My fieldwork began with an image, a quite common image of violence broadcast by Italian television: Terni steel plant (known as AST) workers were protesting by the station, pushing the police block in order to occupy the railways. Terni is a small town in the center of Italy, and every time a strike occurs, the workers always outnumber the local police force, and a SWAT squad is called from nearby Rome to control and sedate the rallies. This is how a Roman police officer managed to club the mayor of Terni, who had rushed to the station to mediate and ease the situation, confusing him with a worker/rioter. The image of the bleeding mayor jumped from local televisions to national channels in a matter of minutes, and this episode became the symbol of a struggle, and considerably helped the re-election of Leopoldo di Girolamo. It was May 2012, and ThyssenKrupp (TK), the German owner of AST, had sold the plant to Outokumpu, another steel multinational from Finland. Almost seven months after the buyout, Outokumpu didn’t present any strategic business plan, only the promise of investment in situ, which never happened. The exasperated workers, tired of promises and feeling fooled once again by a multinational, invaded the streets and shouted slogans that sometimes belonged more on the football pitch than in a political rally, testifying how the stadium behavior spilled into working-class protest, as Portelli (2010: 8) noticed during the 2004 general strike. Violence erupted at the first contact with the police officers, who certainly weren’t there to talk.
Blood and Fire is a volume of the “Dislocations” series published by Berghahn Books. The immense dislocations and suffering caused by neo-liberal globalization, the retreat of the welfare state in the last decades of the twentieth century, and the heightened military imperialism at the turn of the twenty-first century have raised urgent questions about the temporal and spatial dimensions of power. Through stimulating critical perspectives and new and cross-disciplinary frameworks, which reflect recent innovations in the social and human sciences, this series provides a forum for politically engaged, ethnographically informed, and theoretically incisive responses.