Changing meanings of the countryside in northern Italy
Jaro Stacul investigates the consequences of an Italian party’s discourse about the countryside, and how it has dovetailed with local concerns. He discusses the rise of the Lega Nord (Northern League) in the 1990s, a time of national disenchantment with established parties, then widely seen as deeply corrupt. Leaders of the populist Lega called for the recreation of a lost ‘authenticity’ and a traditional sense of community, propagating an idea of a northern Italian culture, denigrating southerners as lazy and parasitic, and criticizing the state as the distant imposer of an alienating ‘civilization’. To these rhetoricians, it was the northern countryside which was the repository of laudatory values, in particular an ethic of hard work. To the Trentino villagers, with whom he did fieldwork and whose area had not been incorporated into Italy until the end of the First World War, the Lega was attractive because they regarded the state as remote, if not indeed foreign, and as responsible for creating a National Park in their area. The state saw the park as a wild, public space; locals saw it as a restrictive practice which curtailed the exercise of their traditional practices, such as hunting, which they had carried out on land they regarded as cultivated, in effect private property.