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Giorgio Scerbanenco

Urban Space, Violence and Gender Identity in Post-War Italian Crime Fiction


Marco Paoli

The works of Giorgio Scerbanenco repeatedly articulate and explore the implications of new forms of criminality that emerged in Italy’s post-war transformation towards its «economic miracle». An indepth analysis of Scerbanenco’s Duca Lamberti series constitutes the critical focus of this study, and in particular the psychological resonances of the role played by the author’s controversial representation of the urban space, its violence, (in)justice and gender roles. In what way do these elements heighten and/or exaggerate the nature of the criminal acts and the reader’s experience? This study therefore investigates a reader’s potential response to the content, the settings, and, above all, the characters Scerbanenco portrays in these four novels.
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Chapter 1. Urban Environments and Crime

← 80 | 81 →CHAPTER 1


While not exclusively an urban phenomenon, criminal activities tend largely to occur in cities and urbanized areas, whatever the frame of reference (country, timescale etc.). Considerable scholarly research has been undertaken in the fields of urbanism (the study of cities, their geographic, economic, political, social and cultural environments) and urbanization (the study of urban growth), and the impact of such phenomena on individuals’ behaviour in the criminal context. The classic studies of Wirth (1938), Shaw and McKay (1942), and Simmel (1955) suggest that certain aspects of the urban environment – including its size, density, heterogeneity, citizens’ low economic status, residential mobility and family disruption – can promote social disorganization and individual alienation. These two conditions may then lead to deviant social behaviour of some kind.105 Clinard and Abbott in their Crime in Developing Countries, a sociological study of urban areas and urbanization, note that “the urban way of life is characterized by extensive conflict of norms and values, rapid social change, increased mobility of the population, emphasis on material goods and individualism” (1973: 85). Overall, the various studies all suggest that the pace of urbanization is linked to the occurrence of criminal behaviour among individual residents, and that urban ← 81 | 82 →environments are not only associated with increased crime rates, but are also influential in the nature of crimes committed. If we apply this to urban growth in northern Italy in the 1950s and 1960s, it can be discerned that the accompanying disruption and social disorientation had an evident impact on the...

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