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Terrorism and collective memories: comparing Bologna, Naples and Madrid 11 March.


Since the attacks of 11 September 2001 and 11 March 2004, the international debate on terrorism has entered a new phase, in which many social scientists have felt an urgent need to apply sociological categories to better understand and analyze the nature and consequences of terror for the state and society. It has been argued that terrorism has entered a new era (Martin, 2003): the process of globalization has affected terrorism and new patterns of expressing violence are to be expected. The international dimension has profoundly changed the rhetoric of terrorism, viewed truly as a war of symbols and meanings (Tuman, 2003). In this context, the mass media play an increasing role by helping to amplify the symbolic meanings of the terrorist attacks through worldwide visibility. (1)

Within the theoretical dimension, a great effort has been made to avoid the risk of reifying terms such as terror, terrorism, and terrorist. Charles Tilly (2004: 5) notes that 'the word "terror" points to a widely recurrent but imprecisely bounded political strategy': he defines it as 'asymmetrical deployment of threats and violence against enemies using means that fall outside the forms of political struggle routinely operating within some current regime.' According to the author, the risk of occurrence depends on the circumstance that, even if terrorism is often an intermittent form of action used by groups engaged in other forms of political struggle also, one usually tends to consider it a typical strategy constantly adopted by a certain group of social actors.

Several definitions and classifications of terrorism have been proposed and discussed (Cooper, 2001). Since 11 September 2001 and 11 March 2004, new encyclopedias of terrorism have been published (Combs and Slann, 2002; Shanty and Picquet, 2003). Terror has been analyzed from different angles by using cultural trauma theory (Alexander et al., 2004; Smelser, 2004), the game theory (Sandler and Arce, 2003), and complexity theory (Urry, 2002); by examining the rituals of solidarity produced by the attacks (Collins, 2004); by using ethnography and auto-ethnographic writing to understand better the victims' point of view (Ellis, 2002); and by focusing on specific cases (Oliverio, 1998; Toggia et al., 2000)--just to mention a few. One approach possibly less widely considered has been that provided by the sociology of memory and, especially, by its cultural approach. But why should the sociology of memory tell us anything relevant on terrorism? This article will try to show that the sociology of memory leads us to focus more clearly from a long-term perspective on analyzing terrorism and therefore provides a better comprehension of the consequences of terror for society, the state, the victims, and their relatives.

In fact, the sociology of memory has the advantage of implying a diachronic perspective, which obliges the social scientist to reflect on the long-term damage to society caused by the terror attack. Obviously, when terrorism represents such a worldwide emergency as has happened since 11 September 2001, it seems more adequate to reflect on the nature of terrorism itself, on the victims' and the relatives' traumas, on the possible ways to prevent new attacks, and on the most adequate weapons to fight them. In the short-term perspective, both politically and scientifically speaking, immediately after a terror attack the most important thing is to find out by all possible means how to prevent further attacks and prosecute the terrorists. The problem of remembering and forgetting seems to rest in the background. However, as this article attempts to point out, the elements that play a relevant role in selecting a future legitimated version of a traumatic event are worked out in the years immediately after its occurrence. The future of the present usually takes shape in six months to one year. The remembrance or the forgetting of the event will assume a crucial relevance not only for the survivors and their relatives (which alone would be very important) but also for the whole society and, more specifically, for the future definition of the relation between citizens and the democratic state. As was documented in research on the murders in Italy during the 1980s (Tota, 2003, 2004), part of the damage produced by terror can be the redefinition of the relationship between the citizens and the state. This variable plays such a crucial role that it can be used to create a new typology of the effects of terror. Tilly (2004) aims to distinguish four different relations between the authors and the victims of terror according to two variables: 'home territory' versus 'outside home,' and 'high degree of specialization in coercion' (specialists) versus 'low degree' (nonspecialists). This typology is very useful for focusing on the variables characterizing terror attacks.

