Global Rome

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Is 21st-century Rome a global city? Is it part of Europe's core or periphery? This volume examines the "real city" beyond Rome's historical center, exploring the diversity and challenges of life in neighborhoods affected by immigration, neoliberalism, formal urban planning, and grassroots social movements. The contributors engage with themes of contemporary urban studies-the global city, the self-made city, alternative modernities, capital cities and nations, urban change from below, and sustainability. Global Rome serves as a provocative introduction to the Eternal City and makes an original contribution to interdisciplinary scholarship.

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1 Diversely Global Rome / Bjørn Thomassen and Piero Vereni

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In Rome today, native-born Italians rub shoulders in daily life with immigrants from wildly different origins: Romanians and eastern Europeans who work in construction; Chinese men (and some women) running garment shops at the market of Piazza Vittorio; Bangladeshis working in restaurants and phone centers. In a new twist on the history of European colonialism, nuns from the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded in India by Mother Teresa, now come to the heart of Catholic Christendom, where they pray in English for the salvation of those living in the Roman peripheries.

An ethnographic approach to Rome forces us to develop a new understanding of globalization and the global city. Global city theory has relied too much on selected cities, such as London, Los Angeles, or New York, which have come to be seen as prototypical examples of the global. In the study of third-world cities, urban scholars have then tried to show how cities in the global “periphery” fit in—or not—with the prevailing models. It is time that we start to go deeper.

 

2 The Liberal, the Neoliberal, and the Illiberal: Dynamics of Diversity and Politics of Identity in Contemporary Rome / Michael Herzfeld

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The ascent to power of Pope Pius IX anticipates in many ways the paradoxical status of the Eternal City. Hailed as a liberator (and, more to the point, as a liberal), he soon demonstrated his repressively conservative and antirevolutionary colors and is now principally remembered as a cruel tyrant who authorized a virtual orgy of executions in the desperate and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to perpetuate Vatican control of Rome. His motives were not those of the Greek patriarch of Constantinople, whose opposition to his compatriots’ national revolution was inspired more by justifiable fear of Ottoman reprisals—they eventually executed him despite his stance—than by any principled disagreement with the revolution’s ideals. Pius IX, by contrast, did not fear the existing authority; he represented it in his own person. What he did fear and resist was the Vatican’s political collapse that, over a period stretching from the nationalist insurgents’ capture of Rome in 1871 to the Lateran Concordat signed with Mussolini in 1929, he and his successors were ultimately forced to accept.

 

3 Rome as a Global City: Mapping New Cultural and Political Boundaries / Pierluigi Cervelli

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The analysis presented in this chapter is the result of a research project concerning the use of space in Rome by men and women belonging to various immigrant groups: Chinese, Bangladeshi, Romanian, Albanian, and Roma. Their “spatial practices”1 appear to be based on an ability to innovatively and strategically interpret the relationships between areas which developed out of the sociopolitical model of urban space defined by Fascism—a model which outlived the regime and endured well into the postwar period (in my view until the 1980s). Studying the spatial practices of these immigrant groups allows us to make out the incipient transformations, the new political conflicts, and the emerging religious and linguistic cultural stratifications that make contemporary Rome a global city, profoundly different from the city it was a few decades ago. In order to verify this hypothesis on a macro level, I compare the urban model which developed through Rome’s transformations between 1871 and 1940 with the spatial practices of these groups, investigated through an examination of their sociodemographic data.

 

4 Housing and Homelessness in Contemporary Rome / Pierpaolo Mudu

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The history of contemporary Rome is one of urban development led predominantly by private interests which have caused an enormous burden of social conflict (Insolera 1993; Berdini 2008). In order to understand this development it is necessary to be familiar with a range of recurrent terms such as borgate, borghetti, palazzinari, abusivismo, and condono that describe important features in the evolution of the city’s housing market. Since 1870, Rome’s demographic growth has gone through four main phases. The first period followed Rome’s appointment as capital in 1870, when there were approximately 200,000 inhabitants. In the second period, in the 1930s, during Fascism, its inhabitants passed the one million mark (Rossi 1959). The third period was between World War II and the end of the 1960s. The fourth period concerns the last forty years, in which there has been a population decrease in the city of Rome and a growth in the rest of the province, generating sprawl and the creation of an extended environmentally unsustainable metropolitan area.

