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The political uses of identity an enthnography of the northern league

Fernandes, Vasco Sérgio Costa (2009) The political uses of identity an enthnography of the northern league. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This is a thesis about the Northern League (Lega Nord), a regionalist and nationalist party that rose to prominence during the last three decades in the north of Italy Throughout this period the Northern League developed from a peripheral and protest movement, into an important government force. In the last political elections (April 2008) the Northern League gained more than 20% of the votes in the North, guaranteeing in this a way an important role in the new conservative coalition guided by Silvio Berlusconi. In particular, I set out to explore the ways in which the Lega press for the construction of a northern national identity and offer this as a case study through which we might further our understanding of the social and political uses of identity in the context of modem Europe. The success of the Northern League has been largely explained, up until now, in terms of its capacity to represent, politically, the material conflicts between the industrialized but politically peripheral North and the central state. For this reason, the League's attempts to reconstruct a local ethnic identity and later on the creation and imagination of a northern nation (Padania) has been mainly analysed as a rational and pragmatic invention, used as part of the struggle for political power. Such an approach, however, can overlook the extent to which non-material circumstances (habits, beliefs, social practices, and moral ideas) influence individuals' political choices. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among Northern League activists in the region of Veneto, and more precisely in the provinces of Belluno and Treviso, these aspects were analysed in the following way. After establishing the historical and methodological context, I go on to consider the disaffection of the Northern League with the Italian state, its history and its institutions. I then investigate the Northern League's model of identity construction through the study of public ceremonies, political speeches, and ritual practices. I continue to draw on ethnographic fieldwork in order to make visible the relationship between the imagination of the Northern Identity and local social practices. I then go on to examine, at the micro level, a number of local economic practices and their connections with the League's ideology. The last chapter focuses on the role of gender, linking the self-representation of local men with the League’s concept of authority. I conclude that in order to understand the economy of identity, its production, exchange and circulation, identity has to be seen in the light of social actors' practices and direct experiences of everyday life. For this reason, I argue that leghismo ought to be understood not just as a subject of political representation, but also as a strategy through which local actors try to make sense of, and adapt to - or more importantly transform - their own social world.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:25

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