Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of California / Berkeley

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Geography, University of California / Berkeley
Back to the Homeland: Neofascism, Precarity and Crisis in the New Borderlands of 'Fortress Europe'

In this project I explore the rise of nativist, xenophobic and neo-fascist sentiments among Italian youth since the 2008 crisis in the newly opened borderlands of Central Europe, by investigating the booming back-to-the-land movements in the decaying border-town of Trieste. While in 2007 the EU free trade area expanded beyond the old Iron Curtain borders, in 2008 Europe was hit by the most damaging economic crisis in decades. Since then, Trieste unemployed or precariously employed youth (precari/e) have reopened hundreds of abandoned gardens along the edge of the newly opened border to Slovenia as community centers, collective gardens and ecological villages. In order to deal with both professional and personal crises, they claim to go back to the "madre terra" (mother Earth/motherland), and are simultaneously renegotiating their relationships with both nature and nation, land and homeland. Their opposition to Berlusconi-era neoliberal policies and back-to-the-land spirit today coexist with growing xenophobic sentiments, and many among them support the nativist group Trieste Libera (Free Trieste), arguing for the independence of the city from Italy and reclaiming its hinterland, now part of Slovenia and Croatia. I will thus engage in an ethnography of new communities opened by Italian-speaking youth along and across the old border, in order to investigate the ways in which the production of new relationships between the "Italian" and the Eastern European "other" is remaking these post-Iron Curtain borderlands in everyday life. In the context the recent rightward shift in many parts of "Fortress Europe", my project builds on an understanding of borderlands as inescapable spaces of encounter with difference, critically challenging reductive views of contemporary Europe as a monolithic fortress.