 

5 Torpignattara/Banglatown: Processes of Reurbanization and Rhetorics of Locality in a Suburb of Rome / Alessandra Broccolini

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One winter morning in 2010, I was strolling along a street in the Torpignattara neighborhood on the outskirts of Rome, where I have been engaged for some years in an ethnographic study of the Bangladeshi community in the area, when I saw a piece of plastic that had been taken from the rebuilding of a phone center and fixed to a wall. Someone unknown, who obviously wanted to annoy the Bangladeshi community, had written on the piece of plastic the name of a nonexistent street: Via della Banglanella. This very visible sign, opposite the sign with the street’s real name—Via della Marranella—was a mocking allusion to the massive colonization of that district by the Bangladeshi diaspora. For the whole morning, this improvised street sign, probably written by an Italian, remained on the street in full view of passersby until someone threw it into a nearby litter bin, where it nevertheless remained very visible for the rest of the day.

It seems to me that this anecdote, relating as it does to old and new names for urban spaces, serves as a good introduction to an essay that considers the new forms of urban settlement initiated by the Bangladeshi diaspora.

 

6 Foreign Pupils, Bad Citizens: The Public Construction of Difference in a Roman School / Piero Vereni

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A precise quantification of the presence of foreigners seems to be one of the main worries of Italian political institutions. “How many are they?” is a common question even in public schools. The Ministry of Education considers it extremely important to set apart Italian pupils from those “of non-Italian citizenship” independently of their actual linguistic competence and their level of socioeconomic integration (Miur-Ismu 2011a, 2011b). This quantitative attitude certainly derives from the “blood” principle of Italian citizenship, according to which one is Italian or foreign based on the nationality of one’s parents, notwithstanding one’s place of birth (i.e., the ius sanguinis principle). Yet the deeper reason for this fixation on numbers also relates to a more widespread social anxiety toward otherness felt by ordinary Italians, caused by a very rapid demographic change still underway. After a century of emigration, Italy became a receiving country during the 1970s (Colombo 2004) without being socially and politically ready for this unexpected turn. The number of incoming migrants has only accelerated since the turn of the millennium. Facing an unanticipated growing foreign presence, Italian institutions set in motion a numbering strategy which is readily understandable, since the objective annotation of sheer numbers constitutes a “minority” as a politically controllable entity and reinforces the status of the “majority” that is in charge of counting (Appadurai 2006).

 

7 Evicting Rome’s Undesirables: Two Short Tales / Isabella Clough Marinaro and Ulderico Daniele

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Global Rome’s identity today is not only fashioned by the flows of people who use it and move through it, but also by the migrants who have made it their home. Tourists, diplomats, and religious personnel, as well as refugees and economic migrants, contribute to the divides between extreme wealth and power and extreme poverty which are part of the specific global identity of the Eternal City. From a broader temporal perspective, Rome’s recent history as capital has been marked by a series of migratory waves which have been accompanied by a continuous dynamic of inclusion and exclusion of peripheral areas and communities. The locus of this dynamic, which has involved especially migrants, both Italian and foreign, has often been the city’s borghetti: shantytowns inhabited until their forced demolition in the 1970s and replaced by an urban sprawl of low-income housing, which absorbed into itself the small villages and towns of the Roman countryside (Ferrarotti 1970). Most new Romans’ practices of settlement in the city have had to face a form of urban development deeply intertwined with real-estate speculation that has resulted in an economically inflated private housing market compounded by gravely inadequate public housing policies (see Mudu, chapter 4). The arrival of large numbers of foreign migrants since the 1990s further reinforced speculation and exploitation in the housing market and simultaneously amplified the conflicts over access to public spaces. Rome’s piazzas, parks, and peripheral neighborhoods thus became the new arena of those contemporary struggles that, according to Bauman (1998), are typical of global cities.1 Roma migrants to the city—first Italians until the 1960s and then everrising numbers of foreigners since the 1970s—have been a part of those dynamics and struggles. However, unlike most other migrant communities, which have not tended to be the explicit targets of local government intervention and policies,2 Roma groups have, since the 1980s, been the objects of a clear strategy of management of urban spaces which has selectively dictated which parts of the city are accessible to them and which are off-limits. This exclusive attention to Roma has been motivated by notions of “otherness” and danger—their alleged propensity to bring crime and urban degradation—that have been historically associated with those labeled zingari and nomadi (gypsies and nomads). Of all the capital’s communities, the Roma are the group most frequently “evicted from eternity” (Herzfeld 2009) or, more precisely, they are those most commonly subjected to policies of displacement (see also Cervelli, chapter 3).3 The last decade has seen a dramatic intensification in the municipal authorities’ rhetoric concerning a perceived need to achieve order and security in the city. Much of this securitizing discourse, and the practices it has spawned, have focused on managing the Roma population.4 The Roma have long been targeted by drives to distance them from Rome and other Italian cities; however, we argue that today’s exclusionary practices are occurring within a new urban order which is redesigning the city’s spatial and social geographies. The many recent projects to transform and rehabilitate parts of the city have often had as their corollary the removal of Roma from residence and commercial activity in its neighborhoods and public spaces. This is effecting a clear erosion in their right to the city; a right which not only concerns the possibility of living within its boundaries but also the right to stable social relations, to visibility, and to a recognition of their needs and expectations.

