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ROME’S MODERN MARGINS: THE BORGATE IN PASOLINI’S UNA VITA VIOLENTA VICTORIA G. TILLSON HENRI Lefebvre, a late-twentieth century urbanism theorist famous for his highly polemical essay “The Right to the City” (1968), viewed cities as spatial and temporal constructs of social relations based on JeanJacques Rousseau’s notion of the Social Contract. His oeuvre explores the reciprocal and hierarchical design of the modern urban fabric as an aesthetic expression of the collective’s political, economic, and cultural power distribution. This concept, based on materialist dialectics, investigates the semiotics of hegemonic versus alienated spaces. In a later article entitled “On the Contract of Citizenship” (1991), Lefebvre expands on this notion, musing: The right to the city… should modify, concretize and make more practical the rights of the citizen as urban dweller (citadin) and user of multiple services. It would affirm, on the one hand, the right of users to make known their ideas on the space and time of their activities in the urban area; it would also cover the right to the use of the center, a privileged place, instead of being dispersed and stuck into ghettos… (34) Lefebvre’s assertion recognizes a problematic issue permeating modern cities; that is, how cities architecturally and urbanistically reflect, as well as condition, social relations. While the theorist generally used Paris as his model, he establishes in “The Right to the City” a useful paradigm for exploring other contemporary suburban environments within the context of social responsibility. In fact, a decade before Lefebvre formally expressed his philosophy on the expansion of existing cities, other Marxist intellectuals began tracing the changing urban and social fabrics of formerly agrarian nations that were belatedly engaging in industrial development. France’s southeastern neighbor, Italy, was one of them. 313 Post-bellum circumstances generated new socioeconomic issues between hegemonic and subaltern groups during the transformation of Italy’s urban and suburban areas. The fall of Fascism, followed by the establishment of a capitalist democracy in 1948, changed the role that the State and the Urban played in Italians’ everyday lives. As noted by the historian, Antonio De Simone: Sono gli anni ’50, gli anni in cui l’Italia deve ricostruirsi fisicamente ed economicamente per giungere poi in ritardo sulla via dello sviluppo. Sono gli anni di un’Italia ancora prevalentemente agricolo-contadina in cui sta per innescarsi il meccanismo del capitale col suo processo economico e simbolico.… L’‘urbano’ sta al centro di questo processo di crisi e di transizione al progresso identificato con lo sviluppo. (180-1) Throngs of displaced, destitute, and marginalized peasants migrated from Italy’s traditionally poorest regions, swarming major cities, such as Milan and Rome, in search of opportunity.1 The writer-cum-director, Pier Paolo Pasolini, who moved to Rome in 1950 at the beginning of this mass migration, found himself as well as his narrative voice while living amongst and through the capital city’s rapid demographic and architectural changes. He became one of Italy’s preeminent poets and narrators of the post-World War II era by examining and poetically interpreting the lives and living conditions of Rome’s urban subaltern class. Pasolini records the socioeconomic changes afflicting the capital during the city’s construction boom throughout the 1950s, while residing in Rome’s ever-changing peripheral slums known as borgate. His first episodic novel,2 Ragazzi di vita (1955), offers a passionate and controversial look at the fragmentary and disorderly transformation of Rome, while he resumes his urban critique in his highly successful book of 314 ROMANCE NOTES 1 The historian of twentieth century Italy, Federico Chabod, laments the conditions facing the majority of working class and underclass Italians in his most famous study, L’Italia contemporanea: 1918-1948: “Esiste una massa – la gran massa – che comprende non solo gli operai e i contadini, ma anche gli impiegati, la quale è costretta a vivere consumando meno di quanto dovrebbe consumare, spesso cadendo al di sotto del minimo indispensabile e vivendo in condizioni di vita primitiva” (183). 2 Literary scholars and critics debate over whether or not Ragazzi di vita is, in fact, a novel, for as Alain-Michel Boyer, succinctly questions and notes in his text Pier...


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