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Title: Images of backwardness and modernity : identity and the reproduction of stereotypes in a south Italian town
Author: Farrell, Michael James
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1991
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The aim of this thesis is to explore the relationship between 'core' and 'periphery' in the context of a South Italian town clled Grottaminarda. It focusses on the way in which the people deal, in their everyday lives, with the process of integration into an economy and culture which extends far beyond the boundaries of the local community to national and supra-national levels. My contention is that integration has brought people face to face with images and stereotypes of backwardness and modernity. Consequently these images have become an important part of their identity; of the way they place themselves and perceive themselves as being placed in the social world. In this situation, people's self-positionings are a matter of struggle. Chapter One assesses the way in which the relationship between core and periphery has been approached in theory, and in the context of South Italy. The two approaches which have dominated - 'dependency theory' and 'action theory' are regarded as inadequate. The former is too mechanistic and economistic; the latter focusses too heavily on the interpersonal level and on the political arena. A new approach is suggested which shifts the analysis to the level of representation and identity. Living on the periphery is not just a matter of economic exploitation or political domination but is also a matter of the symbolic appropriations of a dominant culture. Chapters Two and Three provide an historical account of the relationship between core and periphery both in South Italy generally (in Chapter Two) and at Grottaminarda in particular (in Chapter Three). In Chapter Two, particular attention is drawn to the classification of the South as backward. In Chapter Three an attempt is made to show at what point the complex of images of backwardness involved in this classification became part of the everyday life of local people. Chapters Four and Five provide a basic picture of the geographical, demographic and economic chracteristics of the community. The former suggests that the putatively objective and neutral categories used to describe these basic facts about the town should not be taken for granted, but rather questioned in much the same way as the stereotypes of the South with which the thesis is concerned. In Chapter Five, it is shown that the contemporary local economy is characterised by continued precariousness together with an increased dependency on wider economic spheres. The next four chapters (Six to Nine) are the ethnographic 'backbone' of the thesis. The purpose of each is to describe the way in which the core images of backwardness and modernity have become part of people's everyday relationships. Each focusses on a particular set of relationships: the family and the life cycle; class and status; politics; and identity, and looks at the way in which people struggle for position in the core classification in the context of these relationships. The penultimate chapter before the conclusions is an attempt to characterise this struggle through the interpretation of the town's involvement in a national television quiz programme. Every aspect of the event is revealing of the nature of core-periphery relations and of the way in which they are reproduced through images of backwardness and modernity. It is also extremely revealing of the subordinate position of Grottesi within this relationship. The thesis concludes by emphasising that any attempt to suggest that local people construct their own identity, must be tempered with the recognition that the odds are stacked against them: their own 'strategic emplacements' are made in the context of a classification that has already placed them in a subordinate position.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available