 

8 The Rootedness of a Community of Xoraxané Roma in Rome / Marco Solimene

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Roma groups who originally came from Yugoslavia have been present in the Rome area for decades.1 Some settlements (for example, the Casilino 900 or Via Candoni camps)2 represent historically constituent elements of the outskirts of Rome, but a considerable number of Roma are to be found in small and transient settlements, dispersed among the interstices of the urban area and in spaces left empty by the people and institutions of Rome (see also Cervelli, chapter 3). The Roma, with their settlements under bridges and on the banks of the Tiber and the Aniene Rivers, their camper vans and caravans parked in wasteland, cross the city and live their lives among Romans. The Romans, for their part, have often viewed (and still view) this “otherness”—brazenly close and unpleasantly recognizable as “the gypsies”—as an alarming invasion.

The model adopted in most of the discourse on “nomads” in Italy is one that “degypsifies” society, both practically and symbolically. On the one hand, it is asserted as a matter of ideology that the Roma are separate from the history and the social fabric of the territory that offers them “hospitality”; on the other hand, policies concerning the Roma seem to be inspired primarily by a model of “inclusion by means of exclusion.” A glaring example of this are the nomad camps that, like all types of camp, mark the separation between those who live in them, human rubbish that cannot be recycled, and mainstream society.3 Yet Italy is anything but degypsified: The Roma are not only “part of the landscape,” but also a continuing source of interactions that are more or less wanted, sporadic, personal, or confrontational. The Roma’s relational networks, far from being closeted within a form of collective isolation, extend into networks of Italians and, in some instances, are kept up for many years. Thus, there seems to be a close and durable relationship between specific groups and specific territories. To speak of the Roma in terms of their being alienated from Rome and the Romans means ignoring one of the important dimensions of the Roma presence in a territory: their stability.

 

9 Ways of Living in the Market City: Bufalotta and the Porta di Roma Shopping Center / Carlo Cellamare

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An important and entirely new feature of recent urban development in Rome is the creation of several large conglomerations, mostly placed along the GRA (the Grande Raccordo Anulare or ring road) or near the main roads and motorways. These conglomerations have come into being primarily with the creation of large shopping complexes, often connected to extensive residential areas. There are now more than twenty-eight large malls (centri commerciali), some of them the largest in Europe, which have had a marked impact on the present layout of the city and, indeed, on living conditions in entire urban districts. For the most part, the conglomerations correspond to the so-called centralities envisaged by the new urban master plan.1 The purpose of this plan was among other things to regenerate the outer suburbs, but its consequences were very different: They took the form primarily of real-estate and financial transactions that benefited private promoters. This type of process seems to symbolize the current phase of development in Rome and the public policies that support it, a phase characterized by a quest for modernization, often in emulation of other “advanced” capital cities but without having undergone the maturing process of a “modernity” based on the riches and potential of the city aiming to have its own “high” profile.

 

10 Roma, Città Sportiva / Simon Martin

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Sports and sporting events have played a crucial role in shaping Rome, stimulating major transformations in urban planning and the evolution of the cityscape throughout its history. One of the largest urban footprints was left upon the city by the 1960 Olympic Games, which resulted in infrastructural changes and planning decisions that continue to resonate in the capital and among its inhabitants. As Rome prepared its bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, the question of whether the planners had learned any lessons from the past was inevitably posed. The decision not to back the bid, which was taken by the leader of Italy’s technical government Mario Monti and resulted in its withdrawal, suggested that at least the lesson of financial prudency had finally been understood. While good sense left Monti with almost no alternative, there was nonetheless huge potential for this major sporting event to, once again, radically affect urban development in the capital. Nonetheless, as analyses of Rome’s central role in Italy’s hosting of the 1990 World Cup finals and the more recent 2009 World Swimming Championships reveal, the positive potential has often come at significant cost. While leaving their marks upon the city, these international tournaments also revealed the type of internecine struggles for local and national political power and resources that have wracked Italy and Rome’s postwar history. Providing opportunities for illicit practices and corruption, such events were still fundamental moments in the capital’s development that have too often been overlooked and thereby warrant this overview.

