Rosalba Altopiedi

Collective action and social construction of victimization. The Eternit case

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In this paper I'll describe the mechanisms by which the very high mortality rate among employees and local citizen became a criminal case, the biggest lawsuit in Europe against the asbestos industry. A local grassroots movement played a pivotal role in this case. Starting with the notion that criminalization of the management and victimization of the workers are processes that evolve simultaneously, I'll argue that the highly damaging working conditions were no longer treated as a "normal" state of affairs, when the people involved realized that they actually were victims. This change represented the result of the combined action of several factors, among which collective action by Trade Unions and AFeVA (association of victims) played a major role. The local grassroots movement gave to the workers and the citizens the opportunity to understand that they all shared a common destiny. The awareness process moved along two axes: from denial to acknowledgement, from individual perception of the "normality" of an "abnormal" state of affairs to a collective recognition that the state of affairs was abnormal indeed.

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