We were determined from the outset to study the Lega as a political force which emerged in a specific socio-economic context and at a particular time in the evolution of Italian politics. By working together we could aspire to do this with a thoroughness that neither of us would have achieved without the other. The book develops themes on which the authors have in some cases previously worked and published. The bibliography contains all our relevant publications on the Northern Question and Italian politics.
The book is unquestionably better because of this. The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation provided us with funds to carry out interviews with business and political leaders in northern Italy in June—October We wish to thank all the people we interviewed and others who made such interviews possible. Anna Bull also wishes to thank the British Academy for an earlier research grant which enabled her to carry out a series of interviews with. An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.
No cover image. Read preview. Moreover, our positionality is not ascribed, fixed; on the contrary, it is relational:. Every form of knowledge, therefore, is rooted in subjectivity and related to embodied experience. The Secretary looks at me and observes my reaction. I keep my head down and, after a very long moment of hesitation, I raise half a smile.
While I choose to smile I felt awful. Later on, going back home, I wonder whether it was a sort of test to understand my poli-tical views. Of course, before I started my fieldwork, I was theoretically aware of the potential problems related to my research subject. I tried to circumvent these problems by reading about the Northern League and about other, similar research experiences. I quite carefully planned my fieldwork, reflecting on possible answers to difficult questions and appropriate reactions in different situations. However, it is difficult to establish a precise course of action in advance or to predict specific conflictual situations and reactions, both on my part and on the part of my informants.
This identity, if disclosed, could have triggered the aversion of my interlocutors for these types of ethnographical experiences, see Fortier, ; Bizeul, I am sitting next to the Mayor of a nearby town. Then I tell him, falsely, that I voted for a moderate, autonomist party in the region where I come from. I explain that that party is not a particularly significant party in my region because it is the heir to the Christian Democratic Party and everybody votes for them.
My reply was an outright lie.
Indeed, my interest in politics has marked my whole life because it is one of the main reasons that led me to make it a subject of my research. It was a double lie also with respect to relational intentions. Secondly, I lied choosing a party I never voted for, simply because, given its territorial nature, this party could be a point of affinity with the militants.
In short, my reply was incorrect from a relational and deontological point of view, but which at the same time was indicative of my desire to produce results at any rate, even though it made me unhappy because of the contradictions I had to live through. In fact, during my research I repeatedly found that my gender identity, together with my relatively young age, reassured my interlocutors, assigning me a less threatening role. I went with the branch Secretary and a young female militant.
The Secretary introduced himself as the Deputy Mayor, since he actually holds that office. Thanks to his institutional role it was possible for us to bypass security checks by using an entrance reserved for the authorities. There followed evident manly looks and smirk of complicity between the two men.
I thank Gigi, who goes away.
After a while Giovanni, another militant, tells me exactly the same thing. He adds that on the bus that I have to take there are few Italians and numerous immigrants. It is important to notice that this attitude involved also the women of the party, often subjected to irony, erotic jokes and in general confined to an ancillary role. This aspect was particularly contradictory for me: on the one side, I felt a very empathetic solidarity towards women who, in my perspective, were openly discriminated against; on the other side, it was clear that those women actively took part in that gender order and system of values.
Faced with strong political and ethical solicitations, I chose to mask my feelings and opinions. This decision played an important role in the research process, in relation to three main aspects, examined in the following section: relational, epistemological and political.
Hence, my choice not to reveal anything about my experiences as a political activist proved to be a decision somewhat difficult to manage throughout the fieldwork. I spent most of the time in fear of being unmasked: a simple online search would have sufficed to discover my enormous distance from the ideas of the party. This concealment, besides being difficult to manage in terms of constant control over myself, also caused a sense of relational distress. My fieldwork experience was ambivalent and nuanced: I shared several moments with the militants, establishing a special empathy with some of them.
Therefore, I often felt dishonest and disrespectful towards people that, although distant from my opinions and values, were revealing themselves to me and inviting me into their organizational and political world. In dealing with this, I tried to go beyond superficial and useless guilt by reflecting more thoroughly on my situation. However, there were also more personal and emotional issues at play. In this emotional state, I was very conscious of my limitations: I knew that I certainly would not have been able to manage an open conflict with the militants.
My main relational difficulty lay in the conflict between openness and humane empathy towards the social world under study and its political culture, which for me was unappealing. It is a process that ramifies, deviates and changes, in which the researcher makes choices dictated by circumstances and opportunities that in turn can determine a certain development of the research instead of others.
For example, at the end of the branch meetings in Metropolis, a large group of militants would usually go to a nearby pub to close the meeting with a few drinks together. Whilst it was possible for me to join them, I chose to do so only twice.
I decided to decline in order to avoid dealing with a burdensome situation, especially at the end of already stressful participant observation at the branch. Plagued by a sense of ethnographic guilt, I wondered, in the first instance and very banally: why at Contrada do I go willingly to the bar with the militants after the meeting and at Metropolis I am so reluctant to do so? What causes this resistance to doing something that I have already shown that I can handle?
I realized that in the case of Metropolis there were much more overtly hierarchical relations, marked by a kind of militaristic virilism and a strong form of identification with the party very much based on control with respect to the outside world. At Contrada relations were instead rather close and confidential. The model was not the military one, but rather the extended rural family not necessarily less vertical or patriarchal, but decidedly more welcoming in relational terms.
I then connected these considerations to the different territorial contexts of the two sections. Therefore, reflecting on what was unspoken my non-positioning or unknown data not collected in the research experience may be a source of important epistemological reflection on what can or cannot aspire to the status of research data. It highlighted how the identity positioning of the ethnographer may have profound effects on the construction of data and on the entire research process, as well as on the inevitably political nature of the observational relationship.
The first has to do with a certain representation of science, knowledge, and their statuses, which I contributed to reproduce during the fieldwork phase. Through implementation of this code I made myself almost untouchable, thus gaining a position of contingent serenity. The Northern League is in fact a party that has made ignorance and rudeness an identificatory and symbolic populist resource De Matteo, , although associated with a certain degree of social stigma.
The party seems to have ambivalent feeling toward intellectuals, who are at the same time the object of hostility and unconfessed admiration. Moreover, an even more important element is that I ended up reinforcing a representation and a politics of knowledge that in other contexts I fiercely criticize and strongly contest.
I became entangled in a web of political codes that, while not sharing them, I partially reproduced: the already-mentioned representation of science; the gender relations of a sexist nature; the racist and populist utterances which I did not contest. From this point of view, the peculiar situation of the ethnographer — as the tool and subject of the observational process — afforded me the fundamental epistemological experience of becoming part of the political culture that I intended to study. When studying a culture that the ethnographer does not sympathize with — and vice versa — it is necessary to deal with the general, profound ambivalence of the ethnographic method that challenges emotions, subjectivities, and vulnerabilities by prescribing a relational exchange, even and especially?
In the case of my research experience and in other, similar ones , indeed, the ethnographer is part of a minority extreme-left activism and feminism within a social world that embodies a more dominant culture. The first, as already mentioned, is the relational difficulty of positioning.