Urban change and contested space in contemporary Naples
The research project studies the impact of urban regeneration in the historic centre of Naples during the 1990s. It examines how the centre-left administration, elected in 1993, harnessed the city's cultural and architectural heritage with the view to encouraging tourism, attracting inward investment and fostering among Neapolitans a sense of civic pride and a greater participation in urban life. It is argued that the reimaging of the built environment during the 1990s entailed re-definitions of citizenship, public space and urban history and the construction of a consensual vision about a 'new' Naples, but that this process was at the same time renegotiated and contested by residents and city users. The research focuses on three key urban sites - two piazzas and a park built after the 1980 earthquake - in order to analyse how the material and discursive consequences of regeneration led to conflicts over meanings and uses of public space. These case studies involved extensive periods of observation and interviews as well as consultation of newspapers and historical material. The study of Piazza Plebiscito, a former car park pedestrianized in 1994 and since officially adopted as the city's new symbol, examines disparate notions of heritage and urban decorum. Piazza Garibaldi, located in front of the main railway station and reconceived during the 1990s as the 'gateway' to the historic centre, analyses the relationship between immigrants and the piazza and the representation of such groups in debates about the regenerational city. Lastly, DAMM, an occupied centro sociale ('social centre') situated in an abandoned neighbourhood park, examines both the representation of the central popular quarters in debates about the city's renovation and the attempts by a group of local residents and young people to organize an alternative public space.