Here another classification--complementary to Tilly's--is proposed, based, on the one hand, on the degree of change in the public representation of the state as a side effect of the terror attack and, on the other, on the number of contrasting versions of the terror event as recounted by the public. The first variable may vary along the following public perceptions of the role of the state: a) state as guilty of failing to defend its citizens; b) state as guilty of failing to prosecute terrorists; c) state as guilty of having no political and institutional willingness to pursue the terrorists; d) state as agent of the terror attacks. The term terrorism refers in fact to a very broad spectrum of situations, from 11 September to the cases of state-sponsored or state-sanctioned terror, such as those that have occurred in Italy (Tota, 2003) and Latin America (Oliverio and Lauderdale, 2005). Moreover, as Tilly stresses, 11 September cannot be considered a model from which to generalize: the characteristics of 11 September do not correspond to most terror attacks worldwide. Therefore, this complementary classification is useful.

The second variable (the number of contrasting versions of the terror event as recounted by the public), instead, varies along this continuum: a) low conflict over the public version of the past (as in the case of 11 September 2001); b) medium conflict (Madrid, 11 March, first attributed to Basque separatists and second to Al Qaeda); c) high conflict over the public version of the past (the Italian attacks in 1980). The first variable makes us focus on the potential counter-memories; that is, public memories constructed by and in society and contrasting with the 'official version' provided by the state--particularly in cases c) and d). The second variable introduces the problem of the time perspective. As Collins (2004: 68) points out, 'Processes have shapes in time, patterns of intensity, rapid shifts, and gradual declines.' The focus here is on these complex processes that lead to our attributing, more or less officially, the responsibility of the attack to an identified group of terrorists with specific characteristics (national versus international, specialists versus non-specialists).

However, still other questions must be raised: how will the public memory of terror be fixed in its final shape? How and when do ceremonials converge on a standard formula? When are the symbols of the public memory established and how does that happen? Is a commemorative genre emerging at the national level (Wagner-Pacifici, 1996; Wagner-Pacifici and Schwartz, 1991) for the victims of terrorism? Collins's work focuses on the four phases through which conflict produces group solidarity. He analyzes the case of 11 September, documenting, on the one hand, the role played by mass ceremonies and, on the other, the process of 'symbolic simplification and concentration' (Collins, 2004: 69), which, for example, concentrates the collective imagery on the firefighting instead of recalling all the victims of the New York City terrorist attack. But what happens to the rituals of solidarity after 10 or 20 years? Are there any clues in the period immediately after a terrorist attack that can be used to predict the future 'career' of this public memory? In several massacres--for example, Jedwabne in Poland (Gross, 2001) or Train 904 in Italy--the victims were first killed and then forgotten. Consideration of these cases reveals that the collective memory of an attack is a public good to defend, a value to transmit to future generations, a symbolic arena where the definition itself of democracy is questioned and where the nature itself of the public sphere is articulated. Identification of any clues to predict how effectively the process of simplification and concentration will work and how the collective memory will take shape would be very useful. In the following section of this article, by comparing the Italian public memory of terrorism to the case of Madrid, an attempt will be made to identify the potential future trajectories of the public memory of 11 March. From these clues, some indications will be deduced suggesting how to 'defend' the collective memory from the destructive effect of forgetfulness. These indications will be based on the empirical results of two studies done on the public memory of terrorism in southern Europe (Tota, 2003).

Obviously, I am not proposing a nalve definition of the relation between remembering and forgetting where the former represents 'the radiant hero ... attracting all attention, support and sympathy' and the latter 'the shady villain ... the trouble maker who is lurking behind the scenes' (Brockmeier, 2002: 15). In the past few years this complex relation has received increasing attention among scholars in this field (Middleton, 2002; Rasmussen, 2002). There has been general agreement on the problematic nature of this relation and the necessity to consider the symbolic space where oblivion and memory interact. Remembering is not a positive value in itself, insofar as forgetting cannot always be considered a negative consequence of passing time. However, shifting from the theoretical to the empirical dimension of the debate, reveals that there are cases where the main point is not the opposition between remembering and forgetting, but between justice and injustice, truth and institutional forms of 'socially instigated amnesia' (Douglas, 1986). If after 20 years the survivors and their relatives are still waiting for justice, pretending to forget appears totally unreasonable and immoral. When state terror occurs, the collective memory assumes a positive value tout court, as it becomes a possible means to reach the truth, to partially remedy exceptional cruelty and injustice. As Habermas (1987) emphasizes, there is a moral dimension in the relation to our past that cannot be ignored without damaging the connective texture of any democracy. The political and moral problematics of memory and forgetting must be carefully considered, before the positive value of any public memories is questioned.