 

11 Football, Romanità, and the Search for Stasis / Mark Dyal

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Rome is a city whose past is rich in images of warfare, conquest, and glory. From Virgil’s proclamation that the Romans were a people predetermined to rule the world, to Mussolini’s desire to reestablish Roman control of the Mediterranean, the idea that Rome and glory are interrelated has a long history. In contemporary Rome, it is an idea that has been adopted by the fans of the city’s football teams. As Associazione Sportiva Roma (AS Roma) and Società Sportiva Lazio (SS Lazio) search for wins in Italian and European football, both teams’ fans use a set of symbols culled from classical and fascist Rome designed to connect victory on the field, and often in the streets, with the idealized supremacy of Roman culture. However, these symbols are often at odds with the demographic realities of contemporary Rome. While the city is moving toward the multiculturalism found in other world capitals, many of its football fans embrace romanità, a deep affection for Rome and things Roman, in an effort to identify with a primordial Rome that is impervious to contemporary political and social trends. This chapter explains how football keeps alive a sense of Roman-ness that originated with the fascist regime, while also explaining the affinities and contrasts between the fans of AS Roma and SS Lazio.

 

12 Rome’s Contemporary Past / Valerie Higgins

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Is Rome’s ancient past a blessing or a curse? This may seem a strange question to ask seeing that classical heritage is an essential part of the identity of the city and revenue from cultural tourism underpins its economy. On the other hand, its patrimony can also be seen as a block to development and an insurmountable obstacle to Rome taking its place as a dynamic twenty-first-century global city. During the twentieth century, there was a conservative approach to cultural heritage which sought to protect historic cities by isolating them from economic development. Recently there has been a greater acceptance that heritage can be a functioning part of a modern economy and an increased awareness that turning cities into fossilized open air museums generates intractable social, economic, and conservation problems. Rome has remained somewhat resistant, though not immune, to these new trends. This chapter will explore the relationship between cultural heritage protection and urban development in Rome since 1960 with particular reference to the impact on three groups: the local population of Rome, the wider Italian nation that looks to Rome as its capital, and the international community attracted by heritage tourism. Discussions concerning development in Rome are often dominated by the practical difficulties generated by its dense cultural patrimony, but equally important are the ideological issues concerning what the city symbolizes, what past it seeks to protect, and to whom this past belongs.

 

13 The Self-Made City / Carlo Cellamare

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Nearly 30 percent of the city of Rome has been built illegally and the phenomenon is in constant development. Numerous forms of squatting, mostly of housing, are to be found throughout the city; similarly, there are widespread areas, some more marginal than others, under self-management and self-organization. Still more widespread are the misappropriations (and reappropriations) of the built environment by the city’s inhabitants. In many respects Rome, acknowledged (or aiming to present itself) at the national and international level as a great “modern” Western capital with a strong and stratified historical and cultural heritage, can be regarded as a “self-made city” whose urban development is driven less by centralized urban planning and more by spontaneous private initiative and improvisation. In this sense, Rome is unique among European capital cities.

This chapter considers the “informal city,” focusing especially on unauthorized construction: its general characteristics, its historical evolution, its more recent manifestations. This construction is characterized as one of the basic structural modalities of the city’s development: a sort of “parallel housing market” that responds to a demand based on “necessity,” as well as—sustained by speculative intentions—to one based on “affordability” for the poorer but also middle classes.

 

14 Marginal Centers: Learning from Rome’s Periphery / Ferruccio Trabalzi

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Finis Terrae, meaning “end of the earth” in Latin, is our starting point for the story of Idroscalo: an informal, illegal, self-built multicultural neighborhood located where the mouth of the Tiber River meets the Mediterranean Sea. An agglomeration of about three hundred homes in varying conditions of conservation and of uncertain aesthetics, Idroscalo has grown amid the benign neglect of all political coalitions that have governed Rome since the early 1960s. Idroscalo and its two thousand residents are an important example of a persistent urban practice that, since the end of World War II, has determined the form and shape of most of Rome’s periphery: unauthorized building. The history of this site reveals a further characteristic of Rome’s urban development: the negligent approach of city government toward the peripheries, which it often treats as if they were not part of the city but rather as accidents of the contemporary urban landscape. It is thus not surprising that when Rome’s authorities address the issue of the urban poor’s right to decent accommodation, they often do so in a violent manner.

