Padania or Northern Italy? The invention of a national community in the words of the Lega Nord

Albertazzi, Daniele (2003) Padania or Northern Italy? The invention of a national community in the words of the Lega Nord. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


One primary significance of the propaganda of the Italian political movement the 'Lega Nord' in the second half of the nineties is that it posited the north of Italy as a 'nation', by grounding the claim of independence of the north on a unitary identity alleged to be common to all northerners. In order to create and communicate such an identity, the party resorted to the usual repertoire of nationalist movements - from the rediscovery and reinterpretation of the past to the adoption of new rituals and symbols. Is this to be defined as 'virtual nationalism', given that a 'nation' of the north of Italy was proposed here for the first time and did not seem to have any basis in history? Was all this just posturing, given that the project of independence was quickly adopted, and just as suddenly abandoned? This thesis investigates the process of creation of this new cultural identity - supposedly the national identity of the would-be nation 'Padania' - as it was posited in the printed propaganda of the Lega Nord. The study seeks to explore what cultural and ethnic characteristics of northern Italians (here called 'Padani) are said to distinguish them from both southern Italians and immigrants from abroad. The case of 'Padania' is then referred back to contemporary theories of nationalism and globalisation in order to find out what 'Padania' has to teach about identity-formation in the contemporary world. Although acknowledging the fundamental role of 'difference' as a discursive strategy that defines the 'Padanian' by excluding various 'others', this thesis rejects the idea that the party's propaganda was grounded on 'traditional' racism during the separatist period. Furthermore, this analysis exposes the nationalism of the Lega as one that failed to resonate due to the lack of a unitary ethnic culture widely shared in the north to which its identity-work could appeal. In addition to this, this study argues that the fear of globalisation and the specific notion of modernity which characterises the propaganda of these years can only be understood with reference to that conception of the local, 'knowable' community which made the recent economic success of the north possible in the first place.

The methodological basis of this thesis consists in both quantitative content analysis and textual analysis of a wide sample of the party's documentation. The results of this analysis constitute the basis upon which the party's 'identity-work' is discussed.

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