Accepted Paper:

At the mercy of global interests: conspiracy fears and digital grassroots populism in Sicily  


Antonio Sorge (York University)

Paper short abstract:

The 2015-16 refugee “crisis” has seen neo-nationalists in Italy advance a vision of isolationism and cultural homogeneity. This paper examines Sicily, a place of transit for refugees, a buffer zone between North and South, and the rise of far-right sentiment that reacts to current circumstances.

Paper long abstract:

Neo-nationalist parties throughout Europe are deriving considerable mileage from the current refugee "crisis," seeing within it an opportunity to shore up support from a disaffected electorate reeling from the consequences of economic stagnation and high unemployment. In Italy, a range of political and economic anxieties is spurring the rise of parochial sensibilities based on a homogeneous vision of society, further driven by an inhospitable view of newcomers as undeserving beneficiaries of public resources and "invaders" who pose a demographic and cultural threat to local communities.

This paper considers the rise of far-right populism within Sicily, and examines the foundations upon which grassroots actors advance their ideology, which, in broad terms, is characterized by a belief that Sicily is at the mercy of global interests over which local people have no control. As an emergent, broad-based movement, far-right populism in Sicily is digitally networked, animated by a rejection of mainstream party politics and news media, and driven by a faith in conspiracy theories about the true nature of political liberalism and global capitalism. Their ultimate vision is the restoration of the social arrangements of an earlier era. It is also defined by a nostalgic longing for homogeneity of culture and society that explicitly rejects any definition of Sicily as a crossroads of the Mediterranean, or zone of encounter between North and South, Europe and Africa, Christian and Muslim, understandings that are central to humanitarian discourse on the island today.

Panel RM-CPV06
The roads most travelled: ethnographic approaches to buffer zones, crossroads and spaces in-between