BORMLA: A STRUGGLING COMMUNITY by JosAnn Cutajar, Ph.D.
Preface written by Carmel Borg, Ph.D. (Associate Professor in Education Studies, University of Malta)
In Bormla: A Struggling Community, Dr. JosAnn Cutajar tells the story of a resilient community damaged by lack of proper organic and coherent political action. Years of accumulated neglect and missed opportunities led to the partial slummification of an area historically known for its vibrant economic output, creation of national wealth and cultural hybridity.
Bormla is a city that is rusted but not ghostly. The book reveals a large section of its community that is proud of its history, is interested in its present and looks forward to a better future. Reading carefully through the rich data presented in the book, one can sense that the Bormliżi are aware that the city is largely damaged not by the actions of its residents but by structural forces at the macro-level. The socioeconomic relations generated by such forces are ideological in nature and materially reversible and, therefore, there is hope and possiblity for the Bormliżi.
The demarginalization of parts of Bormla lies not in charitable acts but in real opportunites for social and economic capital. A sound understanding of how communites are actively dehumanized and how urban areas are regenerated constitutes a productive start. The material presented in this book contributes to such an understanding.
Blaming the victim is a popular response to Bormla’s predicament. There is little rationale and no science in such blaming. It is largely reproduced through physical distance and intellectual disengagement. Internal racism has largely been ignored. The Bormliżi are at the receiving end of such racism and, as indicated in one of the sections of this book, their life chances are often compromised by false perceptions. Through personal anecdotes and oral histories, in this book Cutajar clearly shows that prejudice is widespread and cuts across social classes and levels of education. A healing process calls for authentic dialogue with the injured community and for concrete action which is informed by economic solidarity and social justice.
Cutajar problematises the assumpion that the people of Bormla lack ambition. Aspirations stem from real opportunities. Material deprivation and marginalisation undermine academic achievement and real life chances. Decoupling education from material and social and emotioinal contexts has the effect of numbing society from the real causes of persistent underachievement. Rightly so, in this book the author challenges us to turn around the country to face Bormla with concern, solidarity, real engagement, collaboration and dialogue.