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Ethics, Environments, and Textual Materialities The Seveso Case as an Ecocritical Template.

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Presentation on theme: "Ethics, Environments, and Textual Materialities The Seveso Case as an Ecocritical Template."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ethics, Environments, and Textual Materialities The Seveso Case as an Ecocritical Template

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7 ► capture the transit maps between the “inside” and the “outside” of every bodily form. ► describe the flows of substances and discourses across bodies, reconfiguring the boundaries between the self and the environment, as well as between all material substances in material contexts.

8 Slow violence “A violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space […], a violence that is neither spectacular nor instantaneous, but rather incremental and accretive, its calamitous repercussions playing across a range of temporal scales” […] happening “whether on a trans-national or a cellular scale” (Rob Nixon)

9 The toxic event July 10, 1976, 12:40 p.m.: “A vast toxic cloud rose above the roofs of Seveso, Meda, and other nearby small towns, originating from the ICMESA factory, owned by the Swiss company Hofmann La Roche, which officially produced perfumes and deodorants. But that cloud contained dioxin, a dangerous chemical agent. It was the first time that the Italian population had heard the name. After days of inertia and uncertainty following hundreds of domestic animal deaths in the Seveso area, the whole population was evacuated. Many people, especially children, contracted chloracne, an unusual skin disease, and there was an increase in spontaneous abortions” (P. Bevilacqua, “The Distinctive Character of Italian Environmental History.”)

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11 “The incident put the spotlight not only on industrial risk but also on the deceit and intrigue whereby certain productive activities were kept secret from the population, violating national autonomy. What was dioxin doing in a perfume factory?” (Bevilacqua, 22)

12 Seveso, vietnam

13 Laura Conti ( )

14 Conti’s Narratives on Seveso A Hare with the Face of a Child (1978) Seen from Seveso (1977)

15 Narrative levels Text: The novel Text: The novel Matter: The event and its material reverberations; bodies; landscape; etc. Matter: The event and its material reverberations; bodies; landscape; etc. Narrative agents

16 Dioxin A narrative agent ► ► In its materiality, it interferes and co-acts with the bodies of living organisms and living land, exposing the social and ethical blind spots of social constructs and political practices. ► ► In that it toxifies bodies and territory, dioxin has an “epiphanic” power: it reveals the material-discursive practices infiltrating Seveso’s society. ► ► Posthuman: crosses the boundaries between human and nonhuman ► Voices of marginality

17 “No other poison could have disoriented and concussed a profoundly Catholic community like that of Seveso more than dioxin did. In fact, dioxin caused not only the dangers of congenital malformations, but also--consequently--the problem of legitimizing abortive practices” (11). The community “denied everything. It denied that dioxin was involved in the accident. Denied that dioxin had come out of the ICMESA’s reactor. It denied that dioxin was toxic. It pushed denial (...) as far as to criticize the necessity of the reclamation works and of the protection measures” (11).

18 “Apparently, the mechanisms of angst were at work in a search for reassurance that did not move along the paths of rational logic. These paths were impracticable, in a sexophobic society confronted by dioxin with the issue of birth control, and therefore, more traumatically, with the necessity to quit sexophobia. Impracticable paths, in a deeply Catholic society, that abhorred abortion but was at the same time invited to practice it and even to absolve it. Many times the sentence “dioxin is not toxic” was pronounced to mean: “abortion is not admissible,” without even explicitly mentioning that forbidden and scandalous subject.” (Hare 12)

19 Narrative agencies

20 Trans-corporeal dimension “I know that dioxin hurts babies when they’re already born. But those who aren’t born yet? That’s hard to believe.” “But babies who aren’t born yet are already alive. They’re in their mother’s belly, they get blood from their mother.” “That’s true. I knew that. Why didn’t I think about that? A baby in his mother’s belly doesn’t see anything, doesn’t hear anything, but if his mother takes in poison it’ll hurt him too, make his nose turn into a hare’s snout.” (76; Engl )

21 Marco’s dream That night I dreamt about a big mess of baby cows with fish skin and fish with baby cow legs, hare snout babies, and hares with baby faces. Sara grabbed a cat with a hare snout in her arms and said, “Here’s my little sister, my Carmelina has come back.” I told her, “What are you saying? It’s a cat with a hare snout.” She said, “No, it’s a kid, a baby with hare’s snout and cat’s body.” The cat turned and looked at me with her little face like a hare and cried. When I woke up, I realized it was just a stupid dream, but while I was dreaming I was very scared. (78; Engl. 266)

22 “Think of those bastard policemen who pretend not to know anything, pretend to believe that she was afraid of dishonor, pretend not to know that we’ve been poisoned by dioxin. Assuntina was in all the newspapers that time when the bastard doctors let her hear baby’s heartbeats; and also that time that the shit-head priest wanted to take her baby. But, policemen don’t know anything. Of course, not. ...  Do you want to know why they pretend not to know anything? Because they don’t want to deal with the newspapers again, the doctors that let her hear the heart and that priest.” …

23 “  My brother  says, ‘if this story gets out, the factory will have to pay, and nobody wants to bother the factory.’ And dad and mom are staying quiet too, because mom is afraid of scandals. So, if Assuntina doesn’t die, she goes to jail and the factory doesn’t have to pay anything. And if she dies, the factory doesn’t pay anything anyway and we don’t have even a picture of Assuntina. There’ll be nothing left of Assuntina, it’ll be as she wasn’t even born.” ( ; Engl. 270)

24 “Dioxin is a highly toxic substance for embryos. If a pregnant woman is exposed to it within the third month of her pregnancy, her child may be born with deformities. If the malformation is serious, the embryo will not survive and the woman will miscarry. In these cases, miscarriages are improperly defined as ‘spontaneous abortions.’ The word ‘spontaneous,’ in this particular case, means: ‘not wanted by the mother but by others.’ For example, Givaudan. ... 

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26 The hidden costs of pollution: Feminism and the birth of Environmentalism in Italy. The hidden costs of pollution: Feminism and the birth of Environmentalism in Italy. The practice of relationships as a form of primary political action The practice of relationships as a form of primary political action

27 “ “ The idea here is that of taking care of a concrete and local environment through practices that give birth to new relationships between human beings and their environment. The emphasis is no longer on the concept of political duty, not on the abstract concept of the right action to be taken as a guide for political engagement. Rather, political action must be rooted and must take shape in everyday life practices that are political per se because they build and change contexts through changing relationships.” (Centemeri 200)

28 Seveso, Parco delle Querce

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30 Grazie!


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