The Changing Italian Cities: Emerging Imbalances and Conflicts
CREMASCHI Marco - Università degli studi di Roma III (Auteur)
GSSI Urban Studies
1st lines: The paper questions the urban narrative of the divided and underdeveloped city that is usually applied to Rome. Rome has always been considered a backward metropolis, a divided and dependent city, suspended between the modern and industrial North and the (comparatively) rural and traditional South. Since it became the capital of Italy in 1870, the small population that used to live around the Pope’s court was replaced by those caring for the needs of the civil servants in government jobs, Rome having in fact a comparatively weak industrial base. However, administration pushed the growth of the city, creating the need for a very large inflow of poor immigrants from the Southern countryside. Besides being limited and empirically inadequate, such a view arises a crucial theoretical concern: how we describe and understand the change of cities in an age of global rescaling? For instance, the two main narratives of globalization and competition; and the critique of the resulting social and spatial division, though opposed, share the same epistemological concern with generalization and explication. But the process of globalization confuses geographical scales, weaves local and global dimensions, erases physical and social boundaries. At the turn of modernity, the city is as solid as ever, though neoliberal developments tend to jeopardize all certainties. The same cannot be said of its representations, that are increasingly less coherent and productive, though encroaching the imaginary of the city and of cities policies. Thus, walking on water is somehow required in order to match new social forms and their narratives. Marc Augé calls ville-monde such new urban environments, as opposed to the global city1, based upon heterogeneity and juxtaposition. Urban space is socially fragmented, and a strict social zoning articulates society and opportunities. How than making sense of cities when cities change in an increasingly confused and mixed way? This calls for a theoretical repositioning, and a paradigmatic turn in urban studies, as claimed recently by a number of scholars from the Global South. A turn which seems able to capture also some of the distinctive features of cities from a more local, European South.