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Thursday, April 6, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Changes along Italy’s southern Adriatic coast five centuries ago created human and ecological conditions that endured for centuries. Menaces born of people and of the sea worked their way into the ecologies of the shore, leaving behind material and conceptual traces of that time. The shore was imagined as sick, and the shallows just beyond were envisioned as a threat and an obstruction. That sickliness—the Italian word was malsania —expressed a human and historical relation to the seacoast.
This talk explores an early episode in the transformation that occurred in the 1770s: the digging of the Pigonati Channel to reconnect Brindisi’s silted harbor to the Adriatic Sea. The episode reveals something of the greater change that took place, while underscoring how ideas of what constitutes environmental menace, and the expectations that develop reassurances in the face of these, are themselves historical. The reassurances of a more recent past are now crumbling faster than the pace of rising seas. Summer crowds mask deep changes in the ecologies of the shore, while seasonal rhythms create a new and different abandonment. People and the sea will surely build a new coast, the shape and menace of which we do not know.
From Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò.