February 1, 2022
22 b&w illus.
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
1.27 Pounds (US)
$70.00 USD, £55.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference
Paperback / softback
February 1, 2022
22 b&w illus.
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
.87 Pounds (US)
$30.00 USD, £23.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Citizens without a City

Destruction and Despair after the L'Aquila Earthquake

In 2009, after seismic tremors struck the Italian mountain town of L'Aquila, survivors were subjected to a "second earthquake"—invasive media attention and a relief effort that left them in a state of suspended citizenship as they were forcibly resettled and had to envision a new future.

In Citizens without a City, Jan-Jonathan Bock reveals how a disproportionate government response exacerbated survivors' sense of crisis, divided the local population, and induced new types of political action. Italy's disenfranchising emergency reaction relocated citizens to camps and sites across a ruined townscape, without a plan for restoration or return. Through grassroots politics, arts and culture, commemoration rituals, architectural projects, and legal avenues, local people now sought to shape their hometown's recovery. Bock combines an analysis of the catastrophe's impact with insights into post-disaster civic life, urban heritage, the politics of mourning, and community fragmentation.

A fascinating read for anyone interested in urban culture, disaster, and politics, Citizens without a City illustrates how survivors battled to retain a sense of purpose and community after the L'Aquila earthquake.

About the Author

Jan-Jonathan Bock received his PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge. He is editor (with Sharon Macdonald) of Refugees Welcome? Difference and Diversity in a Changing Germany and (with John Fahy and Samuel Everett) of Emergent Religious Pluralisms. Jan currently directs the Business Council for Democracy (BC4D) for the Hertie Foundation, Germany.


"Riveting and nuanced."—Christian Sorace, author of Shaken Authority: China's Communist Party and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake

"Set in the aftermath of the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake in central Italy, Citizens without a City tells of how civic life is negotiated in the post-disaster context. Through intricate court cases, civic activities, artistic performances, and invented traditions, Aquilani strive to regain their city and their citizenship. Through eloquent ethnography and innovative conceptual insights, Bock portrays life rising from rubble where versions of collective pasts and futures are intensely disputed. Providing the definitive line on everyday orientations after catastrophe, Citizens without a City is a fascinating study of life in post-disaster contexts which has repercussions for the anthropology of crisis, temporality, and urban politics."—Daniel M. Knight, University of St Andrews, author of Vertiginous Life: An Anthropology of Time and the Unforeseen

"This is an extraordinary book. Jan Bock in Citizens Without a City provides us with an unflinching and fascinating account of the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in L'Aquila. Pathbreaking in its approach, which moves across disciplines, this account provides us with a deep analysis of the way that citizens reacted to the earthquake, and the protests, divisions, spatial changes and political controversies that followed. Bock draws out the contradictory outcomes to this traumatic event at a local and micro level. The overall story, perhaps surprisingly, is one of division as opposed to reconciliation and solidarity. An urgent and troubling book, which is beautifully written, organised and illustrated which will be of interest to historians, anthropologists, sociologists and the general reader."—John Foot, author of The Archipelago: Italy since 1945, University of Bristol

"Citizens Without a City is a masterpiece of scholarly empathy. In ethnographically probing the deep factionalism that official autocracy, condescension, and mismanagement inflamed among the long-suffering survivors of a catastrophic earthquake, Bock deftly steers analysis away from both politically sterile recrimination and equally unproductive utopianism. In its place, he suggests an inclusive partiality – hard, realistic choices leavened by the social recognition and cultural representation of the losers' durable distress – as the precondition for the very possibility of genuine participation."—Michael Herzfeld, author of Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome, Harvard University

"Richly detailed, thoughtful, and full of evocative accounts, Citizens without a City offers a razor-sharp analysis of a pivotal period in Italy's recent history, showing how well-intentioned attempts at disaster relief can leave recipients feeling divided and disenfranchised. Importantly, the book shows that while citizens may turn to grassroots politics or legal redress in an attempt to get their voices heard, these arenas often prove unsatisfying or counterproductive. By contrast, the cultural realms of cinema, theatre and autobiographical writing offer more hopeful prospects for social recovery. Bock's analysis makes for urgent, timely and stimulating reading as we collectively reckon with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the states of emergency implemented to mitigate it. It is also a fine testament to the way that anthropological research can itself provide a platform for hitherto silenced voices."—Nicholas J. Long, London School of Economics and Political Science

"The picture of Italy that emerges from the pages of this book is in some ways a familiar one, with its ability to recover in the face of tragedy, shaped by spontaneous expressions of solidarity among citizens afflicted by catastrophe. And yet there is more. In this sensitive account of the L'Aquila earthquake and its aftermath, constructed out of careful observation and participation, there is a desire to understand and to overcome the veil of 'tragedy' in order to grasp, collectively, a sense of 'responsibility' and the depth of the idea of society."—Piero Vereni, University of Rome Tor Vergata

"This book is not just about the city of L'Aquila. Although Jan-Jonathan Bock reconstructs, grounded in in-depth fieldwork, the unique experiences that followed the horrific earthquake of 2009, many readers will detect further issues that are common in other democratic societies. This account addresses a conundrum across the West, especially in the face of the pandemic: the crisis of dialogue between citizens and institutions. Emergencies always reveal the relationship between citizens and power. Citizens Without a City stimulates further reflection on this subject through its richly detailed analysis of grassroots actions and political context. This book is of significant value for scholars and a general readership in many countries, and also for the Italian public, since 'states of emergency' too often become the norm in disaster management in Italy."—Mattia Diletti, University of Rome La Sapienza

"In Citizens Without a City (2022), Jan-Jonathan Bock follows various modalities of protest and legal challenges by local residents to the postdisaster measures implemented by the Italian government to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake in L' Aquila, Italy. Through a detailed ethnography, the book shows how such post-disaster programs can divide survivors and how forms of protest and resistance by those affected by the disaster do not always succeed."—Smoki Musaraj and Matt Canfield, PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review

9780253058850 : citizens-without-a-city-bock
274 Pages
$70.00 USD
9780253058867 : citizens-without-a-city-bock
Paperback / softback
274 Pages
$30.00 USD

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