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The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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Contentious politics by other means. New Environmentalism and the Politics of Expertise in Florence and Venice

On Thursday, 9 March, Riccardo Emilio Chesta (EUI) will present his work on new environmentalism and the politics of expertise in Italy at 5pm in Room Simone del Pollaiolo.

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On Thursday, 9 March, Riccardo Emilio Chesta (EUI) will talk about Contentious politics by other means. New Environmentalism and the Politics of Expertise in Florence and Venice. Territorial mobilizations concerning big infrastructural projects often become arenas of contention where expertise crosses political and technical claims. In the Italian case, the mobilization of expertise has been recently recognized by activists and intellectuals as one of the major traits of a rising «new environmentalism». The new aspect of this wave of collective action resides in the elaboration of alternative politics linking bottom-up communitarian knowledge with expert advice. This innovation addresses important questions for participation and democracy in general, since expert knowledge maintains indeed a delicate relation with democratic politics. In this paper I aim at analyzing how common citizens, political activists and experts participate in mobilizing expertise, constructing knowledge and finally contributing in making «technical democracy» work. I focus on a comparative study of mobilizations occurred in the city of Venice and Florence, given their importance for the rise of the so called «new environmentalism». Analyzing 4 protest campaigns I will shed lights on the mechanisms of co-production focusing on bottom-up expertise mobilization as well as on experts enrollment and their peculiar forms of engagement. In both cities I have selected 2 cases depending from their variation in conflict intensity and citizens’ participation. While in each city some problems tend to be confined in restricted mobilizations – regarding mainly activists and experts – others show high levels of participation and broader knowledge diffusion. Using a contentious politics approach, I investigate the social and political conditions characterizing these 4 protest campaigns together with the type of infrastructural projects. Crossing these two main dimensions – political conditions and technological factors – allows to look at the role of different expert cultures (professional and disciplinary habitus) and their interaction/intersection with political cultures (e.g. political ecologist, conservationist, environmentalist). This gives indeed the possibility to analyze practices and cultures at the border of politics and expertise. To get a general picture of the actors mobilizing I started conducting a media analysis on the main newspaper at the city level. I’ve integrated these informations with the analysis of documents produced by the different actors involved – from citizens groups to social movements organizations – like on-line web sources, newsletters, press release and dossiers, petitions, scientific articles and books. The main data have been gathered through an intensive ethnographic fieldwork in the cities, attending public meetings, assemblies, demonstrations and finally interviewing the main concerned actors. I conducted more than 50 in-depth interviews with public authorities, experts, activists and citizens playing a central role in the mobilization.

News

13/12/2017

Call for Paper: Conference “1968-2018, fifty years after: Where is the social movements field going?”

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Taking the 1968 anniversary as a stimulating moment for reflection, this conference seeks to provide space for looking at the implications of that period on social movement research as well as addressing a number of key questions in current social movement research.

04/12/2017

Martin Portos Garcia wins the ISA's Seventh Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists

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The International Sociological Association has just announced the list of the winners of the Seventh Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists engaged in social research, amongst which Martin Portos Garcia - post-doc fellow at COSMOS

10/11/2017

Call for Application Now Open: Summer School on Youth Political Participation in Times of Inequalities

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We are pleased to announce that the call for applications is now open for the Summer School on Youth Political Participation in Times of Inequalities, sponsored by the Reinventing Democracy in Europe: Youth Doing Politics in Times of Increasing Inequalities project (EURYKA) and the Centre on Social Movement Studies (COSMOS).

Publications

Journal Article - 2017

Repertoires of knowledge practices: Social movements in times of crisis

Donatella della Porta and Elena Pavan
Starting from the assumption that knowledge becomes all the more important for movements in times of crisis, as old structures are challenged and new ones envisaged and proved feasible, the purpose of this paper is to suggest ways to expand the toolkit of social movement studies in order to empirically address knowledge practices as a meaningful part of contemporary progressive activism.

Journal Article - 2017

’Solidarietà sconvenienti’. Reti online di estrema destra contro e per la riforma dell’Europa

Elena Pavan and Manuela Caiani
By focusing on the websites of extreme right organizations in six European countries (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom) and by making a combined use of digital research tools and social network analysis, we explore how extreme right organizations make a strategic use of ICTs to connect in the online space and the arguments they move forward to criticize and reform current projects of European integration. Our results suggest that ICTs sustain the construction of inconvenient solidarities in heterogeneous ways, supporting different modes of online conversations amongst extreme right websites which, in turn, affect their capacity to propose shared critiques and proposals to reform the European Union.