The purpose of this paper is to examine the disruption and reconfiguration of the territorial organisation of the central Italian town of L’Aquila resulting from actions taken by the special commissioner, a plenipotentiary official appointed by the central government, during the ten-month emergency period following the 2009 earthquake. The study attempts to determine how during the commissioner’s short tenure the territory of L’Aquila was restructured for many years to come.
The paper discusses two major issues: first, the short-term reconfiguration of the territorial organisation through mixed operative centres (Centri Operativi Misti, henceforth COMs); and, second, the long-term fragmentation of the physical and social fabric of the town through the resettlement of thousands of families in 19 semi-permanent housing developments located in outlying, rural areas of the municipality. The methods adopted were both qualitative and quantitative. The qualitative methods involved in-depth examination of official documents and interviews with key witnesses such as local administrators, citizens and activists. Quantitative methods included the GIS analysis of spatial and census data to assess changes in population after the earthquake.
The most significant finding of this study concerns the COMs and their misuse as a tool of centralised, authoritarian governance. Analysis of the territory’s reorganisation revealed that the model of emergency management followed in L’Aquila, far from taking into account unique features of the local population and territory, was hetero-centred and consistent with neoliberal thought. Understanding violence to be an unfolding process, the author argues that such a model of management can be seen as an application of state violence.
This paper adds a new case study to the discussion of the role of the state and the application of neoliberal policies in disaster recovery. The main originality of the paper lies in its focus on COMs and their peculiar use as a tool for implementing an authoritarian model of disaster management.
Valent, G. (2019), "Disaster recovery and violence in neoliberal times: community and spatial fragmentation in L’Aquila", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 446-459. https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-01-2018-0032Download as .RIS
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On 6 April 2009, the city of L’Aquila and the surrounding area were hit by a 6.1 Mw earthquake, which caused 308 deaths and injured more than 1,500 people. The old town centre became almost entirely uninhabitable, and severe damage was recorded in adjacent urban areas and nearby villages, leaving some 67,500 people homeless. Most of the old town was completely evacuated, and a “Red Zone” was established, accessible only to security operators (Alexander, 2010a). The consequences of the earthquake were particularly serious for the historic centre of L’Aquila, as the Department of Civil Protection (DPC) declared most buildings in the Red Zone uninhabitable (Class E) or uninhabitable due to external causes (Class F). In the city centre, Class E buildings made up 62.8 per cent of all damaged buildings, compared to the 25 per cent registered in the rest of the affected zone. A total of 1,567 buildings were unusable after the earthquake (Frisch, 2009).
The Italian Government entrusted emergency management to the DPC, whose Director, Guido Bertolaso, was appointed Special Commissioner (SC) by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on 6 April 2009.
This paper examines the disruption and reconfiguration of the territorial organisation of L’Aquila resulting from the SC’s actions during the emergency period, attempting to determine how the commissioner’s ten months of management succeeded in restructuring the territory fundamentally for many years to come. Following Elden’s (2013) influential discussion of “the birth of territory”, I define “territorial organisation” as the exercise of political power on a bounded area by first delimiting and shaping it. This paper offers analysis of disaster governance and discusses the role of Centri Operativi Misti (COMs), the districts into which the province of L’Aquila and certain areas of the provinces of Teramo and Pescara were divided immediately after the earthquake (Alexander, 2013). The case study will be situated within the context of literature regarding state violence and the state of exception, wherein a strong relation to neoliberal policies will be established. Klein (2007) and Springer et al. (2016) agree that because disasters cause disorientation amongst the affected people, they create opportunities for exploitation and allow the introduction of neoliberal policies without opposition (Adams et al., 2009; Rivlin, 2005). In this paper, the term “violence” is not intended to convey the common meaning of physical violence, arbitrary detention or heavy constraints upon a person or a group (Agamben, 2005), although the aftermath of this earthquake did see the application of certain restrictions which might be considered “violent” in this sense, from abridgment of the right of assembly in the tent camps to the deployment of the army. Rather, Alexander (2010a, 2013) aligns the L’Aquila intervention with the military term “overwhelming force”. Violence, in this sense, has been exercised on the territory, the local government and the body of the citizenry as a whole (rather than single individuals), and it has been applied in an “unfolding process” (Springer, 2016, p. 9) rather than as a single event. Such violence was inflicted during the massive government mobilisation of personnel and equipment to occupy the territory, and also in its purely technical approach to recovery, which reduced territorial complexity. Violence was done to local authorities by excluding them from decision-making processes. Finally, the people themselves experienced violence in being treated as voiceless subjects rather than citizens with the ability and right to play an active role in the recovery. What is more, the involvement of the people and of grassroots organisations was deliberately prevented in L’Aquila (Forino, 2015).
