The Contentious Politics of Expertise
Experts, Activism and Grassroots Environmentalism
Based on mixed-methods research and ethnographic fieldwork at various sites in Italy, this book examines the relationship between expertise and activism in grassroots environmentalism. Presenting interviews with citizens, activists and experts, it considers activism surrounding infrastructure in urban areas, in connection with water management, transport, tour- ism and waste disposal. Through comparisons between different political environments, the author analyses the ways in which citizens, political activists and technical experts participate in using expertise, shedding light on the effects of this on the structure and composition of social movements, as well as the implications for the mechanisms of participation and the formation of alliances. Bridging the sociology of expertise and contentious politics, this study of the relationship between contentious expertise and democratic accountability shows how conflict transforms, rather than inhibits, expertise production into a ‘contentious politics by other means’. As such, it will appeal to social scientists with interests in social movements, environmental sociology, science and technology studies, and the sociology of knowledge.
Table of Contents
Introduction: speaking truth to society? The contentious politics of expertise
1. Grassroots expertise and local environmental mobilizations
2. The Venetian lagoon between prophecies and interests: expertise and civil society mobilizations against the MOSE project
3. Experts and activists in the "Florentine Node": citizens expertise in the conflict over the Tunnel–TAV in Florence
4. Experts, citizens and activists in the "No Cruise ships" movement in Venice
5. Expertise and activism in the "Stalingrad of incinerators": the mobilization against the waste incinerator in Florence
6. Conclusions: the contentious politics by other means – grassroots environmentalism and the politics of expertise
Methodological appendix: notes on contentious fieldwork
Appendix: intensive fieldwork and source list
Riccardo Emilio Chesta is Post-Doctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at the Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence, Italy.