“MEZZOGIORNO, MERIDIONALISTI, MERIDIONALITÀ, MERIDIOS”
Pagnini, Maria Paola
During a talk that followed the programme of this conference, Prof. Maria Paola Pagnini convinced me with her irresistible intellectual fervour that the location and the subject of the meeting were definitively going to attract Neapolitan geographers who wanted to discuss old and new data about the so-called questione meridionale from the point of view of cultural geography. That was an inspirational suggestion. It opened interesting hypothesis, as tackling the issues of space and society in Southern Italy in problematic and constructive terms. These issues have been at the core of national policies for years, though over the last decade they have turned a remote memory to many Italian political and social actors. We are now confronting the subject again, in the far Italian North-East, in close proximity to those movements that have shifted national interests, both culturally and politically. As geographers, here we have the opportunity to interweave the battered texture of the geography of the gap with new threads; new colours and new materials could give the whole picture all the nuances and colour varieties that can represent completely the complex reality of Southern Italy. A brighter colour will be brought in by a mix of new and old insights, and interdisciplinary contaminations which have built up the corpus of cultural geography through the contribution of foreign and Italian authors, to our distinguished colleague Claval's systemization, and more recently to Vallega's. The captivating idea beyond this work is defining the state of Southern Italy territory and society not specifically through the analysis of statistics and cartographies, but through the interpretation of individual tracks (according one of the suggestions of the conference's manifesto). In sight of the meeting in Gorizia, many older and younger geographers of the Neapolitan "geographical school" were captivated by this idea. However, as far as I am concerned, I did not take long to realize that committing myself to reflect on subjects such as Mezzogiorno, the concern and the commitment for the issues of Southern Italy (meridionalismo), and the spirit of Southern Italy (meridionalità) within an essay for a conference, was a rather optimistic and conceited attempt. Such a work implies the need to question the issue of Southern identity, comparing older and newer data, paying attention to how stereotypes can distort perspectives, revising some cultural approaches that have formed the different currents of meridionalista thought and controlled the birth of theories and practices for political actions in Southern Italy. Such reflections brought me through different readings of the Southern land, from mythology (the Garden of the Hesperides), to the natural syntax (a geologic disaster), and through the different socio-historical analysis, from Salvemini's "pessimism of reason", to the invocation for a revival in the hands of Dorso's "a hundred iron men", to the bitter observations of the global diffusion of organised crime. A fact proved evidently true: this paper will not treat exhaustively the subject despite my commitment following Maria Paola Pagnini cheering words. This paper will be the representation of some reflections that have been suggested also by a more recent bibliography, in a series of insets on the subject and the theme of the conference. I do hope my work will be a hint for future research and study.
Proceedings of the Conference THE CULTURAL TURN IN GEOGRAPHY, 18-20th of September 2003 - Gorizia Campus
Part VIII: Final Round Table