Terrorism in Italy: A Very Contested Past

Since 1970 terrorists have been very active in Italy, causing many deaths and many massacres, mainly by exploding bombs, often located on trains, in railway stations, and in the central squares of cities. The list of terrorist attacks is long, but most Italian citizens have forgotten this turbulent past. As Dickie and Foot (2002: 46) emphasize,
   The extent and duration of the period of the stragi in postwar
   Italy have no real precedent in contemporary Europe. The series of
   peacetime outrages that marked the 1969-84 period cannot be
   compared with the effects of various coups or civil wars in other
   southern European countries. Only in Italy did the 'strategy of
   tension' last for so long and cause so much damage within a
   democratic system. Only in Italy do many of these outrages remain a
   mystery to this day. Few of the protagonists of the postwar stragi
   ... have ever been convicted. Many were not even tried.

'Strategy of tension' is the common term used to describe the terrorist attacks during the past three decades in Italy. It refers to a strategy based on violence and terrorism used by a deviant part of the 'democratic' state and the secret services to gain and maintain political consent unobtainable through democratic elections. It is surprising to note that although the frequency of the terrorist attacks was so high during these three decades, this period of the recent past has been forgotten. Many Italian citizens, especially the younger generations, do not even remember the dates, the victims, and the places where these tragedies took place. In 1992 the satirical magazine Cuore published a series of student essays on the massacre in piazza Fontana (12 December 1969). It was clear that the majority of the students had no idea of what had happened 23 years before (Foot, 2002). But the real problem is not oblivion, for, as Foot (2002: 276) argues in his research on the explosion in piazza Fontana, 'you cannot forget something you have never learned.'

Public understanding of Italy's recent history of terrorism is lacking. Since 1970 the deaths and massacres have not been socially included in the nation's public discourse. The collective unconsciousness has been the 'natural' consequence of several forms of instigated amnesia at work during that period and today. Concerning terrorism and the strategy of tension, Italy seems to suffer from a sort of 'Forrest Gump syndrome.' The analogy highlights the way the social production of unconsciousness has functioned in the last three decades. Forrest Gump (the leading character of the eponymous movie) handsomely illustrates the difference between individual and collective memory. As Cavicchia Scalamonti (1996: 31) suggests, this movie is a sort of 'fresco on social memory.' (2) The plot of the movie revolves around the contrast and discrepancy between the leading character's individual memory and the collective memory of the generation to which he belongs. Forrest seems to go through the two crucial events of his time with no understanding of their sense and relevance: he never works out any direct relation with the crucial events of his generation (the Vietnam War, the hippies" social movements). As his relation to the Vietnam War is mediated mainly through his friendship with Lt Dan Taylor, his relation to the hippies' protest is mediated through his love of Jenny, the girl he has loved since his childhood. It is as if his individual memory is constructed in the margins of, or even outside, the social memory that characterizes the historical and political context in which he lives. In regard to the recent history of terrorism, Italian citizens--and especially the young people--seem to suffer from the same syndrome as Forrest. The historical understanding of what happened is lacking; there is no collective elaboration of the context of this past. But the analogy with the movie should not be extended too far, lest it become an obstacle to the proper understanding of the dynamics at work in the Italian context. The discrepancy between individual and collective memory--the gap between social unconsciousness and individual responsibility--is the direct consequence of the systematic cancellation of this past from the public discourse, since one cannot forget something one has never learned.

By illustrating the different intervening factors that might explain the collective oblivion of terrorism, the aim here is to document the way in which cultural amnesia represents a very relevant key to understanding why Italy tends to forget its recent past. According to sociological theory, the collective and social memory has often been considered the product of 'institutional work.' Oblivion, on the contrary, has been considered mainly a passive process, the implied result of the social activities of remembering. A community might tend to forget what has not been selected by the process of remembering. On the contrary, the two qualitative studies on whose data this article is based--and particularly the work on Train 904--document how remembering and forgetting are active processes and illustrate how the collective unconsciousness of terrorism in Italy has been socially constructed. These data show to what extent the collective amnesia is the result of the daily work of specific groups and institutions whose primary interest is to forget (Camorra in the case of Train 904). The studies also suggest that oblivion requires continuous work in daily life to silence the survivors and the victims' relatives, to destroy all possible symbols and cultural traces of the crucial events, and to prevent the artists from expressing the different versions of the contested past by shaping and legitimating them. As we will see, the difference between Bologna and Naples depends on the absence of civil society, such as the lack of artistic codes that might have succeeded in turning the collective memories of the victims' relatives into broader universalistic codes--those of democracy, justice, and truth.

Comparing the Commemoration of Terrorism in Bologna and Naples

The differences between northern Italy (Bologna) and southern Italy (Naples) represent a leitmotif of most sociological literature dealing with the characteristics of the country. However, these studies do not focus on the production of cultural symbols, and the objects of memory represent a very neglected topic. As for the social inscription of the past into public discourse, only a few studies highlight the different patterns of constructing the cultural objects in which the collective memories have been shaped. To understand how Italy remembers the period of the 'strategy of tension,' two case studies are considered here: the first case (Tota, 2003) studies the politics of remembering the terrorist attacks that took place at the railway station in Bologna (2 August 1980); the second case (started by the author in December 2002 and still ongoing) analyzes the politics of oblivion of the terrorist and Camorra attack that occurred on Train 904 from Naples to Milan (23 December 1984). (3)

The two events took place during the same political and historical period: 'the strategy of tension.' The first attack occurred in 1980, the second in 1984. The two events are similar: a bomb explosion in a railway station and on a train causing many deaths and injuring many people. The pattern of the massacre is partially different: in the case of Bologna it was due to fascist terrorism, in the case of Naples to the Camorra and terrorism. While the explosions took place in the same geographical area (Train 904 exploded in San Benedetto Val di Sambro, 40 kilometers from Bologna and inside one of the longest Italian tunnels), the commemorative ceremonies take place every year in two very different contexts. The 1980 attack is commemorated every year in Bologna; the Train 904 attack instead is commemorated both in Naples and in San Benedetto Val di Sambro (where the explosion occurred).

For the theoretical approach, the comparison between these cases appears useful: while the Bologna terrorist attack represents within the national context a unique case of 'the perfect remembering'--a sort of model where the commemorative machine has functioned very well for more than two decades--the Naples or Christmas attack instead represents a case of 'imperfect oblivion,' insofar as after 20 years the past is yet to be inscribed in stable and legitimated forms within the public discourse. The research documents that from 1984 to 2004 the public memory of the Christmas murders (as the Train 904 massacre is called) has been structurally dislocated. It shows how the cultural amnesia of this very controversial past, where the Camorra and terrorism have played a joint role, has been possible.

A Case of 'Perfect Remembering': Bologna, 2 August 1980-2004

At 10:25 am on 2 August 1980 a bomb exploded in the waiting room of the Bologna train station. It was the first Saturday of August. This was a massacre that shocked the collective imagination in part because of its clear class significance. As many people have stressed since, this was a bomb that materially and symbolically struck at the working classes. The timing and the place of the massacre (the morning of 2 August in a station that was and is a crucial transport link between the North and the South) revealed the type of victim that the bomb was aimed at: the typical worker from northern factories, going back to the South to visit his or her relatives. Chance played its part in shaping the way the massacre struck home. The device was placed in the second-class waiting room of the station. After the explosion, a part of the building adjacent to the waiting room collapsed and debris fell onto an Adria Express train, which was stationary at platform one. When the bomb exploded, the train was just about to leave: the guards were already 'asking for the off', the moment when their arms were raised to show each other that the doors were closed and therefore the station supervisor could give the signal for the train to depart. Two or three minutes later the train would have left the station. If it had done so, the number of victims would have probably been even higher because another even more crowded train on its way to Rimini and Riccione was stationary at platform three. The outcome of the massacre was terrible: 85 dead and 200 injured (Tota, 2002).

