Accepted Paper:

Class without consciousness: regional identity in northern Italy in late modernity  


Jaro Stacul (Acadia University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the role played by 'class' in regional identity formation in Italy after the rise of centre-right political forces. It argues that the significance of 'class', as a cultural construct and subjective category, needs to be understood in relation to the value systems that give it meaning.

Paper long abstract:

Many anthropological works have highlighted the ways notions such as 'nation' and 'culture' can take on a political dimension in the formation of nationalist and regionalist movements as a reaction to global economic changes. Yet the role played by 'class' in national or regional identity formation still remains largely unexplored. Drawing upon ethnographic information collected in rural communities in the Trentino region of northern Italy in the last few years, the paper examines the ways class consciousness is complicated by the salience of a particularistic consciousness derived from the rise of new regionalist and centre-right political forces in Italy. It illustrates the ways 'class' is implied in local cultural practices which are bound up with the development of a regional and local identity even though it no longer takes on an explicit political dimension as a subjective category. More importantly, it shows that the newly-emerging political forces in the region achieved considerable appeal not because 'class' was subordinated to other forms of identity such as 'culture' and 'territory', but because at the local level 'class' was interpreted as a constituent part of cultural and territorial identity. In suggesting that in late modernity 'class' continues to shape people's cultural practices even when it does not take the form of 'class consciousness', the paper argues that its significance, as a cultural construct and subjective category, needs to be understood in relation to the social structures and value systems that give it meaning.

Panel W108
Class as a subtext to neonationalism after 1989