Emma is a community organiser, activist and grass-roots researcher based in Naples, in the Italian region of Campania. She is a co-founder of several associations operating at a grass-roots level in the didactic, intercultural and social fields in Scampia, one of Naples’ most notorious neighbourhoods. Inspired by principles of self-organisation and independence from politics, regardless of party, over the last two decades, Emma’s work has involved the establishment of important projects, such as the association of social promotion chi rom e…chi no (www.chiromechino.it), Arrevuoto-Teatro e Pedagogia1 (www.arrevuoto.org); La Kumpania, a social enterprise offering intercultural gastronomic menus and employing both Roma and non-Roma women (www.lakumpania.it) and Chikù Gastronomia Cultura Tempo libero (www.chiku.it), based in Scampia and the first Italo/Roma kitchen and cultural space within the Italian territory. These projects apply years of experience to the task of fostering employability, which is crucial in the context of a chronically poor, peripheral and young neighbourhood. Chikù is a polyfunctional space: an intercultural kitchen that brings together discourses of economic self-sufficiency and dignified employment for a prevailingly female audience, organising cultural and social events open to the neighbourhood and to the city at large, as well as hands-on didactic workshops for children, adolescents and families.Michele Lancione and Colin McFarlane

If you have to consider Southern European cities, and specifically Naples, from a “global” point of view, what comes to mind?

Emma ferulano

Naples is the largest city in southern Italy, a point of convergence for hundreds of thousands of people living in the province and region. It’s the seat of important government institutions, as well as home to century-old universities and international scientific research centres and boasts a vast cultural heritage. Its strong sense of identity derives from its beauty and charm but also from traditional stereotyped and old-fashioned elements often reinforced by a certain “Neapolitan rhetoric” that pervades the everyday narrative. A perfect example of the latter is the inauguration of an international sports event called Universiadi 2019, where pizza, Mount Vesuvius, the siren Parthenope, Pulcinella, soccer and the song “Funiculì Funiculà” were all protagonists in what can be described as a global media circus. 299In addition, Naples often suffers from being labelled as a “city of crime”, where the presence of the Camorra and the level of danger involved were until not too long ago perceived as dangerously high. I’d like to take the opportunity to briefly focus on the extensive public debate that followed the launch in 2006 of Roberto Saviano’s novel Gomorra, subsequently adapted to film in 2007 by director Matteo Garrone and then serialised in 2014 on SkyTV, all of which contributed to illustrate both the current role and operations of the Camorra not only to the general public in the south but in northern Italy and abroad, beyond the confines of a restricted academic audience. It was a great cultural operation that laid bare the objective relations between institutional structures and the private sector with the Camorra and its illicit acts – in keeping with a notion of world “globalisation of the mafia”, to use an expression by the Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia. The debate that ensued from this cultural and mediatic operation split Naples into two positions: the first highlighted the importance of understanding the strong ties between legal and illegal power structures by reviewing the complex and nuanced spheres of influence held by the Camorra (and more generally the mafia) in the south and the consequences on their development – with a view to intervening on socio/cultural/economic levels, while the second was critical of the way in which a cinematographic and attractive depiction of the Camorra, its protagonists and criminal activities would reflect on Naples and its image. It also found the adoption of negative “idols” counter-educational, particularly for the younger generations in search of role models.

I believe the second attitude prevailed. As a result, today Naples is a city more concerned with offering a “clean” image of itself as a European city than attempting to resolve structural problems and dysfunctions resulting from a fatal combination between institutional shortcomings and weaknesses, political will and Camorra interests within the territory. Naples is full of contradictions, a southern city struggling to improve its quality of life but without satisfactory results, despite being the recipient, along with other southern cities, of special and substantial EU funding from 2000 to 2020. European parameters appear very distant from realities on the ground, with its official administration characterised by a high percentage of public-sector jobs in both central and local government, as well as an inordinate number of public officials in permanent positions but often lacking skills, goals and resources. This is coupled with a haphazard management of day-to-day issues and essential services (managing public spaces, acts of civil disobedience, street cleaning and garbage disposal) and haphazard policymaking. It’s sad to observe the government’s failure to implement the recommendations of the National Integration Strategy for RSC2, as set out by the EU, in this case on a national and not just regional level. Unfortunately, public bodies in Naples and in other Southern European cities tend – or pretend – to act like their Northern European counterparts, affecting a modern, functional and law-abiding stance. But this is only a masquerade, a façade, which leaves the gates wide open to the very worst and unsolvable contradictions. The challenge facing these cities is to conjugate past and future, where positive elements of “innovation” are respectful of tradition, but where tradition can avoid the shortfalls of a stereotyping that feeds into phony tourist consumerism or worse still, where it justifies inaction.

ML and CMF

Can you give us some concrete examples of challenges and opportunities faced by the ones living in, with and through Naples’s everyday life?


There are numerous examples illustrating how everyday life is far from “easy” for urban dwellers in Naples and in other Southern European cities. For instance, in Naples, public transport, which is one of the most extensive and advanced networks in Italy, suffers from bad administration and rivalling political interests; the garbage crisis is periodical and 300never-ending, a result of bad governance and an absence of civic public training; public health care is increasingly inaccessible thanks to budget cuts and extensive process of privatisation, despite an excellence in research. Public spaces are not easily or always accessible, even with thousands of people flocking to the streets in their leisure time, especially as life in the “vicolo”3 in the city centre is a natural expansion of cramped houses and green spaces often closed for “security reasons”. The city’s outskirts lack adequate play areas for children, with cars ruling the streets and pavements, despite the fact that Naples had the youngest demographics for the entire country. Gender discrimination is also a big issue, with gender inequality a deep-seated and central feature for the greater part of southern Italian culture. There is also a palpable discrimination in local government policy between the urban centre and the hinterland, which reinforces a cultural discrimination ingrained in the population. Chronic unemployment, a parallel illegal workforce, a youth in crisis, emigration, exploitation, lack of adequate accessible housing, refusal to recognise rights to citizenship, all these issues are as stratified as the secular layers that characterise the city. The outcome is far from a modern scenario.