Accepted paper:

Vested interests and environmental injustice: An ethnographic study of development programmes in South Italy.


Giuliana B. Prato (University of Kent)

Paper short abstract:

This paper draws on ethnographic material from the province of Brinsidi, in South Italy. It offers a diachronic analysis of the development programmes for South Italy focusing on the industrialization of the Brindisi area and its impact on local agriculture, natural resources and quality of life.

Paper long abstract:

Although Italy is a member of the G8 council of leading economic powers, economic commentators argue that its international influence remains limited because of the economic drag factor of the less prosperous South. Drawing on ethnographic material from Brindisi, this paper offers a diachronic analysis of different economic policies aimed at solving the so-called Southern Question. A major asset of Brindisi is its port and the attendant activities (military, commercial and, later, industrial). However, the economy of Brindisi province is mainly rurally-based; thus, in the attempt to bring economic development to the area, national economic policies aimed at turning local peasants into industrial workers. The paper looks at: 1) the impact of the reckless industrialization on the local environment and on traditional agricultural activities; 2) the local protest against the construction of a coal power-station. Such a protest not only expressed environmental (and health) concerns, but also highlighted fundamental aspects of citizenship rights, and social and economic justice. The paper links the local dimension to national processes and to programmes of global restructuring (e.g., recent EU policies). Advocates of the free market and of the "values of economic liberalism" argue that such restructuring can be enormously beneficial to South-Italian economy for it brings about competitive approaches in a "milieu" often prone to protectionist practices. However, anthropological analysis highlights the significance of the interaction between economic, political and social institutions in the reformulation of local strategies to attract development funding in the context of shifting administrative and political power.

panel PE43
Averting a global environmental collapse: the role of anthropology and local knowledge (WCAA panel)