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Arcidiacono y Procentese; Action research and sense of comunity

Arcidiacono y Procentese; Action research and sense of comunity

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JOURNAL OF COMMUNITY PSYCHOLOGY, Vol. 33, No. 6, 631\u2013638 (2005)
\u00a9 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI: 10.1002/jcop.20074


Caterina Arcidiacono and Fortuna Procentese
University Federico II of Naples

Inspired by the impact of an increase in tourism in the Old Center of
Naples, Fondazione Laboratorio Mediterraneo, a nonprofit organization
that promotes sustainable town development and encourages participation,
has undertaken the participatory action research described in this article.
The inhabitants\u2019 sense of community (McMillan & Chavis, 1986) with
regard to the distinctiveness of the area (Puddifoot, 1995) and its
representation are also explored. The collection of socioenvironmental data
(Arcidiacono, 1999), 15 semistructured interviews with key people, and
photodialogue (Legewie, 2003) are followed by relational activities carried
out together with local inhabitants and group associations in the area. The
inductive analysis of the established categories and networks has been
carried out with the aid of Atlas.ti. Our findings emphasize that the
distinctiveness of the Center and the pride of belonging felt by its
inhabitants are expressed ambivalently and negatively, evidence of the
inhabitants\u2019 lack of a sense of community. \u00a9 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


The Old Center of Naples, which is rich in history, arts, traditions, and links to the past, has been declared an aspect of the Cultural and Artistic Heritage of Mankind by UNESCO. Its area houses churches, convents, and monuments, often stacked one on the other, illustrate a heritage whose ancient origins date to the seventh century B.C. It

Correspondence to: Caterina Arcidiacono, Dipartimento di Scienze Relazionali, Universit\u00e1 Federico II, Naples
80135, Italy; e-mail: caterina.arcidiacono@unina.it

is in fact an \u201copen\u201d museum for archaeology, wherein it is possible to find overlaid strat- ifications whose superimposed architectural and artistic expressions span historic peri- ods ranging from Greek and Roman times through Byzantine, Lombard, Norman, Angevin, Swabian, French, and Bourbon domination. The confectionery tradition of convents and artisan craft workshops has its origin here. It is a highly interrelated dis- trict, which reveals a network of close ties with the past, with life and death and the future (Arcidiacono, 1999).

However, the state of degradation in which the ancient center found itself in the early 1990s led to the setting up of citizen groups and associations who were sensitive to their material and nonmaterial artistic heritage and fully aware of the risk of such dete- rioration; those groups in turn found support in the local municipal administration of the time, whose interventions followed its cultural and administrative policy. Throughout the years that have followed the various joint efforts accomplished have achieved a con- siderable upgrading of the area, which has been styled as the \u201cNeapolitan Renaissance.\u201d The social composition of the district has not undergone any alteration, unlike, in con- trast, in other historical centers (Legewie, 2003); the influx of tourists has increased sig- nificantly, and a management body has been established to oversee the cultural and tourism-related enhancement of the sites in the area. Within the last few years the histor- ical center has thus become an international tourist attraction. The rapidity of this phe- nomenon, and the results obtained, have coupled with the risk of gentrification and its effects; they have led to an increase in the awareness of potential impact of tourism in relation to sustainable development of the historical center, described elsewhere (Arcidiacono, 2004a).

The present article examines the representation of this historical center among its inhabitants, as well as representations of the resources, limits, and potentialities of the area, by considering the social and cultural impact of tourism. The study also focuses on the inhabitants of this distinctive district and their sense of community in relation to its cultural and social changes. A psychological sense of community (McMillan & Chavis, 1986) that is related to the relationship of the inhabitants to the community and to the identity perceived and attributed to it is a key issue in studies on communities; such stud- ies broadly recognize four dimensions, namely, belonging, influence, connectedness, and the satisfaction of needs.

The ultimate aim of the present study is to support and implement a policy of plan-
ning and participation through a bottom-up method that promotes local management.
A preliminary analysis of the community1(Francescato, Tomai, & Ghirelli, 2002) was made
(Arcidiacono, 1999; Arcidiacono, Sommantico, & Procentese, 2001), in order to gain
Journal of Community Psychology, November 2005
1The general community profile of the Old Center and the observations were made by the Research Group on

Sustainable Development of Fondazione Laboratorio Mediterraneo, directed and supervised by a senior psy- chologist and a professor of community psychology. In the team, the interviews were conducted by fully trained psychologists. The director of the research team has a background of long work experience in the area, and some of the researchers have been long-term residents. Discussion of data and all the procedures related to the exhibition have been carried out by an action team of researchers, as well as representatives of associations involved in the area.

accurate knowledge of the historical center by studying the socioenvironmental, demo-
graphic, anthropological, and psychological variables of Naples.

This research phase also carried out ethnographic observations, with a view to identify- ing the main characteristics of the place and of the people who frequent it on either a regular or an occasional basis.

In the present research phase social interaction with citizen groups of the area is
developed and the key people are defined and interviewed.2
Semistructured interviews as narrativewere collected. The semistructured interviews last-

ed 1.5 hours and took place on the premises of cultural associations or in the private hous- es of participants. The thematic areas considered with regard to the district\u2019s life were the following: the historical background of the respondents\u2019 life; their needs, hopes, and fears; their views of the future; their well-being and quality of life; problems and incidence of tourism; and their ideas and proposals to improve the quality of life in the area.

Aphotoexhibition that used photodialogue (Legewie, 2003) was then prepared. The photodialogue is a participatory tool that relies on three main components: (1) widen- ing of the rational linguistic approach through visual stimuli, (2) assumption of new roles by the participating inhabitants, and (3) the exhibition as a stage of social catalyst (Legewie, 2003).

During the interviews, specific individuals were actively involved in taking photo- graphs to represent the places they considered meaningful, with regard both to their per- sonal history and to the life of the district. Later, the photos collected were organized into an exhibition and an extensive debate on resources and a future sustainable plan for the area was held. The latter plays an important role as an aggregation and communica- tion tool among inhabitants and institutions.

Interviewee Sampling Criteria. Who are the people to be interviewed? We first considered

the demographic groups who live and work in the area, as indicated in statistical year- books. We then referred to the Martini and Sequi pattern (1995), selecting our key peo- ple from among those who wield considerable local power and influence (\u201cin\u201d people) and among those who have less power (unemployed, nonauthorized car park atten- dants), representing marginal and/or opposition areas (\u201cout\u201d people).

The specific people to be interviewed, according to the multidimensional complexi- ty of the criteria given, were determined during several meetings among researchers and association representatives active in the area.

Finally, we chose 15 people assumed to be grassroots experts on tourism impact: 2 institutional and informal leaders, 5 people who worked in small shops of the ancient craft tradition (in the Christmas crib making, printing, and pastry sectors) and in jobs sensitive to the impact of tourism (bookshop assistants, newsagents); 2 territorial and social servic- es workers, 2 members of voluntary and cultural associations (cultural center, solidarity- based trade), 2 representatives of the professional and associations of craftsmen (one old and one new inhabitant), and 2 university students, who were temporary residents.

Participatory Action Research
2The authors would like to thank M. Esposito and I. Di Napoli, for collaboration in the analysis and categoriza-

tion of the collected data; R. Marcone, Giusi Pacilli, M. Coppola, M. Esposito, O. Natullo, M. Conte, and P. Palomba, for data collection and comments; and M. Esposito and I. Di Napoli, for setting up of the exhibition. We also thank all the representatives of associations and the local inhabitants.

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