Every year on 2 August, a ceremony is held in Bologna to remember the victims and their relatives. The commemorative day begins at 6:30 in the morning with the arrival in a park near the city center of the 'we shall not forget' relay teams, which come from all over Italy. At 8:45 the survivors and their relatives are welcomed and paid tribute by the political authorities in the council chambers of palazzo d'Accursio (the municipal building). Directly after the encounter in the municipal building, the marchers begin to gather in piazza Nettuno, a highly symbolic area for the ceremony, in front of two plaques. The first is made of glass in memory of the victims of fascist terrorism in the Bolognese area (Italicus train--4 August 1974; Bologna station--2 August 1980; Train 904--23 December 1984); the second is represented by the huge monument to the dead of the Resistance, which contains all the photos and names of the fallen in the civil war against the fascists during the Second World War. A march starts every year from piazza Nettuno and arrives in piazza Medaglie d'Oro (the square surrounding the station), which holds a stage for the authorities and the victims' relatives. The ceremony always begins with a speech by the president of the victims' relatives association, which is planned to end at 10:25, the moment the bomb exploded. This is followed by a minute of silence in memory of the victims. Subsequently the mayor of Bologna and the political authorities make a speech. At 11:15 a special train leaves the station for San Benedetto Val di Sambro, where wreathes are placed on the plaques laid in memory of the victims of the Italicus and 904 Naples-Milan train bombings (two other terrorist massacres on trains that took place in August 1974 and December 1984 in an area about 40 kilometers from Bologna). From the very beginning, the march embodies the lay character of this commemoration: only the lay authorities are present and there are no local ecclesiastical figures. This is a specific characteristic of the ceremony. Indeed, in other commemorative contexts the religious nature dominates the march in the form of a procession, such as the one in memory of the victims of Val di Sambro, which takes place every year about an hour after the Bologna ceremony and in the presence of a priest who blesses the victims and their relatives.

Although the religious dimension appears to have been played down in the commemorative ceremony that has developed over the last two decades, it would be quite misleading to think that the ritual action represented here is devoid of all religious character. The commemorative day in Bologna recalling the victims of all terrorist bombings is emblematic. The march and the ceremony in piazza Medaglie d'Oro can be analyzed as a case of civil religiosity: when the victims' relatives walk along the streets of Bologna to the applause of the crowd of citizens who, after 22 years, have chosen not to forget, we are witnessing the social reproduction of the values of the democratic state being reinstated and regenerated in civil society. Although that rite, that simple and orderly march along via Indipendenza on the one hand celebrates the memory of the victims of all terrorist acts in Italy, it also enacts and reinstates, every year, the values of lay morality, the idea of a state opposing the strategy of tension and a democracy that rejects the strategy of terror to achieve and maintain political consensus. Every time those marchers pass, they seek to celebrate the real possibility of an alternative, of a democratic relationship between the state and its citizens. Why, after 22 years, do the Bolognese continue to applaud and be as moved as the victims' relatives, while citizens in Naples appear almost to have forgotten their victims of terrorism? The Bolognese citizens have always considered these victims as 'their dead,' and the collective investment in initiatives showing this solidarity has remained very high for years. This collective bereavement in Bologna has, over the years, increasingly embodied an ideal of justice that in many other contexts seems missing. One striking feature is the large presence of political authorities in Bologna at every anniversary. In particular, those politicians who speak on stage in front of the station on behalf of the government expose themselves to jeers and insults and very little applause. Yet they cannot help but be present, both because it is their institutional duty and because the march in that square, every year, represents a civil refounding of that ideal of the democratic state, which no political authority can do without. As a result, this ceremony appears to have a character of civil religiosity. This is also due to the critical and ideal symbolism that this gathering of civil consciousness represents every year. The idea of a nation appears to be refounded in Bologna; the commemorative speeches every anniversary of 2 August appear to reproduce socially the values of the democratic state.