Drawing upon recent literature on the violence of neoliberalism, I argue that neoliberalism, far from entailing the retreat of the state from governing processes and from the exercise of oppressive power, actually fosters increased violence and authoritarianism through the increasingly tight connection between institutions and economic interests, as this case shows. The intervention strategy established in L’Aquila can be summarised as a combination of deregulation policies and the concurrent application of strict control. The strategy was established under the authority of the SC, upon whom the prime minister conferred full power to manage the recovery process in the area. To facilitate economic operators and promote a well-defined model of reconstruction, a broad derogation of urban rules, public contract transparency laws and rules protecting citizens against harmful effects of the works was applied in L’Aquila. Over 100 articles of law were derogated (Valent, 2018). Moreover, strict control was exercised over citizens, the media and local authorities (Valent, 2018). A dual-action system, typically neoliberal, was deployed, consisting of a policy of “non-interference” towards business combined with heavy state interventions aimed at preventing or repressing social action (Wacquant, 2013).
The first part of this paper discusses the COMs, which remained in force for nine months, from April until December 2009. A large number of functions were entrusted to COMs, the boundaries of which were delimited by the commissioner, leaving only formal and bureaucratic duties to the mayor of L’Aquila and other local mayors, who, according to law, should have been the primary civil protection authorities (Alexander, 2010b). The actions taken to manage the emergency became vehicles for disrupting the pre-existing territorial organisation. The nature of this reorganisation was strongly authoritarian (Turco, 2010) and hetero-centred (Alexander, 2010a, 2013), and it was mirrored in the redistribution of citizens after the earthquake, as described in the second part of this paper.
In the technical management of the resettlement, in the choice of locations for the 185 new buildings erected as part of the C.A.S.E. (Anti-seismic, Sustainable, Eco-friendly Complex) Project to house families left homeless and in the abrupt urbanisation of rural areas, we find a failure to address the needs of earthquake victims and a setting-aside of social norms in favour of a purely spatial, paratactical logic (Turco, 2015).
The territory of L’Aquila was configured, historically, in a pattern that had its focal point in the old town. The transfer of thousands of citizens to 19 peripherally located C.A.S.E. Project sites drastically altered this model. The population was dispersed and fragmented, resulting in an unplanned migration of services and economic activities from the centre to the periphery. The lack of services and places for socialisation in the C.A.S.E sites meant that when the centre disappeared the periphery did not take its place, and this change has had severe social consequences, particularly for children and the elderly (Ciccaglione, 2017).
Urban fragmentation manifests itself as a breakdown in the physical and social fabric of a city, a discontinuity that limits the ability of a city to function as an organic whole (Prévot-Schapira and Cattaneo Pineda, 2008). This fragmentation causes a loss of community solidarity (Bocarejo et al., 2016) and territorial integration (the continuous interaction and co-building among human, physical and immaterial entities in a territory) (Farinós Dasí, 2014). Fragmentation does not necessarily mean discontinuity within the urban fabric, though it is often marked by natural and artificial barriers (Marmolejo Duarte and Stallbohm, 2008). The feeling of social disconnection seems to rise in proportion to the number of fragments and the physical distance between them (Bocarejo et al., 2016).
