Working-CLASS Ecology Environmental Issues and Labour Resistance at the Ilva Steel Plant in Taranto, Apulia (Italy)

Monday, 11 July 2016: 11:05
Location: Hörsaal 16 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Emanuele LEONARDI, Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal
Stefania BARCA, Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal
In what terms can we speak of the working-class as an environmental subject, and how can we understand its ecology? How does the concept of working-class help us advance our understanding of ecological crises and of environmentalism? The paper will address these issues in both theoretical and empirical terms. In the first part, against the background of the recently emerged field of environmental labour studies, we will offer a critical review of environmental sociology and political ecology highlighting the contribution they have given to a redefinition of class and social inequalities in general. We will then elaborate our own definition of ‘working-class ecology’, as that which is developed upon the experience of nature, the environment, and environmental politics made by those human groups who are daily engaged in physical work for their subsistence and reproduction (in industry, service jobs, agriculture, fisheries etc.), and who typically live in segregated or marginalized spaces that can be understood as the ‘sacrifice zones’ of the industrial system. In the second part, we will apply such concept to the case of a working-class community in the city of Taranto, southern Italy, where the threatened closure of a giant steelmaking complex, the ILVA plant, due to serious violations of environmental regulations, is jeopardizing thousands of jobs, thus forming a threat to the local community’s subsistence and identity. We will be investigating the surreptitious way through which both governmental and business actors have actively prevented the making of a class-based environmental consciousness in Taranto, by examining i) how the socio-discursive formation of the 'sacrifice zone' has historically emerged and shaped the local community’s life and identity; ii) how a sustainable way out from such a production-based impasse can be envisioned, which crucially incorporate the working-class perspective.