Over the past two decades the commemorative events have grown steadily. On the 2 August 1981, children from the municipal summer camps in Bologna organized a commemorative march and built a memorial made up of 85 colored stones recalling the 85 people who died. The first anniversary commemoration of the bombing lasted from 29 July to 2 August. Thousands of young people from around Europe were invited. In the four days of events, organizers set up self-managed areas to exchange expressive and musical experiences, discussion groups on terrorism and on urban ecology, and concerts of Renaissance and Baroque music. In 2002, a citizens' committee launched an initiative entitled 'A Book Against Hatred.' Young prisoners at the youth prison in Bologna designed 100 bookmarks that were donated to citizens who left a book under the memorial in the station waiting room on 2 August. With every commemoration, the number of social and civil initiatives has increased.

The program for 2 August 1981, already possessed the main structural features that were to be kept in the subsequent two decades: the morning began with political authorities and the relatives of victims gathering in palazzo d'Accursio, followed by a march from piazza Maggiore to the station. The printed program stated that the march was to be 'in silence': this was an explicit instruction to the young people from all over Europe indicating how they should participate. In the programs of subsequent years this request was removed, as it was now implicitly observed by everybody. Furthermore, the 1981 commemoration day program included, at 10:20 am, the reading of an appeal by young people against terrorism, followed by an appeal by the victims' relatives to seek the truth. At 10:25 there followed two minutes of silence, and at 10:30 the reconstructed wing of the station was inaugurated. At 9:15 pm a concert of classical music conducted by Zoltan Pesko was given in piazza Maggiore. It is as if in some way the general commemorative script of that first anniversary was established from the very beginning, with small variations introduced over the years. This commemorative script has been so successful over time that it has established the commemorative genre for all the Italian victims of terrorism. The research into the Bologna case (Tota, 2003, 2004) documents that, in cases such as this one, the future trajectories of the representation of a high-profile and traumatic event that is a terrorist attack are decided in the period immediately following the event itself. In Bologna, the first six months of the first year (1981) determined the future of this past. This initial phase seems to have played the most relevant role in assuring the possibility for remembering.

What are the ingredients of this unique and ideal model of perfect remembering? They seem to be contained in a very active and 'sane' local civil society with a long tradition of being active in cultural and civic associations, a very efficient local government (run by the leftist party for many years), a very strong association of victims' relatives with charismatic leaders able to make the voice and the point of view of the victims heard in the city's public discourse, and an art system capable of sustaining, expressing, and providing visibility to the counter-memory of this event. The classification proposed at the beginning of this article is a useful tool for better understanding what happened in Bologna. Since 1980 the public representation of the state has been changed for many Bolognese citizens. There was a shift from an initial step when the state was considered guilty 'only' of being unable to defend its citizens from terrorism to the next step when, after more than two decades with no justice, the state has been considered guilty of having no political and institutional willingness to prosecute the terrorists. The most extreme position (held by anti-globalization movements, but also by the association of the victims' relatives) was to consider the state a secret instigator of the terror attack. During these different phases this memory has always been characterized by very high conflict over the public version of the past. The participants have never been revealed and tried. These characteristics have caused the public memory of this massacre to assume the nature of a counter-memory; that is, a memory constructed by the civil society, opposed to and contrasting with the 'official' version of what happened. Since 1980 this counter-memory held by the association of the victims' relatives, the local leftist government, and the Bolognese citizens has been expressed against the national government (run for many years by a coalition led by Christian Democrats). This counter-memory, elaborated at the local level, has succeeded in gaining national notice and in competing within the Italian public discourse with the several contrasting versions of this past. For example, the victims' association, supported by the city of Bologna, has played a crucial role by starting to reveal the names of the participants or their supporters. The attack cannot be a mystery anymore, as every year on 2 August, during his speech, the president of the victims' association has reported the names of the political actors involved who protected the terrorists and helped them to organize the attack. After more than 20 years, the mystery version has been definitively substituted by the state terror one.

