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Title: Condemned pasts : a topography of memory from Le Nuove Prison, Turin
Author: Chiari, Eleanor Canright
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2006
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Chapter One, on the Gate, introduces some of the main themes to emerge later in the thesis by presenting a general view of the material objects, people and times which went in and out of the prison through the front gate. The chapter focuses on the figure of Orazio Toscano, a volunteer tour guide in Le Nuove, and in particular on his story of the last time he saw his father, in order to explain the ways the rest of the thesis will be treating the re-narrativizations through which different social actors struggle over the meaning of Le Nuove. Chapter Two, on the Cell, explores the complex relations inmates had with their cells and considers the extent to which these relations were shaped and affected by the prison space and by the rules of the prison institution, which also transformed over time. Chapter Three, on the Turrets, focuses on the memories of prison guards as they relate in particular to the period of the anni di piombo and to the deaths of two of their colleagues, assassinated by the Red Brigades and Prima Lima. The chapter focuses on the rumours and myths surrounding these deaths and addresses the silences and secrets implicit in prison violence. Chapter Four, on the Roof, focuses on the narratives surrounding three prison riots as they emerge from interviews today as well as from newspaper accounts from the time and from later years. It examines the disparity in memory between the early riots of 1969 and 1971 and the later riot of 1976, which seems to have left few concrete traces in memory. The chapter describes the political and legislative changes which affected the prison in the latter part of the 1970s and argues that these changes not only ended the season of riots which rattled the prison starting in 1969, but they also transformed the way the later riots were remembered. Chapter Five, considers the role of the church in the prison. It looks at the dominance of particular narratives surrounding church figures such as Padre Ruggero Cipolla and the nun Sister Giuseppina de Muro in the prison tours and memorial practices concerned with commemorating the Second World War in the prison. The chapter examines some of the competing voices remembering these church figures and complicates the heroic versions circulating about them by also considering the silences and omissions created by their stories. Chapter Six, on the tour, examines the memorial techniques adopted by the volunteer organization Nessun Uomo E' UnTsola as it attempts to consolidate Le Nuove's status as a heritage site. The chapter considers the fate of four other closed-down prisons it draws parallels in the ways performances such as symbolic returns, memorial celebrations and the active re-inscription of meaning into prison spaces through tours, are used to ensure particular readings of these sites. The sites are seen as sacred and as intrinsically able, by their very physicality, to transmit emotions which can be transformed into historical knowledge. The chapter highlights the problems inherent in this view of prison sites and calls for an explicit articulation of our priorities for heritage based on knowledge of suffering from the past. The chapter on the outer walls, concludes the thesis by considering the ways Le Nuove can still be seen to contain and embody dangerous meanings for the city. It examines the case of a demonstration which took place in 1998 outside the prison walls and considers how demonstrators seemed to play with some of the dangerous symbolic associations the prison site evoked. This case is used as an example of a performance by which various pasts from Le Nuove get reinscribed in the prison space and it futher stresses that it is through performance that cultural memory is produced and elaborated. The chapter ends by asking Neil Harris's question: 'How long should a building live Does it have, or does the larger community possess, certain rights to its survival Do certain building types merit longer lives than others'37 and leaves the reader to ponder these questions in relation to Le Nuove prison.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available