The Politics of Migration in Italy: Perspectives on Local Debates and Party Competition.

Author:Dona, Giorgia
Position:Book review

The Politics of Migration in Italy: Perspectives on Local Debates and Party Competition Pietro Castelli Gattinara Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2016, 214 pp.

In recent years, scholars have increasingly recognized the salience of immigration in local politics. Castelli Gattinara's insightful book provides a comparative investigation of the politicization of migration across settings and time. The innovative contribution of the Politics of Migration in Italy is that it adopts a multi-dimensional approach to investigate the complex nature of a policy issue like immigration. Gattinara argues that discussing immigration policy at large gives only a superficial account of electoral campaigning, because political conflicts unfold over multiple dimensions of migration. He identifies three distinct dimensions: socio-economic, cultural and religious, and law and order.

Methodologically, this is an empirical study of the nature of immigration as a policy issue across six local electoral campaigns in three Italian cities: Rome, Milan, and Prato. In each locality, two electoral periods are examined. Electoral material, pledges, party manifestos, and news media coverage of immigration in selected local and national newspapers during electoral campaigns are analyzed.

The book addresses immigration debates from three interrelated angles: to what extent local factors and characteristics of electoral campaigns influence framing and dimensional choices in politicizing immigration; whether political actors develop strategies of competition based on dimensions or immigration as a whole; and the role of mass media in the construction of electoral agendas.

Generally, the findings indicate that the overall salience of immigration issues in political campaigns has increased over time in Italy, and more importantly that political actors do not differ from one another in whether they discuss immigration, but rather on how they discuss it.

Local characteristics, specifically the interaction between native and immigrant populations, influence the nature of the debates and the salience of different dimensions. Across the six campaigns, electoral debates on migration make references to law and order. However, while security debates are predominant in Rome, socio-economic ones have relatively more resonance in Prato, and cultural and religious ones are more important in Milan than in other cities. Milan's foreign Islamic population paves the way to developing debates on the...

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