 

15 Residence Roma: Senegalese Immigrants in a Vertical Village / Cristina Lombardi-Diop

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This chapter examines the dwelling practices that Senegalese immigrants devised—in one specific location in the city of Rome—as an attempt to respond to the failure of the capital’s integration policies. The site under consideration is Residence Roma, a residential building in the neighborhood of Forte Bravetta, located in the northern outskirts of Rome’s XVI municipality, where over two thousand immigrants lived between 2001 and 2006. Among them were at least eight hundred citizens of Senegal (most of whom were Wolof immigrants linked to the Sufi brotherhood of Mouridiyya), who established themselves in rented studio apartments. All of the Senegalese residents were evacuated at the end of 2007, the site was demolished, and new and expensive villas are being built in its place. Yet this story speaks to the city today. As a telling example of Rome’s transformation from national to global capital, it testifies to the existence of historical events that are not lost, but only removed from the present. They can be brought back to light by simply digging into them. The work of digging is exactly what this essay does, as this work fits the history of the city of Rome perfectly. When Mussolini during the 1930s decided to remember the imperial past, all he had to do was to “dig out” monumental places such as the Roman Forum. Yet, such an operation required the removal of other pasts, such as the medieval one. In Rome, some pasts are more easily forgotten than others, and some are simply too disturbing to deserve monuments to their memory. Against the grain of such forgetfulness, the work of this essay envisions Rome as a city that “has […] learned the art of growing old by playing on all its pasts” (de Certeau 1994, 91).

 

16 Where Is Culture in Rome? Self-Managed Social Centers and the Right to Urban Space / Pierpaolo Mudu

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Would not specific urban needs be those of qualified places, places of simultaneity and encounters, places where exchange would not go through exchange value, commerce and profit?

—Lefebvre (1996, 148)

In Rome, the construction of political spaces has changed significantly due to transformations in the social composition of the population and the development of the city. During the last twenty-five years, many abandoned buildings have been converted to self-managed social centers by leftist activists and other diverse groups. A social center is a space which originates through squatting an abandoned place, within which people experiment with forms of noninstitutional action and association through self-management (autogestione). Self-management means opting for a form of decision making which keeps out racism, sexism, social hierarchies, and all forms of oppression.

This definition provides only a partial picture of the complex political and organizational patterns of social centers, though. The characteristics of social centers are far from easy to define, but their history does reveal a number of features that are worth exploring. Most Italian ones are located in big cities such as Milan, Naples, Rome, and Turin, although some are also present in small towns in the north and center (Mudu 2004). Positioned outside the framework of mainstream institutions, social centers are significant and sophisticated grassroots initiatives, particularly when most of the people participating in their activities are “simply” there “to be with others” and to be part of a process of cultural production from below. Gathering together in a squatted place generates challenges and debates on various topics such as decision-making processes, local opposition to speculation, glocal resistance to capitalism and consumerism, queer spaces and the emergence of new urban forms and identities, and alternative modes of economic production and exchange. Social centers have complex histories and participate as nodes in larger networks that connect the local to the global. The centers represent vital engines for both cultural and political life in Italy’s urban centers; any attempt to grasp urban change must take their presence into serious account. The aims of this chapter are: (1) to introduce the reader to the development and complexity of social centers; (2) to analyze the particular experience of such centers in Rome; (3) to discuss some of the political trends that frame this experience; and (4) to engage with relevant theoretical approaches that support our analysis of this phenomenon.

 

17 Greening Rome: Rediscovering Urban Agriculture / Ferruccio Trabalzi

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As in many other cities in the world, urban gardening and farming are gaining space and relevance in Rome. Community gardens, vegetable gardens, playgrounds with a garden attached, cultivated tracts along the Tiber River and places in between buildings, under freeways in the periphery and in urban parks are slowly revitalizing abandoned or underutilized areas of the city and bringing them back into the public arena. The city is not new to urban farming. Vineyards and vegetable gardens existed within the old city walls until the nineteenth century; war gardens in the 1930s and 1940s were planted in the periphery as well as amid Roman monuments in the center; while post–World War II immigrants from the countryside of central Italy squatted empty plots on private and public land in the eastern periphery and along the Tiber and Aniene riverbanks to plant vegetables and fruit trees without official permission. Urban farming is thus both a new and an old feature of this city; the recent revamping of the practice, however, departs from local tradition in at least three distinctive ways.

 

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