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Reclaiming Territory from Below : Grassroots Environmentalism and Waste Conflicts in Campania, Italy

De Rosa, Salvatore Paolo LU (2017)
Abstract
In the course of 2000s, the region of Campania in southern Italy and its capital city Naples became global icons of waste mismanagement after the images of piles of rubbish occluding their urban areas hit the headlines. Conventional explanations, in Italy and elsewhere, pointed to administrative failure, cultural backwardness and mafia infiltration as the main causes of waste mishandling. In the same narratives, local people opposing the construction of landfills, incinerators and storage sites were labeled the root of the problem. However, what these explanations could not account for was the persistence, the breadth and the magnitude of social mobilizations around environmental concerns and their engagements with issues beyond the urban... (More)
In the course of 2000s, the region of Campania in southern Italy and its capital city Naples became global icons of waste mismanagement after the images of piles of rubbish occluding their urban areas hit the headlines. Conventional explanations, in Italy and elsewhere, pointed to administrative failure, cultural backwardness and mafia infiltration as the main causes of waste mishandling. In the same narratives, local people opposing the construction of landfills, incinerators and storage sites were labeled the root of the problem. However, what these explanations could not account for was the persistence, the breadth and the magnitude of social mobilizations around environmental concerns and their engagements with issues beyond the urban trash. With this thesis, I address this gap by unearthing the political, socioecological and cultural dynamics of grassroots environmentalism in Campania. My aim is twofold: on the one hand, to debunk hegemonic narratives of the waste ‘crises’, alongside certain framings of protests, through an analysis of the political economy and ecology of waste metabolisms and by investigating specific instances of popular environmentalism; on the other hand, to inquire the politics of society-nature relationships that emerges from grassroots environmental organizing so to work out conceptual contributions to political ecology based on a dialogue between activist and academic knowledges.

Rooted in previous activist engagement and on ten months of empirical research with the grassroots committees and the Stop Biocide Coalition of Campania, this thesis reconsiders the recent history of the region’s urban and toxic waste ‘crises’ and investigates the emergence, the outcomes and the legacies of grassroots environmentalism from 2000 to 2015. Positioned across the fields of political ecology, anthropology and geography, the research traces the drivers, the historical depth, the spatial and ecological articulations, and the power relations embedded in the Campania’s waste metabolisms. Next to clarifying the processes leading to waste occupation, the main contribution is an ethnography of social mobilizations.

By focusing on the knowledge generation and on the spatial interventions of the committees and the Coalition, the research explores the bottom-up defense, reimagination and reclamation of territory in the course of environmental conflicts, scrutinizing resistance strategies and meaning-making processes. The overarching question asks how the grassroots environmental movements experienced, contested and counteracted processes of waste accumulation and socio-environmental degradation. In particular, analytical attention is devoted to charting the emergence of alternative imaginaries and practices of socioecological relations with a transformative political scope. Accordingly, the four articles included in the thesis represent three empirically grounded theoretical interventions and one methodological reflection into the concerns of the research.

The findings suggest that socio-environmental conflicts such as Campania epitomize a crucial question of our times: the relations between the unequal distribution of power, the physical and cultural survival of social groups, and the maintenance of ecological conditions suitable for life. The grassroots environmental movements of Campania have developed strategies and notions to tackle these issues that I bring to academic scrutiny. By elaborating the concepts of commoning, ecological decolonization and competing territorialisations, I expand and complement the groundwork of activists, establishing links with emerging debates that interrogate the relevance of grassroots environmental mobilizations for projects of broader political emancipation. (Less)
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author
opponent
  • Professor Sze, Julie, University of California, Davis
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
grassroots movements, popular environmentalism, territory, waste management, environmental conflicts, Organized crime, southern Italy, political ecology, socioecological metabolism
pages
281 pages
publisher
Lund University
defense location
Världen, Geocentrum I, Sölvegatan 10, Lund
defense date
2017-09-22 13:00
ISBN
978-91-7753-376-4
978-91-7753-375-7
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
8254c3f0-a843-4dfe-924a-21a94a32e389
date added to LUP
2017-08-28 15:36:29
date last changed
2017-09-01 12:22:48
@phdthesis{8254c3f0-a843-4dfe-924a-21a94a32e389,
  abstract     = {In the course of 2000s, the region of Campania in southern Italy and its capital city Naples became global icons of waste mismanagement after the images of piles of rubbish occluding their urban areas hit the headlines. Conventional explanations, in Italy and elsewhere, pointed to administrative failure, cultural backwardness and mafia infiltration as the main causes of waste mishandling. In the same narratives, local people opposing the construction of landfills, incinerators and storage sites were labeled the root of the problem. However, what these explanations could not account for was the persistence, the breadth and the magnitude of social mobilizations around environmental concerns and their engagements with issues beyond the urban trash. With this thesis, I address this gap by unearthing the political, socioecological and cultural dynamics of grassroots environmentalism in Campania. My aim is twofold: on the one hand, to debunk hegemonic narratives of the waste ‘crises’, alongside certain framings of protests, through an analysis of the political economy and ecology of waste metabolisms and by investigating specific instances of popular environmentalism; on the other hand, to inquire the politics of society-nature relationships that emerges from grassroots environmental organizing so to work out conceptual contributions to political ecology based on a dialogue between activist and academic knowledges.<br/><br/>Rooted in previous activist engagement and on ten months of empirical research with the grassroots committees and the Stop Biocide Coalition of Campania, this thesis reconsiders the recent history of the region’s urban and toxic waste ‘crises’ and investigates the emergence, the outcomes and the legacies of grassroots environmentalism from 2000 to 2015. Positioned across the fields of political ecology, anthropology and geography, the research traces the drivers, the historical depth, the spatial and ecological articulations, and the power relations embedded in the Campania’s waste metabolisms. Next to clarifying the processes leading to waste occupation, the main contribution is an ethnography of social mobilizations.<br/><br/>By focusing on the knowledge generation and on the spatial interventions of the committees and the Coalition, the research explores the bottom-up defense, reimagination and reclamation of territory in the course of environmental conflicts, scrutinizing resistance strategies and meaning-making processes. The overarching question asks how the grassroots environmental movements experienced, contested and counteracted processes of waste accumulation and socio-environmental degradation. In particular, analytical attention is devoted to charting the emergence of alternative imaginaries and practices of socioecological relations with a transformative political scope. Accordingly, the four articles included in the thesis represent three empirically grounded theoretical interventions and one methodological reflection into the concerns of the research.<br/><br/>The findings suggest that socio-environmental conflicts such as Campania epitomize a crucial question of our times: the relations between the unequal distribution of power, the physical and cultural survival of social groups, and the maintenance of ecological conditions suitable for life. The grassroots environmental movements of Campania have developed strategies and notions to tackle these issues that I bring to academic scrutiny. By elaborating the concepts of commoning, ecological decolonization and competing territorialisations, I expand and complement the groundwork of activists, establishing links with emerging debates that interrogate the relevance of grassroots environmental mobilizations for projects of broader political emancipation.},
  author       = {De Rosa, Salvatore Paolo},
  isbn         = {978-91-7753-376-4},
  keyword      = {grassroots movements,popular environmentalism,territory,waste management,environmental conflicts,Organized crime,southern Italy,political ecology,socioecological metabolism},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {281},
  publisher    = {Lund University},
  school       = {Lund University},
  title        = {Reclaiming Territory from Below : Grassroots Environmentalism and Waste Conflicts in Campania, Italy},
  year         = {2017},
}