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Undoing Time

The Cultural Memory of an Italian Prison


Eleanor Chiari

The walls of Le Nuove prison in Turin are scarred by graffiti, bullets and blood. Opened in 1870, Le Nuove was one of Italy’s first panoptical prisons. During the Second World War it was occupied by the Nazis, who executed and deported anti-Fascist and Jewish prisoners held there. In the 1970s it housed left-wing ‘terrorists’, who spearheaded violent riots that spread to prisons across Italy. The prison staff became targets and four were shot dead. When Le Nuove finally closed down in October 2003, the memories of the tragic events that occurred there became obstacles to its demolition.
Combining oral history, anthropology and micro-history, this book examines the cultural memory of Le Nuove via interviews, archives and the material traces left within the building itself. The volume examines issues such as the relationship between memory and place, forgetting, and the problems of a global cultural heritage increasingly focused on places of suffering. By following the architecture of the prison in her narrative, the author actively engages with the many layers of time competing to give meaning to the prison today, as well as addressing the hidden stories, myths and silences that condition any study of cultural memory.


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Acknowledgements ix The Narrators xi Introduction xix A Brief History of Le Nuove xxv Chapter 1 The Cell 1 First Impressions 4 Home 10 Sex 15 Possessions 19 Cof fee and Cigarettes 22 Prison Time 26 Breakdowns 33 Chapter 2 The Ramparts 45 The Prison Of ficer Syndrome 48 Guard–Prisoner Relations in the 1970s 51 A Body on the Ground: The Death of Giuseppe Lorusso 56 The Ex-Prison Of ficer Club 66 The Gold Medal: The Death of Lorenzo Cotugno 70 viii Chapter 3 The Roof 81 Writing on Prison Riots 84 On the Eve of Destruction: The Riots of 1969 and 1971 87 The Forgotten Riot of the Summer of 1976 100 Chapter 4 The Church 119 Padre Ruggero Cipolla 130 Padre Ruggero as Witness 138 Padre Ruggero’s Prison Museum 142 Nuns 147 Nuns and the Second World War 151 Chapter 5 The Main Hall/The Tour 161 No Man Is an Island… 169 Prisons as Heritage 177 Obliteration: Carandiru, Brazil 180 Designation: The Maze/Long Kesh, Northern Ireland 181 Rectification: Alcatraz, USA 187 Sanctification: Robben Island, South Africa 191 Discussion 195 Heritage, Suf fering and Pity 200 Chapter 6 The Outer Walls 205 Bibliography 215 Illustration Credits 233 Index 235

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