Renarrating Italy, Reinventing the Nation: The Presidency of Ciampi Revisited

Bjørn Thomassen, Rosario Forlenza

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Italian political and public debate since the ‘earthquake years’ 1992–1994 has to a very high degree focused on the country’s identity, on the notion of ‘nation’ and how to interpret it, and on the country’s historical past and how to link it
meaningfully to the (political) present. It has been less recognized that the crisis of the party political system in the 1990s also gave a new role to play for Italian Presidents at both the institutional and symbolic levels. In particular, this article argues that a fundamental change took place in the bespeaking of the Italian nation during the presidency of Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, 1999–2006. Ciampi gave Italians a new language to speak and think with, a language that has become tied to a series of novel or reinvented memory practices. The aim of this article is to analyze this new nationalist discourse as it developed through Ciampi’s seven years as President of the Italian republic. At the empirical level, the article focuses on spoken and written texts by Ciampi himself. Those texts were either read or published in connection with particularly meaningful dates (2 June or 25 April) or places (‘le fosse Ardeatine’ or Cefalonia). At the theoretical level we argue for an anthropological approach to political transition and meaning-formation. Political regimes change as societies undergo the dissolution of established power structures, affecting not only institutional forms but also affective relations and symbolic universes of people. It is in such a context that Presidential speeches as official discourse and ‘high politics’ can come to function as a symbolic surplus and have a real effect on the semantic
underpinning of nation and demos.
TidsskriftJournal of Modern Italian Studies
Udgave nummer5
Sider (fra-til)705-725
Antal sider21
StatusUdgivet - 1 sep. 2011
Udgivet eksterntJa

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