Most previous studies of urban fragmentation focus on spatial and social fragmentation that has developed over a long period, adapting or evolving from particular triggering events. In L’Aquila, the fragmentation occurred within days in the tent camps and hotels and continued in the C.A.S.E. sites. However, the most striking feature of L’Aquila’s fragmentation is that it was instigated by external authorities, not by organic processes within the area (Alexander, 2013).
2. Methodology and data
This study used a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. Since it concerns itself primarily with actions taken by the state, one major element of this investigation has been the examination of programmatic-procedural and normative source documents. The programmatic paper Rendere le regioni più forti in seguito a un disastro naturale. Abruzzo verso il 2030: sulle ali dell’Aquila, which was drafted in 2012 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the University of Groeningen on behalf of the Italian Government, articulates the goals of and guidelines for the recovery process.
The examination of the normative source documents involved the review of a number of laws and decrees. Among other documents, this study examined prefectural decree 01/P/T, dated 6 April 2009, regarding the establishment of the first COM; the 49 publicly available decrees signed by the commissioner regarding the C.A.S.E. Project, Directorate for Command and Control (DiComaC ) and COMs; Prime Minister’s Ordinance (OPCM) 3753 and the Prime Minister’s Decree (DPCM) dated 6 April 2009; the coordinated earthquake text published by the office of the president of the Abruzzo region, dated 6 April 2009; law 225/92 and Presidential Decree (DPR) 61 on civil protection, dated 6 February 1981; and over 100 articles of law derogated by the Prime Minister’s Decree. This examination allowed for the evaluation of intervention strategies and priorities as well as for the quantification of the deregulation applied in L’Aquila.
The research questions driving this study cannot, however, be answered only through the examination of programmatic-procedural and normative source documents. In particular, the SC’s actual modes of action, along with his connections to local administrators and the people, are impossible to determine through the analysis of documents alone. Therefore, I chose to conduct five semi-structured interviews with local administrators and members of citizens’ committees who had direct experience in this case (Zoppi and Lai, 2010). This methodology was chosen to uncover more information about the SC’s way of operating in the local community. The first interviewees were Mayor of L’Aquila Massimo Cialente and Councillor Fabrizio Pelini. These two local administrators were asked about the involvement of local institutions in the emergency management plan, as well as about the choices made regarding the locations and toponymy of the C.A.S.E. sites, the establishment and operations of the COMs and the relocation of residents of public housing from within the historical city centre.
Among the next to be interviewed were a militant activist working on the 3e32 Committee (a grassroots organisation directed at involving the populace in the reconstruction); another grassroot activist, also a blogger; and an evacuee who, with her family, had experienced all the varieties of accommodation provided by the DPC. The questions posed mainly addressed perceptions of the emergency management system and the responses of those directly affected by that system. Interviews were carried out during three separate weeks between December 2014 and June 2015. In addition to these interviews, the fieldwork consisted of inspections of the historical city centre and urban area of L’Aquila to note the stage of recovery there and of the C.A.S.E. resettlement sites to observe the physical realities (locations, roads, buildings, services) of each.
The quantitative methods selected for measuring fragmentation include a comparison of census data from before and after the earthquake and the determination of the minimum distances of C.A.S.E. sites from one another and from the city centre. The results of this quantitative analysis are discussed in Section 3.2.3.
The first analysis was conducted through the process of area weighted interpolation (Valent and Ferrarese, 2017), a dasymetric GIS technique that allows for the distribution of demographic data in areas with a land use compatible with housing settlements (Eicher and Brewer, 2001). The analysis was conducted by comparing census data from 2001 and 2011. This data selection is justified because these were the only official, public data sets with the required characteristics of geo-referencing, high spatial resolution and comparability with previous and subsequent census surveys.
