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Contested subjects: Biopolitics & the moral stakes of social cohesion in post-welfare Italy

Milena Marchesi, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The requirements of European Unification, along with broader processes of globalization, including immigration, are reshaping economic and welfare priorities and reconfiguring the relationship between citizens and the state in Italy. The reorganization of the Italian welfare state around the principle of subsidiarity combines neoliberal restructuring with a commitment to social solidarity and cohesion and privileges the family as the social formation best suited to mediate between state, market, and citizens. As the state retreats from some of its former social welfare responsibilities, it simultaneously extends its reach into matters of reproduction and family-making. Biopolitics in the time of subsidiarity encompasses concerns over birth rates, the population, the rights of the unborn, and the proper composition of the family. This dissertation examines the terms of social cohesion in post-welfare Italy and the central role that matters of reproduction and the family play in its reformulation as a moral and cultural problem. I focus on three discursive sites: the politics of life; the assertion of the heteronormative family as an urgent and legitimate site of political intervention; and the parameters for the "appropriate" integration of migrants into Italian society. I draw on ethnographic inquiry with associations and individuals engaged in reproductive and migrant health and politics in Milan. Tracing the policies, practices, and discourses that seek to govern in the name of social cohesion sheds light on new citizenship projects and logics of inclusion/exclusion in the post-welfare moment and underscores the continued salience of gender, sexuality, and reproduction to processes of state building.^

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology

Recommended Citation

Marchesi, Milena, "Contested subjects: Biopolitics & the moral stakes of social cohesion in post-welfare Italy" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3603119.