Monthly Archives: December 2010

Italia Oggi / Italy Today

Here is a short film made with the collaboration of some friends and colleagues in Torino, who reflect on the challenges facing contemporary Italians:

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In the REDD

Nice photo montage showing protests at Cancùn climate summit by Via Campesina (international peasants’ organization) and indigenous groups against the United Nations Collaborative Programs on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (aka REDD):

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Letter from Italy

The Berlusconi government seems to be on its last legs here in Italy, but somehow the old Mephistopheles seems to keep controlling the show – apparently bribery as well as arm-twisting has been involved.

Meanwhile, in Torino, where I’m teaching a mini-seminar, students have occupied many of the University of Torino buildings to protest the reform law currently being pushed through by Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini.

Like so many “reforms” carried out by the Berlusconi coalition government, this move is intended to rationalize Italian governance (in this case, of the universities) so that it resembles it more closely resembles that of the U.S.  Ironic, given the fact that our system is in hot water as a result of the fiscal crisis of the states, an issue that gets little press either in Italy or in the U.S.

Italian students are impressively militant and remarkably savvy politically speaking.  The Gelmini reform is couched in terms of efficiency – something which many aspects of Italian life could certainly use.  However, the students argue that the law contains provisions that include privatization of the universities, the cancellation of democratic processes of university governance, precariousness for faculty members, the commodification of knowledge, the creation of toxic hierarchies among university faculty through “merit pay.” Of course, many of these measures are already a taken-for-granted feature of academia in the U.S.

The students in Turin have been quite imaginative in their protests.  In addition to large marches through the streets of the city (you can still block traffic with a march here in Italy, unlike in the U.S.), the students have instituted a rotating series of occupations of different university buildings, and have also climbed on top of the main building housing the humanities, creating quite a stir among the Italian media.

Not so surprisingly, I haven’t noticed anything about these protests in the U.S. media.  It seems it takes violence against a member of the aristocracy (I’m thinking here of the British protestors’ attack on Prince Charles a day or two ago) to make it into the headlines.  Too bad Italy doesn’t have many members of the royalty in the limelight these days.

Here’s a video made by students that summarizes some of the major issues (afraid it’s in Italian):

 

 

 

 

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Commodifying the Environment

While the half-hearted climate talks drag on in Cancùn, World Bank president Robert Zoellick has announced that his organization will be creating a fund of $100 million to encourage developing countries to establish carbon markets.  Cynically enough, funds for adaption to the destructive impacts of climate change sweetens this bitter pill.

This new fund is rather like the US banking system: despite having crashed and thereby demonstrated its deep structural flaws, it continues to make money hand over fist for Wall Street insiders.  Similarly, the European Union’s carbon trading mechanism has been plagued by fraud and has crashed several times, and yet here comes the World Bank with a plan to extend this scheme to the rest of the globe.

Zoellick, it should be noted, as a US trade representative and deputy secretary of state under George W. Bush.  Why, one wonders, would anyone doubt the integrity of his motives as World Bank president?

 

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City of Lights

I’m spending a week in Turin, Italy, teaching a short seminar on “American Disasters” in the M.A. course at the Università di Torino.  Here’s a copy of the syllabus.

During the evenings, I’ve been walking the city.  It’s a truly beautiful place, filled with nineteenth century arches and arcades.  At this time of year, the city is also full of light displays.  Here’s a brief video of the city of lights:

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