To assess the minimum distances between the C.A.S.E. sites and the L’Aquila city centre, I used the cost-distance analysis (CDA) technique after rasterising the road network. A vector-based “network analysis” could not be applied to this study due to the number of topological errors in the Abruzzo region road network extracted from the Regional Technical Cartography sheets. CDA algorithms work through rasterised data, even though they are mathematically identical to those used in network analysis (Cormen et al., 2009).
3.1 Excluding local authorities: the COMs
The COMs were designed to support local authorities in handling emergencies (Alexander, 2010a). Presidential Decree No. 61 of 6 February 1981 sets rules for COMs in paragraph 7, Art. 14 of Title I, clearly stating the municipal, inter-municipal or provincial level of COMs, described as provisional structures coordinating emergency responses. Sub-municipal levels are not considered.
Additionally, the glossary provided by the DPC’s website defines COMs as operational structures that coordinate emergency services at the provincial level. Finally, on the page of the Interior Ministry’s website dedicated to civil protection, we read, once again, that COMs are operating structures for emergencies organised at the inter-municipal or municipal level – this latter level intended for municipalities of a sufficient size not to require grouping with others. In the hours immediately following the earthquake, the prefecture of L’Aquila (the prefect being the representative of the central government in a province) ordered through Decree 01/PT the establishment of five COMs to coordinate activities necessary for the rescue of earthquake victims: Central L’Aquila, San Demetrio Nei Vestini, Pizzoli, Rocca di Mezzo–Roio Poggio and Paganica–Tempera. Some of these COMs were headed by officials from the prefecture. On 9 April, SC Bertolaso issued Decree No 1-09/04/2009, superseding the prefect’s decree and establishing seven COMs: L’Aquila, San Demetrio, Pizzoli, Pianola, Paganica, Navelli and Sulmona. Heading these COMs were two officials from the prefectures of La Spezia and Brindisi, two officers of the Italian Army, an official from the Marche region and two officials from the National Fire Brigade. The eighth and last COM, Montorio al Vomano, which included various municipalities of the province of Teramo, was established on 17 April by special decree and directed by an official from the Abruzzo region (Figure 1(a)).
The functions of the COMs established by Art. 2 of the decree were:
Evaluation and enumeration of damages.
Operational structures and roads.
Materials and equipment, assistance to the population and evacuees’ logistics.
These same functions, and also the preservation of cultural heritage, mass media and information, infrastructure and post-emergency facilities, materials and transport logistics, and coordination of local and other agencies, were assigned to the DiComaC, an organisational innovation that first appeared in L’Aquila (Palma, 2012) to coordinate and direct activities. While the COMs operated under legal guidelines, the DiComaC was a non-institutionalised structure, legitimised and governed exclusively by the SC. The entire system operated through a top-down hierarchical structure, making it an ideal vehicle for the SC and his officials to exert discretionary power.
Davis and Alexander (2016) compared the emergency management system in L’Aquila with other emergency events on the basis of citizens’ involvement and the role of the state, as proposed by Comerio (2014). The comparison involved 12 disasters around the world, from the 1968 Belice earthquake in Sicily, Italy, to the 2013 typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. In L’Aquila, the involvement of citizens was among the lowest, only a little higher than that seen following China’s 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, while the extent of state intervention ranked third. Moreover, the action of the central government was oriented towards complete control of the emergency management process, creating an intervention model designed to override local authorities rather than to apply the principle of subsidiarity.
