An Italian Studies Scholarly Blog
Italy has a rich and diverse protest culture. Traditional protest actions, organized by the political opposition or by trade unions are nowadays supplemented by new protest initiatives and movements like ‘Libera’, ‘Il Popolo Viola’, ‘No Berlusconi Day’, ‘Se non ora quando?’, ‘Precari uniti contro i tagli’, ‘Anti CasaPound’ and the more recent widespread anti-austerity protests. Apart from the fact that these protest campaigns display how many serious irregularities and conflicts exist within the highly fragmented Italian political culture they show also that a multifaceted and energetic civil society exists in Italy. However, the long tradition of expressing political dissent as well as the diverse historical roots of many of today’s protest networks are still surprisingly unexplored by the research community. This lacuna was the starting point for our conference proposal which Rada Bieberstein and I introduced at the ASMI annual general meeting in December 2011. To our delight, the topic was unanimously approved by all attending members after a brief presentation of our research outline.
Although venue and date for the 2012 conference were settled soon, we had to deal with an extensive preparation check list which included the further elaboration of our Call for Paper and its distribution via several academic network resources, choosing and contacting possible key-note speakers along with applying for additional funding. Fortunately all these tasks were achieved before July so that we were able to concentrate on the incoming proposals. By mid-July we had received 76 abstracts which reflected the whole interdisciplinary spectrum of the subject. After four weeks of intensive reading and discussing we drafted a very first conference schedule and got in touch with the selected speakers.
In the next three months Rada and I worked hand in hand. We met a few times in London and Hamburg to discuss financial matters, programme details and logistics of the conference but most of the time we planned and organized everything from Tübingen and Hamburg. And our daily early bird Skype conversation became a very welcome and amicable routine to start our working day.
Motivated by the high academic standard of all previous annual conference and ASMI’s own approach to bring together scholars from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds including history, political science, languages, geography, and anthropology we decided that our conference programme should reflect this interdisciplinary aspiration. All our four key-note speakers came from different academic backgrounds (sociology, film & media studies, history and pedagogy) who contributed with their knowledge to the general understanding of the topic and provided different points of view to foster the dialogue between the disciplines. The first key-note, for example was provided by Donatella Della Porta (EUI Firenze) and dealt with the recent Italian anti-austerity protests, the second, by William Hope (Salford) concentrated on the issue of re-politicising cinema in Italy since the year 2000. The third one was held by Lucy Riall (EUI Firenze/Birkbeck) who gave us an excellent insight into how traditions of protest are shaped and persisted from the period of the Risorgimento until today. Manuel Cecchinato Posadas (Venice) concluded the conference with a discussion of the intentions and recent activities of the protest movement ‘Precari uniti’.
Apart from the fifteen panels which covered various aspects of protest in Italy (e.g. visualization of protest, left and right wing opposition, immigrants and labour protest, environmental protest), we introduced also a poster session for young scholars and provided a comprehensive conference handbook for all participants. In addition, the stimulating and friendly atmosphere of the conference was further nourished by a delightful wine reception on the occasion of ASMI’s 30th anniversary and a well attended conference dinner.
Rada and I would like to thank all 85 speakers, chairs, guests, friends and sponsors for their support and help. It was an extraordinary academic experience which included not only eleven months of preparation and 1156 emails but gave us also the possibility to bring together scholars under the auspices of ASMI’s congenial and unique ambience.
Javier Soriano/Getty Images (2011)
Anne Bruch is a research assistant at the Jean Monnet Chair for European Integration History and European Studies, University of Hamburg. She is currently involved in a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).