The Management of Public Spaces in Naples: An Essay in Urban Legal Geography

Friday, July 18, 2014: 6:10 PM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Andrea VARRIALE , Institut fuer Europaeische Urbanistik, Bauhaus-University of Weimar, Weimar, Germany
The main red thread crossing the debate about the disparity between Italy’s northern regions and their southern counterparts is the polarity between the categories of “modern” and “pre-modern”. This polarity has been used to portray the two regions as intrinsically different in their economies, politics and cultures. Although the use of this dichotomy has proved useful for emphasizing the gap between the two, this has been achieved, I argue, at the cost of exaggerating their differences: the South has been described with the categories of pre-modernity, community, informality. Symmetrically, the north has been associated to modernity, society and formality. The attributes of “developed” and “under-developed” have been assigned accordingly.              
I argue that a study of formality and informality can be helpful to understand how these territorial imbalances are reproduced, provided that the former are understood as simultaneous, not mutually exclusive systems of rules. To do so, I analyse how three significant public spaces in Naples, southern Italy's biggest city today and its capital in the past, are regulated via formal and informal rules. With personal observation and interviews with local authorities, planners, local activists and users, I seek to understand how the interaction of formality and informality produces these spaces.
Both formal and informal regulation, it is posited, exist in the city, and neither is intrinsically desirable or conducive to development. Rather, well-functioning public spaces are posited to result from a distinct mix formality and informality, whereby the two are both present and complementing each other. An explorative case study will be carried out in January 2014. There, the two sets of indicators (measuring the relative and the absolute strength of formal and informal rules) will be tested. At the RC21 conference I wish to present that case study and an assessment of the methodology adopted.