification, trying to push forward other understandings of resistance that were more inclusive, questioned themselves, and whatever hierarchical systems they might be inadvertently reproducing.

Sandra’s knowledge of gentrification theory framed the initial articles on resistance to gentrification: from a literature review to actual resistance practices, Clara and Sandra sought to understand better how gentrification could be fought and possibly defeated. The path carved as writing partners was promising: every new article found a new focus that would be more interesting than the previous one.

Recently, Sandra and Clara worked on how everyday practices and visible acts of protests were tied together when conceptualized as resistance to gentrification. She had a way of coming up with fantastic ideas, calling at any time of day or night and letting you in some exciting breakthrough thought. Such enthusiasm was contagious, as it coloured the conversations, texts, presentations and random encounters she participated in. 

Working within the framework of her Marie Curie project allowed her to bridge that gap between academics and activists, and helped her put her ideas in action: fostering spaces of exchange and activism in the face of acute dispossession. Her knowledge and work was always a source of inspiration. Beyond our academic musings, or probably because of them, we shared plenty of discussions, arguments, drinks, dinners, projects, conferences, laughter, worries.

Clara and Sandra had a baby almost at the same time, and in her true unique fashion, Sandra managed to grow into a beautiful mother whilst developing her academic career almost without pause.

She did a million things at the same time, relentlessly, and she managed to shine through most of them. That light she irradiated will live on in her work, projects, as a little voice inside our heads whenever I’ll be looking for the right words, in all her friends and colleagues and people she tried to help, and of course in Elena, her daughter. 

A selection of papers

(2010). with Cossu, M., Urbanity beyond nostalgia: discovering public life at the edge of the city of Rome. In Suburbanization in Global Society (pp. 131-152). Emerald Group.

(2011). Evolving urban citizenship and the erosion of public space in Ponte di Nona, Rome. Cremaschi and Eckardt, Changing Places, pp. 63-81.

(2011). with Violante, A.,, Rome-Model: rising and fall of an hybrid neo-liberal paradigm in Southern Europe. In Annual RC21 Conference, Amsterdam (pp. 7-9).

(2011). The desire of ethnically diverse neighbourhood in Rome. The case of Pigneto: an example of integrated planning approach. Future Urban Research Series, (4), 601-614.

(2011). with Cremaschi M., “Strategie vs. strateghi: una riflessione a partire dall’esperienza del Piano Integrato Urbano Sostenibile della città di Arezzo”, Atti della XIV Conferenza Nazionale SIU, Torino, 24-26 marzo 201, Planum, The European Journal of Planning online, ISSN 1723-0993,

(2013). Eticity ed., “Rappresentazioni urbane/Urban Representations Quaderni di Urbanistica Tre, 3, I, sett.-dic.

(2013). with Manzo, L. K. Desire for diversity and difference in gentrified Brooklyn. Dialogue between a planner and a sociologist. Cambio. Rivista sulle trasformazioni sociali3(6), 71-88.

(2013). with Banfi, E., Snowboarding on Swiss Islam: petit guide illustré pour découvrir l’islam en Suisse. Ed. Alphil-Pr. univ. suisses.

(2015). with Fioretti C., Casa e immigrazione nei piccoli comuni, tra inclusione abitativa e sviluppo locale. Proceedings of the National Conference of the Italian Society of urbanism. Venice, 11th-13th June. Planum Publisher. 841-848.

(2016). Aria di montagna, percorsi di integrazione nei Lepini. In Fioretti, C. “Inclusione fragile. Migrazioni nei piccoli comuni del Lazio/ Fragile inclusion. Migrations in small municipalities of Lazio”, i QUADERNI – URBANISTICA tre 11(4).

(2016). with Lees, L., Resisting ‘austerity gentrification’ and displacement in Southern Europe. Sociological Research Online, 21(3), 1-8.

(2017). Exploring the incidence of ownership: evolving forms of tenure in iconic garden communities. The case of Sunnyside, New York and Garbatella, Rome. Planning Perspectives, 32 (1): 1-22.

(2017). Fare spazio all’accoglienza, note a partire dallo SPRAR di Roccagorga, Italia. Mondo Migranti. 1

(2018). with Rivas-Alonso, C., Resisting gentrification. Handbook of Gentrification Studies, 393.

(2018). with Lees and Rivas-Alonso, C. Resisting Planetary Gentrification: the value of survivability in the fight to stay put. Annals of the American Association of Geographers108(2), 346-355.

(2019). “Pratiche e discorsi anti-sfratto a Roma in clima di austerità” in Roma in Transizione. Governo, strategie, metabolismi e quadri di vita di una metropoli, Coppola A. e Punziano G. eds., Planim Publisher, Milano. ISBN 978-88-99237-13-4.

(Under revision). Urban displacement in Southern European cities during a time of permanent austerity. Evidence from Italy, Spain and Greece, ACME: International Journal for Critical Geographies, special issue Narrating displacement: Lived experiences of urban social and spatial exclusion.

(Under revision). with Rivas-Alonso C. “Anti-gentrification practices and the every day life” in Resistances: Between Theories and the Field serie speciale Resistance Studies: Critical Engagements with Power and Social Change, Sarah Murru e Abel Polese eds., Rownam & Littlefield International, London.

(Under revision). with Rivas-Alonso C. e Lees L. “Segregation, Gentrification and Social Mix”, in Companion to Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Urban and Regional Studies, Anthony Orum, Javier Ruiz-Tagle, Serena Vicari eds., Wiley-Blackwell, London.

(in press). with Rivas-Alonso C. e Lees L. “Resisting Planetary Gentrification: The value of Survivability in the Fight to Stay Put” in Justice and the City, edited by Heynen N., Aiello D. Keegan C. & Luke N., Routledge, ISBN: 978-1-138-32274-5.

(in press). “Probing the right to buy: changing forms of tenure in Garbatella, Rome” in Iconic Planned Communities: Challenge of Change, Freestone R., Corbin Sies M. and Gournay I. eds., Pennsylvania UP, Philadelphia.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.