Urban renewal, immigration, and contested claims to public space: The case of Piazza Garibaldi in Naples

Dines, N.

Go to article

Dines, N. (2002). Urban renewal, immigration, and contested claims to public space: The case of Piazza Garibaldi in Naples. GeoJournal, 58(2–3), 177–188.

citizenship , immigration , Italian urban politics , public space , urban renewal , urban representation

This article examines the relationship between immigration and urban renewal in Naples during the 1990s through the conflicting representations and uses of Piazza Garibaldi, a large piazza located in front of the city’s central railway station. As well as the hub of the city’s public transport network, since the mid-1980s this piazza has been the multifunctional space for a number of immigrant groups. Re-envisioned as the ‘gateway’ to the city’s regenerated centro storico (historic centre) during the 1990s, the piazza became a focus of public debates on security, tourism and, in particular, immigration. I examine how these issues intersected with political discourses about a renewed sense of citizenship in redefining the piazza as a strategic but problematic public space. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and analysis of local newspaper reports, the article looks at the ways in which the piazza has been appropriated by different immigrant groups for social and economic purposes, and how, at the same time, they have been excluded from discourses about a ‘new’ Naples.

Main finding
The Piazza Garibaldi in Naples became the center of urban renewal efforts following the G7 Summit. The Piazza became a symbol of urban decay even though it had previously been seen as an iconic part of the city. The piazza split into two different kinds of public space: the piazza itself and the piazza as a source of discourse. Immigrants’ opinions of the piazza were not taken into account in this discourse. Legally and politically, immigrants were represented as illegitimate members of the public and their use of the public space for ‘private’ activities such as sleeping, drinking, or eating, was often used to delegitimize their presence as a disordered mass. As immigrants were blamed for the ‘decline’ of the piazza, they have occasionally used the piazza for collective action and protests, asserting their right to the city.

Description of method used in the article
In addition to analysis of newspaper reports and political debates at the national and local level, the author engaged in ethnographic fieldwork to shed light on excluded perspectives. In-depth, recorded interviews were conducted with institutional actors and others with a relationship to the plaza. Additionally, unrecorded guided visits were given by immigrants of various ethnic backgrounds which provided insight into uses of the space, its significance and thoughts about related issues like security. Key informants were between ages 25 and 40 and of the nationalities interviewed those of African and Asian descent were all male while the Poles and Ukrainians were predominantly female.

Policy implications

Organising categories