The Swamp of East Naples

Environmental History of an Unruly Suburb

Valerio Caruso (translated by Sara Ferraioli)

East Naples’ contemporary history is not special, or unique: its processes shaped a mostly grey suburb nestled in the immediate vicinity of the great southern city, sharing its limits and feeding its needs. A case study with worldwide resonance, the book offers East Naples as emblematic of the deep environmental changes wrought on peripheral areas by processes of energy transitions, economic development and urbanisation. It interrogates modernity’s distinctive global processes of industrialisation and deindustrialisation as enacted on an ancient natural landscape – Naples’ former threshold of coastal and marshy ecosystems, now buried in the sedimentary accumulation of concrete, fumes and toxic chemicals unleashed by industrial and urban development. Caruso interrogates the human choices, the material context and the different perceptions of nature, health or production that led to these changes; and his book turns an environmentally-focused perspective on two of modernity’s distinctive global processes: industrialisation and deindustrialisation. The volume reconstructs the discursive and physical factors that created the East Naples ‘swamp’, from the late eighteenth century to the present, through its transition from actual swamp to metaphorical, an ambiguous space characterised by chaos and disorder, hostility and risks, but also resistance, dignity and hope. It is a story both local and global, of ‘hygienist’ thought, urbanisation, industrialisation and deindustrialisation, ecological risk and attempted regeneration.


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Valerio Caruso studied late modern history and graduated in Historical Sciences at the University of Naples ‘Federico II’ in 2019. He studied contemporary environmental change and economic transformations as part of the deindustrialisation process in the eastern suburbs of Naples, through the lenses of urban planning, economic analysis and oral history. He has published essays on the subject of deindustrialisation in East Naples in Italian academic journals such as Meridiana. Rivista di Storia e Scienze Sociali and Italia Contemporanea; in the international journal Global Environment. A Journal of Transdisciplinary History; and in local newspapers. He is currently a Ph.D. student in Social and Political Change, enrolled in a partnership between the University of Turin and the University of Florence. His research interests comprise the analysis of urban environmental issues in the Mediterranean area, Middle East studies, oral history, industrial history and deindustrialisation studies.

Publication date, 15 September 2021
ISBN 978-1-912186-21-1 (HB) £65. 215 pages.