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Enclosing the Sea. Remaking Work and Leisure Spaces on the Naples Waterfront, 1870–1900

3 years ago, Written by , Posted in Academia, Articles

By Marco Armiero

In Radical History Review 2011 Volume 2011, Number 109: 13-35

 

Abstract: At the end of nineteenth century, the city of Naples, Italy was hit by a cholera epidemic that affected the fishers’ neighborhoods that lined the seaboard with special intensity. As a consequence of the epidemic, the area was transformed from a poor neighborhood inhabited by fishers into a residential and leisure area for the upper-middle class. Fishers were forced to leave the area, thereby cutting the socio-ecological connections between this urban community and “their” sea, that is, a very special urban commons. This article examines how the sanitization project demolished not only fishers’ homes and infrastructures but also the very idea that work could coexist with nature in the same space. The dichotomist vision counterpoising nature to work also implicitly opposed fishers’ common use of space and natural resources. Nevertheless, “sanitization” did not occur without resistance. Whereas supporters of sanitization saw privatization and gentrification as the only means to preserve the beauty of the waterfront, other narratives used the picturesque as a common ground between nature and work. According to those narratives, the picturesque included the traces of work and daily life; the beauty of the Neapolitan waterfront was not in spite of fishers’ presence in the landscape, rather it was considered the by-product of the combination of nature and fishers’ ways of living and producing.

 

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