Representing Discriminations in Italy during the Last Century: Cultural Markers and Social Change

imgresSegnaliamo il seminario ‘Representing Discriminations in Italy during the Last Century: Cultural Markers and Social Change‘ che si terrà Giovedì 27 novembre 2014 ore 13,00, Aula seminari SPS (stanza 215, II piano, ala via Passione), Dip. di Scienze Sociali e politiche Via Conservatorio, 7- Milano

Relatori: Simone Sarti (Università degli Studi di Milano) e Tommaso Vitale (Sciences Po, Paris)
Chair: Antonio M. Chiesi (Università degli Studi di Milano)
Discussants: Federica Da Milano (Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca) e Dario Padovan (Università degli Studi di Torino)

Sociology looks at discrimination as a social devaluation of individual and group characteristics. Discriminations are enshrined in a time; they are not isolated acts. Discriminations are actions undertaken, and they require an active work of categorization. This process of categorization has been studied in indirect manner (looking at individuals discriminated, to catch a pattern), or analyzing court decision to punish discriminate behavior, or observing situated actions of discrimination in context. All these methods reveals very effective in describing the main form of discriminatory action, but have not contributed to understand the patterns of discrimination in the long run. In this paper we discuss the evolution of form of categorization that contribute to discriminatory behavior. The limited scope condition of this work allow us to develop a diachronic study of this pattern in the last 90 years in a South-European Country (Italy). The paper focuses on stereotyped cultural markers, rooted in the individual identities through education and scholarly socialization. We decided to study the evolution of the meaning of 66 entries in the most popular Italian Vocabulary: the one initiated by the philologist Nicola Zingaretti in 1917. Being aware that not all the stereotyped cultural markers could be traced looking only at the semantic of vocabulary entries, we consider that a systematic study of their semantic shift could offer a robust, precise proxy of the evolution of cultural markers. We have analysed 412 definitions of 66 entries in a sample of 11 editions of the same vocabulary, from 1922 to 2013. We apply a delphi technique to assess the discriminatory semantic of the definitions, measuring patterns for each entry, and for each class of entry (social marginality, ethnic/racial categorization, sexual and gendered entries, stratification issues). Every entry has been analysed by 10 commissioners (with a balanced sample of sociologist, political scientist, journalist, anti-discriminatory activist, and teachers); 89 commissioners has been involved. The definitions have been chronologically randomized, to escape the risk of an explicit linear trend of the semantic of discrimination. We assume the legitimacy of a current assessment of the semantic of definition given in the past, thus the legitimacy of an evaluation judging the semantic of cultural marker with a point of view coming from the present, and not mitigated and contextualized in the past. With this aim we used self-anchored scales collecting “discrimination scores” and “acceptance scores” based on line questionnaires and mediated deliberative techniques finalized to push toward the convergence on specific scores (yet measuring the variance). We have been able also to collect many qualitative information by the commissioner. We developed three main sets of hypothesis, concerning: I) the decline of the semantic of discrimination, II) the shape (linear or not linear) of the cultural change, III) the presence of different shapes of change per class of entries. The empirical results show that the semantic of discrimination is substantially decreased during the Last Century (with only a few exceptions), passing through stages of radical change alternated with periods of stability, and that the main changes are sensitive to some of the most important Italian events (in particular in the Sixties and Seventies). Moreover, we observed periods of asynchronous evolution of different areas of discrimination. In the paper we discuss how much cultural reproduction proceed at different rates and in very different ways, and the implication for an evolutionary understanding of discriminatory patterns.

Keywords: social discrimination, stereotypes, cultural evolution, cultural change, social change




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