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Urban Conflicts and Immigrants’ Engagement. A Comparative Pragmatic Analysis of Two Northern Italian Cities

  • Michela SemprebonEmail author
Article
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Abstract

At the beginning of the 1990s, urban safety entered political and media debates in Italy. Since then, an anti-social behaviour discourse has diverted attention towards newcomers who have repeatedly appeared as the main cause of urban safety conflicts. Italian scholars have often described these actors as the passive target of safety policies. The main aim of this paper is to demonstrate that in fact some residents of immigrant origins have engaged in the game of urban conflicts. A comparative analysis will be carried out to discuss contentious dynamics in two Italian cities, by building on ethnographical data collected between 2009 and 2010. The two cities which are the object of the analysis are Verona and Modena. They are situated in the so-called Third Italy, in the north of the country, and are characterised by diverging political subcultures. A consistent part of studies on immigrants’ collective action has drawn from the structural perspective and has insisted on political opportunities as a crucial explanatory variable. This contribution will show the added value of complementing this interpretation with a pragmatic sensitive one. Residents of immigrant origins will be observed while undertaking their thorny path of engagement characterised by the capacity to adapt, construct more or less lasting agreements with institutional and non-institutional actors and propose alternative solutions to influence a given context. Ultimately, this will also provide an example of how a pragmatic sensitive stance can help study politics in a continuum with policies, a preoccupation which lies at the core of urban theory.

Keywords

Urban conflicts Urban safety Immigrants’ political engagement Pragmatic sociology Political opportunity structure 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The earliest version of this paper was presented in September 2009 at the International Conference of the Italian Society of Political Science in the workshop “Contentious dynamics in local contexts” chaired by Tommaso Vitale e Noemi Podestà. I wish to thank both of them as well as all the participants, including, Marc Breviglieri, Donatella Della Porta, Maria Fabbri, Luca Pattaroni, Mathieu Pelletier, Luigi Pellizzoni, Pedro José García Sánchez, Catherine Trudelle. for the very useful comments and for the encouragement to progress with my work and publish it. I also wish to thank those who read later versions of this paper: Ilenya Camozzi, Daniela Cherubini, Letterio Panto, Davide Però, Fabio Quassoli, Tommaso Vitale, Roberta Marzorati. Finally I am very grateful to Jennifer Rowland for her precious proofreading.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.VeronaItaly

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