The SC’s decrees were examined in order to investigate the boundaries of the COMs and the criteria according to which they were delimited. Only COMs 2, 7 and 8 had territorial continuity; the others all consisted of several separate parts (Figure 1(a)). COM 6 (Navelli) comprised several municipalities of L’Aquila Province and the few areas of Pescara Province damaged by the earthquake. The reason for dividing the capital among four COMs remains unknown. From Presidential Decree 61 and the DPC glossary, it is apparent that the municipal level was considered the basic geographical subdivision. While the aggregation of smaller municipalities was provided for, the dismemberment of a municipality was not. The L’Aquila municipality fell mostly within COM 1, but portions were included in COMs 3 and 4. As a rule, the headquarters should be centrally located with respect to the affected area, but COM 4 (Figure 1(a) and (b)) had its headquarters in the sub-district of Pianola, which is relatively peripheral within the included municipalities. In a letter thanking his employees, the director of the COM emphasised the difficulty of operating tent camps in some cases as far as 50 km away from the COM headquarters. COM 5 (Figure 1(a) and (b)) consisted entirely of sub-districts of the municipality of L’Aquila: Aragno, Assergi, Bazzano, Camarda, Filetto, Paganica, Pesco Maggiore, Tempera, Onna and San Gregorio.
The decrees enumerate the municipalities and/or the sub-districts covered by each centre, but the criteria for defining the COM areas are not stated. The coordination and territorial management functions of COMs presuppose homogeneity and continuity to avoid conflicts of jurisdiction and provide citizens with a single point of contact. Examples of the normal structuring of COMs can be found in the civil protection plans of Italian provinces such as Cuneo, Imperia, Lucca and Pisa, published on their respective websites. Spatial homogeneity, continuity and compactness are always taken for granted. The cartography attached to the plans shows the continuity of the area of each COM and a notable absence of enclaves.
The non-correspondence of the borders of the new COMs with pre-existing administrative boundaries and the artificial grouping of municipalities and sub-districts generate further fragmentation of the territory beyond that caused by the earthquake itself. Over the ten months of SC management, the administrative geography of L’Aquila was reconfigured, and the new boundaries radically redefined existing areas of jurisdiction. The COM areas were not designed according to clear criteria, and I was unable to discover COMs with similar sorts of boundaries in other parts of Italy. The critical issue is the jurisdictions, which overlap with and undermine those of the mayors. According to Art. 15, law 225/1992, a mayor:
[…] assumes the direction and coordination of emergency services and assistance to affected populations and ensures the necessary actions, with immediate notification to the prefect and to the president of the Regional council.
According to Mayor Cialente, all significant decisions were taken at the SC level and hierarchised within the DiComaC and COMs, which were the materialisation and visible sign of state power over the territory of L’Aquila. As all activities were required to pass through these bureaucracies, with their external administrators and their newly established arbitrary boundaries that redefined jurisdictions, DiComaC and the COMs were ideal tools for imposing a new territorial organisation without interference from citizens or local authorities. The new territorial organisation, modelled on the OECD document, posits that the earthquake must be taken as “[…] an opportunity to reformulate the idea of a new future for the region […] developing a territorial brand” in order to increase the exchange value of the city and surrounding areas (OECD and Groeningen Rjiksuniversitet, 2012, p. 20). The people were excluded from the decision-making process, and only residual issues and formal requirements were left for the mayor to handle (Valent, 2018).
3.2 A scattered resettlement and dispersed citizenry
3.2.1 Sudden fragmentation in the emergency phase: the tent camps
According to Alexander (2010a), in the days immediately following the earthquake about a third of the 67,500 people left homeless were housed in hotels on the Adriatic coast of Abruzzo, while another third were held in 171 tent camps located in available areas of the city and in the surrounding territory, managed by the DPC through the DiComaC and COMs. The remaining displaced people were left to find shelter however they could. The strict control exercised over citizens in the tent camps can be seen in excerpts from “internal regulations”, which differed from camp to camp. Interviews with activists and witnesses and journalistic investigations (Puliafito, 2010a, b) showed that life in the camps was subject to strict rules. The head of each camp made the rules, but the common guiding principle involved reducing the people in the camps from citizens to managed subjects. Camp officials quickly resolved individual problems in order to discourage collective disputes. There were prohibitions on assembly in the camps and on entering a camp not one’s own, and access to the camps by independent journalists was blocked.
