Women’s Motivations for Contested Land-Use Activism and Community Organizing in Sicily

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2021

Authors

Luongo, Sophia

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Abstract

The environmental toxification and health concerns that arise from land mismanagement, corruption, and deregulation on the local level in Sicily are situated within a broader system of economic, governmental, and global power dynamics that can make grassroots opposition appear futile. Nonetheless, the primarily woman-led Rete dei Comitati Territoriali Siciliani is a grassroots collective of committees that organize against detrimental construction projects by pushing for increased regulation and advocating for community-based development. The activists who engage in this form of resistance organizing are aware of the scale of the problems and global entrenchment of the systems they oppose, choosing to nonetheless dedicate time, resources, and ultimately themselves to protect their territory and their community. In this context, why are women motivated to become activists, and how is long-term activism sustainable? To answer these questions, I interviewed eight activists in the Rete, gathered Facebook and committee website data, and situated these data within Sicilian geopolitical history and culture. I make the argument that the choice to take action, while frequently considered a decision made in a single moment, can be more accurately described as the result of a lifetime of gendered power dynamics and social pressures. These pressures are centered around the desire for self-determination and the presence of moral familism (as opposed to amoral) within Sicilian culture. The Rete fosters a communal identity situated around “women’s sensibilities and solidarity” where joy is unexpectedly and necessarily present, enabling the continuation of this “exhausting” work.

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