On Tuesday May 10, 2016, world-renowned geographer and professor, Davide Papotti, delivered an insightful speech regarding Italian identity. The crowd of Italian students, professors from the language department, and the University of Denver administration listened actively, as Papotti discussed how Italian geography complicates both identity and politics in the country.
Drawing the crowd in right off the bat, Papotti began with a joke about Germany and the Soviet Union, which put a comfort level across the audiences of all different ages. His low-pitch, heavy Italian accent, which he constantly poked fun of throughout the speech, made people listen closely and enthusiastically.
Papotti wanted the audience to understand that grasping an identity in Italy is very challenging, and it is the root of many flaws within the Italian system. He began with history, and pointed out how Italy is a very young country, with unification occurring in 1861. Italians were inherently confused about identity because they lived in a new place, with new defined borders, a new society, and new ways of thinking.
With this confusion, as Papotti demonstrated, Italy separated into regions because the people wanted more of a sense of belonging and identity. After Italy became a republic in the 1940s, it recognized these regions as autonomous, and in 1970 the current regions were formed. Yet within these regions there are many disparities.
Papotti demonstrated these flaws with the help of scientific data, but first he forewarned the audience of his excessive use of graphs. He joked that a student of his wrote “good course, but way too many graphs” on his teacher evaluation at l’Università degli Studi di Parma, which gave the crowd another chuckle before he dove into the data.
The most memorable graphs demonstrated the differences between Northern and Southern Italy. The north is much more privileged than the south in terms of income, quality of life, health, and the index of marginality is way higher in the south. These disparities inherently bring contradictions in the Italian system. Italians distance themselves based off of regional pride and coherence is impossible to come by politically, Papotti demonstrated.
The European Union cannot communicate well with the country because of these regional difficulties. Throughout the regions, there is lack of agreement on foreign policy, and on what plans should lay ahead for the country.
With this tremendous complication in the Italian system, Papotti concluded that he does not know what is best for the country and Italy must continue to look for help, internationally. He said Italians have to go back to the historical figure, Massimo D’Azeglio, who once said, “Italians must reform themselves,” before the system can benefit.
In a standing ovation, Davide Pappoti finished his speech and stayed around to answer questions to anybody in the audience.