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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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Note: page numbers in bold type indicate basic information about the interviewees in the section ‘The Narrators’. 236 Index Church see Catholic Church cigarettes 22, 25–26 Cinieri, Salvatore 98 Cipolla, Padre Ruggero xii, xx, xxix, 51, 60–61, 111, 126, 128, 130–144, 147, 151, 172 archive xxii, 130–131, 132 collected writings 132 crucifix 140–142 death xxxii and death penalty 140–142 Un francescano dietro le sbarre 1944–1994 131 ‘friends of ’ 169, 214 I miei condonnati a morte 131, 167, 173 interviewed 139–140, 141–142 museum 142–145, 148–149 Testimonianze 127, 132 as witness 138–142 circuses xxix, 111, 137 CLN 154 clothes 20–21 cof fee 22–25 cold 19, 46 Comitato Nessun uomo é un’isola see Nessum uomo é un’isola concentration camps xxvii, 143, 144–147, 154, 157, 165 see also under individual concentration camps Connerton, Paul 41 Contini, Riccardo xii, 51, 60, 61–62, 63 Controsbarre (organization) 73 Coombes, Annie 187, 192, 193, 195–196, 213 ‘corridor’ (punishment) 74 corruption xxxi, 137 Cossiga, Francesco 112 Cotugno, Lorenzo xxx, 47, 53, 70–80, 124 Le Vallette prison renamed 79–80 Cristofanelli, Filippo xii, 83 Cabrini, Giuliana 102(n) Cafasso, St 136, 144 Calabresi, Luigi 23–24(n) Cappelletto, Vincenzo xi Carandiru (prison, Brazil) 179, 180–181, 197 Carcere (magazine) 82 carceri speciali (special prisons) 106, 107, 112, 113, 117 Casa Circondariale di Torino detta ‘Le Nuove’ see Nuove, Le Caselli, Gian Carlo 62 Catholic Church xxvii, 139(n), 147–148, 199 and Holocaust...

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