The accommodation of displaced people in camps and hotels was the first instance of the abrupt fragmentation that would continue with the C.A.S.E. Project. From the standpoint of this study, the main problem with the disaster response was that citizens of L’Aquila were prevented from acting collectively or participating in the recovery of their city. During the emergency, tens of thousands of people were removed from the area and became unable to intervene. As many others were distributed into tent camps, each of which was impermeable to contact from the outside. As a reaction to the commissioner’s management practices, numerous citizens’ committees were eventually established to participate in the city’s reconstruction process, according to interviews with Councillor Pelini and A.T. of the 3e32 Committee.
3.2.2 Long-term fragmentation in the post-emergency phase: the C.A.S.E. Project
After the closing of the camps, and in order to resettle the 14,000 people still awaiting reconstruction of their homes, the Italian Government issued Law Decree 39/2009, which mandated that the SC should build “with highest urgency” 185 buildings on 19 sites around the city of L’Aquila, called, collectively, the C.A.S.E. Project. This decree was issued at the end of April, in preparation for the closing of the camps before winter, and an initial fund of 700m euros was allocated for the project. The locations chosen by the SC were almost all in rural or extremely peripheral areas, on sites classified as agricultural. The names of the settlements as well as the new toponymy were decided upon by the commissioner’s administration without involving the local populace. The exemptions from regulations regarding planning, public utility expropriation and access to information that were contained in Ordinance No. 3753, issued by the prime minister immediately after the earthquake, prevented citizens from opposing the locations of the settlements. The choice of locations required implementation of urban infrastructure in rural areas, dramatically affecting the living conditions of the resettled people. The rapidity with which the buildings were constructed led to the collapse of parts of some buildings and their rapid deterioration due to water infiltration.
An enquiry conducted during the summer of 2010 by the Communication for Active Listening (CAsA) initiative, promoted by associations and private citizens in collaboration with the research group Cartolab of the University of L’Aquila (Calandra, 2012), offered qualitative indicators of quality of life in the resettlement sites. One indicator of worsening quality of life was the breakup or regrouping of 20 per cent of family units, which disrupted support networks important, especially, for the care of elderly people and children. The enquiry also revealed increased commuting times to work and school and increased dependence on private transportation. Reading the commissioner’s and the government’s ordinances, it appears clear that the building works were planned for and funded with an absolute lack of forethought about necessary improvements to public transportation.
A final finding from the investigation was that the deterioration of quality of life within the C.A.S.E. sites was mainly felt at the level of the social sphere, available services and common areas. It is also true that the provision of comfortable, fully furnished apartments in some cases improved private and family life. This outcome aligns with the earlier discussion of life in the tent camps: attention was given to aspects of individual life while social and collective aspects of life were disregarded.
3.2.3 A quantitative assessment of population fragmentation
Census data collected at the end of 2011 were used to quantify medium- to long-term changes in population distribution in L’Aquila after the earthquake. Two years and eight months after the earthquake, and two years after the end of the emergency period in which the tent camps were operational, people were still living in housing provided by the C.A.S.E. Project and in private homes rented with a form of financial aid known as “contribution for autonomous accommodation”. The raw census data showed general depopulation of the urban area of L’Aquila, primarily the historic centre, most of which was included in the Red Zone. This area was completely evacuated and access allowed only to police, firemen, the DPC and others authorised by Municipal Ordinances No 6 06/04/2009 and No 73 29/04/2009. Although some streets were partially reopened as time went on, most of the historic centre remained uninhabitable at least until 2014. The population of L’Aquila municipality at the time of the 2011 census had decreased by 1,539 individuals compared to 2001; the population of the whole urban area had decreased by 14,107, and the number of inhabitants of the city centre had decreased by 6,010 (Figure 2(b)).
While the decrease in the number of inhabitants in the entire municipality was relatively low, a great population movement occurred within the municipal area as a result of resettlements in the C.A.S.E. sites. To determine and map the actual population dynamics in detail, a GIS analysis was performed using the area weighted interpolation procedure. The spatial resolution of this analysis is given by the size of the cells that constitute the raster map, set at 10 m on each side, covering a surface of 100 m2.
