Research Design and Methodology

In order to examine the role of victims of waste-related environmental crimes committed in the LoF, a social network analysis (SNA) approach was employed, focusing on the role ofvarious organizations upon activists’ self-perception as victims. To this end, we derived the Pollution Fighters Affiliation Network (PFAN), taking into account two sets of agents: one consisting of the victims of illegal waste disposal in the LoF and the other

Geographical location of the Campania region. (Source

Fig. 3.1 Geographical location of the Campania region. (Source: http://

consisting of the organizations through which victims interact over time. The importance of studying affiliation networks rests on the theoretical relevance of people’s memberships in society. Simmel (1950, 1955), one of the first social theorists who examined the theoretical implications of

Land of fires (Source

Fig. 3.2 Land of fires (Source: elaborated by Burgalassi D. (personal concession)

individuals’ affiliations with collectivities, argued that individuals’ affiliations (e.g. with family, political parties, trade unions) were crucial in outlining their beliefs and perceptions.

From August to December 2014, 34 face-to-face, semi-structured interviews were conducted with opinion leaders[1] who were part of the 11

archipelago of associations that emerged out of the 20 most recent and enduring environmental conflicts in Campania. The sample of interviewees was built by following the so-called snowball method. We started by interviewing three classes of activists: 1) those acting upfront as the face of the local mobilization and receiving relevant coverage in regional and national media (newspapers and broadcasts); 2) those who appealed to the president of the Italian Republic; 3) those who resorted to courts, denouncing the serious environmental conditions of the LoF and the consequent negative impacts on human health. This initial roster of activists (identified through their expertise and knowledge) was subsequently integrated by asking all the activists interviewed to suggest other contacts who, according to them, were highly relevant in the waste conflict occurring in Campania.

The questionnaire consists of four parts and is designed to provide: 1) general information about the respondents (i.e. age, education, employment, and so on); 2) information about the environmental behaviours and attitudes of the interviewees, their level of engagement in grassroots activities for combating waste trafficking and mismanagement, and their self-perception as victims of environmental crime; 3) information on the kind of relationships that, as activists, they have established with local associations and grassroots committees (e.g. 29th August Committee, Campania Network Health and Environment, Coordination of Fires Committee), regional, national, and international NGOs (e.g. Legambiente, Italia nostra, Rete Lilliput, WWF, Greenpeace, ISDE), research and health centres (e. g. CNR, ENEA, WHO), and public authorities (e.g. Commissioner of the Waste Emergency in Campania, the Department of Civil Protection, Prefects).[2] We investigated the existing ties during what we consider the turning point in the battle over waste in Campania; and finally 4) we developed open questions on how the interviewed activists defined the environment, what kind of actions they considered an environmental crime, and what it meant personally to be victims of such offences.


We set 2008 as the turning point.[3] for investigating the ties existing among the various entities involved. The reasons for this choice are two: firstly, between 2007 and 2008 tons of waste were piled in the streets, and the images of those mountains of garbage on the roads and submerging Naples and its surrounding municipalities circulated throughout the world by means of various media; secondly, in 2008 the national government issued Decree 90/2008 (converted into Law 123/2008), which imposed 10 landfills and 4 incinerators in Campania and established that any demonstrations in the vicinity of a waste facility would be judged as a penal felony. Such authoritarianism weakened the grassroots movements against the waste crisis in the region for some years, but they emerged again around 2011 and until 2014 gained much popular support.

In this chapter, we present mainly the outcomes of the third section of the questionnaire, which allowed us to investigate how the victims interacted over time with different organizations in order to 1) reinforce their sociopolitical and judicial actions and 2) stop the illegal practices that had considerably affected their lives. In order to study the evolution of the interactions over time and reveal the different properties that networks had before and after our turning point (2008), we asked the respondents to specify the kind of interactions experienced with different organizations from 2004 to 2008 and during the period from 2008 to 2014. More specifically, following Morone et al. (2014), we distinguished three types of possible ties between the activists and the organizations: the activist could be a member of such organizations, they could exchange information with them, and/or they could exchange knowledge with them. As a consequence, three different kinds of networks emerged: ‘membership networks’, ‘information exchange networks’,[4]

and ‘knowledge exchange networks’.[5] However, for the purpose of this chapter, we focus only on the membership network; being a member (and/or a cofounder) of an organization means to be actively involved in most of its initiatives (e.g. meetings, demonstrations, seminars, public assemblies, writing letters to newspapers and authorities, writing and organizing press releases, drafting reports and dossiers, informing on environmental crimes to judicial authorities).

Nodes and edges compose a social network (SN); each node, also called a vertex, identifies an actor (e.g. a person or association); each edge, also known as a tie, denotes a particular relationship (e.g. friendship, sexual relation, membership, paper coauthorship) existing between the two nodes connected by the tie. Finally, the term ‘mode’ is used to refer to a distinct set of nodes characterized by a certain kind of tie. The most common type of network is a one-mode network. A network data set containing two different sets of nodes is known as a two-mode network. A special type of two-mode network that arises in SN studies is the affiliation network. Although affiliation networks are two mode, they have only one set of actors; the second mode in an affiliation network is, in fact, the set of events (such as organizations) to which actors belong.[6]

Our study examines the interactions between activists (the actors) fighting against environmental crime in the LoF and the organizations (the events) of which they are members and/or which they used to gain knowledge about waste management, illegal waste trafficking, and the health consequences of waste-related contamination. We call our affiliation network the PFAN. According to the collected data, the PFAN is composed of 67 actors, 34 of which are citizens (actors) and 33 organizations (events). Organizations are further subdivided into 15 local associations, three national associations, four international organizations, three research centres, two healthcare institutions, and six public institutions.[7]

  • [1] Not all individuals exert an equal amount of influence over others. In this sense, opinion leadersare influential in spreading either positive or negative information about a particular issue. Rogers(1962) emphasized the role of opinion leaders in influencing late adopters during the evaluationstage of the innovation decision process.
  • [2] The interviewees were free to suggest different organizations from those listed.
  • [3] A decisive point at which a significant change or historical event occurs.
  • [4] In the information exchange network, activists can participate in the initiatives of someorganizations even if they are not members of it or even if their activist organization co-organizesdemonstrations, seminars, conferences, and so on, with another organization. During theseactivities, activists belonging to different organizations exchange information about environmentaland waste issues. These settings of mutual interactions are very relevant for the circulation ofinformation among activists.
  • [5] The knowledge networks denote a loose interaction between activists and organizations. Suchinteraction does not mean that knowledge relevant to mobilization cannot emerge out of theseorganizations that are also central to the information network and membership network. Activistsmay acquire studies, research results, epidemiological studies, dossiers, and documents even from organizations that they do not trust on a political level or with which they do not interact directly.For example, activists can use the waste management plan drafted by the regional governmenteven if they do not trust the regional authorities (politicians, technicians, and so on) who governthe region or they can read epidemiological reports by the World Health Organization, eventhough they have no opportunity to meet and debate with the researchers who conducted thestudy.
  • [6] Indeed, ‘in affiliation network data, the two modes are the actors and the events. In such data,the events are defined not on pairs of actors but on subsets of actors’ (Wasserman & Faust 1994,p. 30). Specifically, the first mode is the set of agents N, the second mode is the set of events M; anagent can be related to one or more events.
  • [7] We report here the results of only 21 of the 32 interviews conducted.
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