"A great variety of morbid symptoms appear." An ethnographic approach to economic crisis and xenophobia in Italy
Carlo Capello (University of Torino)
Paper short abstract:
In the last years we have seen, also in Italy, a surge and a recrudescence in xenophobic discourses. The aim of my paper is to offer an interpretation of this phenomenon through the case-study of unemployed people in Turin, among whom xenophobic and nationalistic feelings are quite widespread.
Paper long abstract:
As Gramsci (1975) once wrote: "The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born, in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear". Xenophobia is one of these symptoms. Xenophobia is anything but new in Italy, but in the last years we have seen a surge and a recrudescence in xenophobic discourses and discriminatory practices. The aim of my paper is to offer an interpretation of this dramatic phenomenon through the case-study of unemployed people in Turin, among whom xenophobic and nationalistic feelings are quite widespread. The ethnographic data show that this phenomenon has to be put in relation with the economic crisis and, more generally, with the neoliberal transformation which brought about the expulsion of work-force that so much affected late industrial cities like Turin. In this context, xenophobia is the deformed expression of the feelings of exclusion and insecurity experienced by the working class. In the first place, it is linked to the perceived competition between local subaltern classes and the immigrants for the vanishing economic and public resources, affected both by the global crisis and by austerity policies. Moreover, xenophobia is the expression of the bewilderment felt by the working class in front of the current neoliberal predicament. The situation of unemployed people in Turin, then, tells us that we have to look at the "subtexts of class" (Kalb 2011), if we want to decipher the xenophobic discourse so that we can better contrast it.
Hospitality and its reverse: migration and xenophobia in Southern Europe and beyond [MedNet Mediterraneanist Network]