Figure 2(a) and (b) shows the population density before and after the earthquake and subsequent resettlement, expressed as inhabitants/100 m2, as recorded by the census surveys.
Most of the urban area of the municipality suffered a decrease in population compared to the suburban area, especially the C.A.S.E. sites (Figure 3). The GIS analysis allows extrapolation of additional characteristics of the resettlement, primarily a significant increase in population density with reference to the inhabited areas. The average density before the seism was 0.65 inhabitants/100 m2 with a standard deviation of 4.45; by the end of 2011 this density had increased to an average of 1.97 with a standard deviation of 18.96. This value indicates a higher concentration of people (triple the previous average density) and at the same time an increase in inhomogeneity marked by the quadrupling of the dispersal index. The inhomogeneity of the resettlement pattern and the prevalence of zones with negative balances over those with positive ones are apparent in the map in Figure 3. Areas with positive balances made up 37 per cent of the total, for an extent of 9.26 km2, while areas with negative balances made up 62 per cent for an extent of 15.5 km2. This means that a populace that had originally occupied an area of 15.5 km2 was resettled in an area slightly larger than 9 km2.
The fragmentation and dispersal of the population of L’Aquila was quantified using CDA. Before the earthquake, most of the inhabitants of L’Aquila lived in the urban area, within a surface of a little less than 14 km2, about 9 km in length and 3 km at its widest. After resettlement, distances and areas changed by an order of magnitude: the total area included within the perimeters of the C.A.S.E. sites is 131 km2, and the distances between the sites averages 12 km, with a maximum of 33 km between Assergi and Arischia. Also, the distances of the C.A.S.E. sites from L’Aquila’s historical centre, which was always the hub of its economic and social life, give a clear idea of the extent of the fragmentation suffered by the population. Even today, to reach the centre, people living in C.A.S.E. sites must travel an average of 7.38 km (and as far as 18.6 km in the case of Assergi).
The significance of these distances lies not only in their absolute values but also in the severe lack of public transportation systems serving the resettlement zones. This fact means that resettled people are almost totally dependent on private vehicles and that minors and the elderly, especially, may experience mobility problems. As mentioned in Section 3.2.2, the CAsA enquiry showed increased commuting times from home to workplace or school (Alexander, 2010b; Calandra, 2016; Frisch, 2009).
3.2.4 Fragmentation: not a random consequence
The urban fragmentation that has taken place in L’Aquila is both physical and social. Its physical form is visible in the “islands” of the C.A.S.E. Project. Its social form is visible in the displacement of people from their old neighbourhoods and from each other, and at the same time in their concentration in groups of buildings designed and constructed as pure agglomerations of housing developments, lacking public and common spaces as well as neighbourhood services. The negative social impacts of fragmentation are heavy, as Freilich and Peshoff (1997) pointed out when he argued that transferring people and activities from urban areas to new neighbourhoods causes a loss of community and of social and family ties. Moreover, the fragmentation that took place in L’Aquila was not determined by socio-economic forces developed through long-term processes during which citizens could pursue opposition strategies or else adapt. Here the fragmentation happened quickly and was driven by the allocation parameters of the DPC. This fragmentation will probably be long lasting; the C.A.S.E. sites are permanent and will continue to be used for the only function they can fulfil, that of dormitory quarters. According to the Municipality of L’Aquila, as of 31 December 2017, 8,124 people (3,204 families) still lived in C.A.S.E. Project housing, including both welfare recipients and those awaiting the restore of their homes. Finally, we cannot exclude the risk that some of the sites will become seeds of urban sprawl (Olori and Ciccozzi, 2016) and generate further social and physical fragmentation, marking the future territorial evolution of L’Aquila with the stamp of the commissioner’s administration. The commissioner’s propensity to be more concerned about individual needs than collective purposes, seen both in the tent camps and in the C.A.S.E. Project (Forino, 2015; Puliafito 2010a), was, like the fragmentation itself, not merely a matter of chance. On the contrary, it reflects a precise agenda of deterring collective opposition to the neoliberal and business-oriented reconstruction path sponsored by the national government (Calandra, 2012; Forino, 2015) and of neutralising social opposition in advance (Valent, 2018).
