Student Lecture Halls
(Piazza Paleocapa 2 -- 2nd floor - Torino, ITALY)
The PEL Seminars at the IUC of Turin On March 13th, 2012
"Enclosing Water. Nature and Political Economy in a Mediterranean Valley"
Stefania Barca is a senior researcher at the Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra. Her research and teaching interests are in environmental history and political ecology. She obtained her PhD in Economic History from the University of Bari (1997); in 2005-06 she was a visiting scholar at the Program in Agrarian Studies of Yale University, and in 2006-08 a 'Ciriacy Wantrup' postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley. Her last book, 'Enclosing Water. Nature and Political Economy in a Mediterranean Valley' (Cambridge, UK: White Horse Press 2010), has been awarded the Turku Prize as best monography in European environmental history. She has been recently elected vice-president of the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH).
In the last few years, scholars have devoted increasing attention to the history of rivers. A new generation of environmental historians has argued that the transformation of waterways has been crucial to the growth of nation-states and to the spread of industrial capitalism. Scholars now emphasize not only the economic benefits derived from "managing" rivers, but also the increased flooding, pollution, and social conflict that often accompany major water projects.
Stefania Barca's study of the Liri Valley bolsters this emerging scholarship. In Enclosing Water, Barca explores the impact of industrial capitalism on Italy's river Liri and on the fortunes of those who labored in the factories and mills of this valley during the 1800s, exploring both the environmental consequences of industrialization and the unequal relationships of access and vulnerability brought about in the process.
By enclosing the river as private property, the region's mill owners ended up manufacturing floods by the same means with which they were manufacturing woolens and paper sheets. Nor did the local population benefit much from the spread of privatization and industry. Workers experienced urban crowding, stagnating wages, and increased mortality from diseases spread by marshy, insalubrious conditions.