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Cosmos

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

06/10/2017

Open Democracy Post - "The streets will always be ours" - Catalonia, a referendum from below

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Although some still conceive of the referendum as launched by a pro-independence vanguard, the elite story falls short of explaining the resilient participation of a large part of Catalan civil society. This post at Open Democracy addresses this issue from a different angle.

24/09/2017

New Publication Out - "Social movements and referendums from below. Direct democracy in the neoliberal crisis"

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A timely publication to shed light on the link between social movements that formed as a consequence of the 2008 financial crash and the referendums' dynamic and results.

25/08/2017

Donatella Della Porta con Yanis Varoufakis alla 13esima conferenza ESA

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Wednesday, August 30th (8pm-9.30pm) professor della Porta, who directs the Center on Social Movement Studies(Cosmos), will dialogue with Yanis Varoufakis, Greek Minister of Finance during the first Tsipras government, about the future of Europe and the social consequences of neoliberal economies

Publications

Monograph - 2018

Social Movements and Civil War : When Protests for Democratization Fail

Donatella della Porta, Teije Hidde Donker , Bogumila Hall , Emin Poljarevic
This book investigates the origins of civil wars which emerge from failed attempts at democratization. The main aim of this volume is to develop a theoretical explanation of the conditions under which and the mechanisms through which social movements' struggles for democracy ends up in civil war.

Monograph - 2017

Social movements and referendums from below. Direct democracy in the neoliberal crisis

Donatella Della Porta, Francis O'Connor, Martin Portos and Anna Subirats Ribas
Out now "Social movements and referendum from below", the first book that bridges the gap between social movement studies and research on direct democracy. It draws on social movement theory to understand the nature of popular mobilisation in referendums using unique case studies such as the referendum on independence in Scotland, the consultations on independence in Catalonia, the Italian referendum on water, the referendum on the Troika proposals in Greece and the referendum on the debt repayment in Iceland.