4. Conclusions: a violent reconfiguration of territoriality
This paper has shown that violence and authoritarianism are key elements of neoliberal policy regarding the control and shaping of territory. This conclusion agrees not only with the assertions of Alexander (2010a), for whom the kind of disaster response seen in L’Aquila is an example of the application of the military doctrine of “overwhelming force”. The Italian state exercised neoliberal violence upon the people, territory and local institutions of L’Aquila through a complex set of actions and policies, which reinforced one another and can be viewed as an organic whole. The main result of the authoritarian model of intervention applied in L’Aquila has been, according to Calandra (2012), a serious bond over the future of the people and the territory.
First, the central government, through the DPC, responded to the emergency with a massive deployment of personnel and means, allocating significant funds and establishing a rigid chain of command. A new entity completely external and extraneous to L’Aquila society laid new boundaries and place names over the existing ones and redefined the relevant authorities and their areas of competence.
Second, the government, through the DPC, acted as a catalyst in the ongoing process of deterritorialisation triggered by the seismic event; instead of fostering and sustaining local action and substituting for it only when necessary, it replaced local institutions with a technocratic and non-territorial strategy, alien and one-size-fits-all. The speed with which the C.A.S.E. Project was implemented suggests that it was pre-packaged, waiting for an opportunity, and that L’Aquila was an experimental laboratory for this model of intervention, which is conspicuous in being strongly business oriented. The large-scale deregulation the government authorised, far from being simply a tool for managing an emergency, is a clear mark of neoliberal policy, as argued by Springer (2016), among others. What occurred in L’Aquila should be considered a case of state-led, neoliberal violence directed against a part of the national territory, which was treated as a land to be exploited rather than a territory to be recovered – analogous, as Klein (2007), Adams et al. (2009) and Rivlin (2005) pointed out, to what occurred in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.
Third, the emergency management in L’Aquila was marked by a commissarial structure with strict controls, allowing no scope for intervention by local institutions or the community. At the same time, deregulation created a favourable environment for private business (Boniburini, 2013), allowing projects to be contracted out to “temporary unions of companies” without verifiable reputations and rendering it difficult to implement controls on safety and quality of workmanship (Valent, 2018).
The actions of the commissioner’s administration reveal that its main concern was with construction and material and physical interventions upon the urbs, the urban fabric, the streets and urban development. The allocation of such substantial funds for the C.A.S.E. Project illustrates the priority given to this kind of intervention compared with rebuilding the urban community. The administration focused almost entirely on new construction, while restoration of damaged buildings in the town centre was repeatedly delayed. The reopened and restored areas of the city centre are those that house nightlife and leisure activities (Ciccaglione, 2017) – aspects of the city designed for commercial purposes rather than for local residents, a priority fully consistent with the neoliberal guidelines highlighted within the OECD document. In any case, the civitas, the community of citizens, was systematically excluded from the restoration project. Some inhabitants were moved from the territory and accommodated in hotels while others were housed in the surrounding areas, scattered and fragmented in the camps at first, then later in C.A.S.E. Project homes. Thousands of people had to find their own accommodation, leaving their choice of habitation to the market, without rebuilding neighbourhood communities shattered by the earthquake. The capacity of the people to act and react and play an active part in the reconstruction process – and above all their need to do so – was dismissed or replaced by decision-making interventionism and the rhetoric of the “can-do” government.
As a result, L’Aquila was the scene of a hetero-centred reorganisation of society and territory, in a restructuring exercise in which control was not “lost” by the local society but deliberately and forcefully wrested from it through a combination of neoliberal violence and strong governmental control.
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