Paper short abstract:
This paper examines the November 2003 revolt in response to a government decree creating a nuclear waste dump in the township of Scanzano Jonico (southern Italy). The analysis of the case of Scanzano seeks to offer some reflections with regard to movements that similarly resist policy.
Paper long abstract:
In November 2003, a revolt which shook a wide segment of Southern Italy took place in response to a government decree providing for the creation of a consolidated national nuclear waste dump in the township of Scanzano Jonico. The revolt - ultimately successful in its stated goal of getting the name of Scanzano removed from the decree - was hailed for its striking civility and for cutting through all lines of difference in drawing together the population against the national government, so much so that it has subsequently been invoked as a "model" for many other protests (especially, but not only, regarding environmental issues), including the ongoing movement against the creation of a high-speed railway through the Val di Susa in Piedmont.
This paper examines the contrast between the government's policy and the local resistance, which was not only able to defeat the government discourse on its own terms, but also counter it on other discursive levels. The Council of Ministers argued in favour of the decree in terms of the "common good", "progress" and "national security"; it marshalled a series of "expert" scientific documents to this end, depicting the locals as particularistic "NIMBYs" (not-in-my-backyarders), irrational and uninformed in their "emotional" reaction to the decree. The local reaction in turn offered its own "expert" documents and rational-instrumental calculations to refute the government's claims. Crucially - as Vike (1997) has pointed out in his discussion of the "moral economy" of resistance - locals were able to stand on higher moral ground by recasting the definition of "common good" and critiquing the government in terms of democratic procedure, which the government had violated on several counts in promulgating the decree. Resistance was most poignantly expressed through roadblocks and demonstrations and bolstered through on-line and paper petitions and postcards to the Prime Minister, all aimed at pushing the government to remove the name of Scanzano from the decree. Additionally, a series of counter-policy moves were effected on the local, regional and interregional levels, such as the adoption of impromptu laws "de-nuclearizing" the territory and the promotion of an alternative plan for utilizing the land of the planned nuclear waste dump site.
Based on the Author's participation (more than participant-observation) in the revolt, as well as various media sources, this paper will attempt to reflect upon what lessons Scanzano might offer with regard to movements which similarly resist policy.