Naples: Representations and stereotypes
In a debate moderated by Gabriella Corona, Francesco Benigno, Marcella Marmo and Enrico Pugliese discuss what the general characteristics of a stereotype are and, in particular, the stereotype of Naples, how it has been used, and what consequences this use may have on the social life of the city and the Campania region. A stereotype, the three participants in the debate tell us, contains elements of the truth, but not all the truth, and often generates an ambiguous gray zone between the true and the verisimilar. It is the result of a process of simplification and selection based on criteria of questionable validity and unproven generalizations. The simplification leads to explain phenomena entirely by one or the other of the possible variants of the stereotype, overlooking the role of other factors. For example, Pugliese observes that in discussions of Naples’ problems stereotypical assumptions tend to overshadow the importance of the issue of unemployment. This is all the more lamentable when one considers that Naples was, until not long ago, an industrial city, the third in Italy. Marmo makes some interesting considerations on the role of the stereotype of Naples in determining the great and well-deserved success of Saviano’s book Gomorra, and the effect that this may have had on Neapolitan political and intellectual life. Benigno invites us to look at an especially dangerous aspect of stereotypes, namely, the risk of them generating self-fulfilling prophecies. Insistence on a derogative stereotype can easily induce people to behave as if their reality was as represented, and their behaving «as if», in its turn, can modify that same reality, ultimately making it less distant from the stereotype itself.