The Bologna tragedy represents the only case in Italy where a terrorist attack resulting in many dead is still remembered. All other terrorist attacks that took place in Italy during the strategy of tension period have been more or less forgotten. In this context, the cases of Italicus and Train 904 seem to hold the negative supremacy of being the most forgotten cases. Both incidents took place in Val di Sambro, inside one of the longest Italian tunnels: the San Benedetto Val di Sambro tunnel is 18 kilometers and 568 meters long and links northern and southern Italy along the river Sette in the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano chain of mountains near Bologna. Through that tunnel 200 to 220 trains pass every day, but they never stop inside the tunnel. It has happened just twice: on 4 August 1974 (the Italicus train) and on 23 December 1984 (Train 904). The present analysis will focus only on the second attack.

A Case of 'Imperfect Forgetting': The Christmas Attack, Val di Sambro, 23 December 1984-2004

On 23 December 1984, another railway bombing took place in Val di Sambro on the 904 train. The train from Naples to Milan was packed. Most passengers were going to visit their relatives for the Christmas holiday, but the train would never reach its final destination. It stopped forever at the 10th kilometer of the San Benedetto Val di Sambro tunnel. The death toll was initially 15 and then rose to 17; the number of injured, 267. The Association of the Victims' Relatives of the attack on Train 904, founded on 17 March 1985, in Naples, describes the massacre on its web site:
   Those who organized the explosion, aimed at killing innocent
   citizens. Everything was planned to cause the highest number of
   victims as possible: the Christmas holiday, the power of the
   explosion, the timer of the bomb regulated in such a way to blow up
   inside the tunnel in coincidence with the transit of another train
   on the opposite track. Only the prompt reaction of the driver who
   immediately stopped the line avoided a more dramatic disaster. The
   bomb on the Christmas train was an anomalous act of terrorism, where
   more clearly the extension of criminal logics, their reciprocal
   connections may be observed. It is a terrorist act where the shadow
   of the Mafia is behind the terrorist organization. The enemy is
   multilateral and hidden, based on many members both inside and
   outside the country. (

Since 1984, the public memory of this massacre did not get the visibility necessary to be fixed into any stable cultural form. The reasons are several and more complex than one would expect. Also in this case, after two decades (1984-2004) with no serious attempt to obtain justice and truth for the survivors and their relatives, the state has been perceived as guilty of secretly mandating the attack, and this past has been contested. However, the most relevant feature of this memory has been and still is its invisibility at both the national and local levels. How is it possible that after only 20 years a massacre such as the one that occurred on Train 904 during a period of peace in a European democracy is forgotten? A study by the author, still in progress, documents how this public memory was systematically dislocated by a very powerful lobby rooted in a connection between Camorra, terrorism, and political power. But there are other reasons cultural amnesia has been possible, and they have partially to do with the very fragmentation of the commemorative processes. Since 1984, the commemoration of the victims of Train 904 has taken a very fragmented shape: a number of ceremonies take place during the year and in different areas of the country. Instead of contributing to inscribe this memory clearly into the public national discourse, they have led to ambiguity and confusion. As an unintended consequence, the plurality of the ceremonies contributed to the invisibility of the event itself, as the events fragmented the national attention to the attacks. The commemorative ceremonies of Train 904 are the following:

a) Each year on 2 August, on the commemoration day of the 1980 Bologna attacks (and together with the commemoration of the Italicus attack in San Benedetto Val di Sambro, 4 August 1974), at the railway station of San Benedetto Val di Sambro (40 kilometers from Bologna).

b) On 23 December every year at the railway station of San Benedetto Val di Sambro (the station nearest to the site of the explosion).

c) On 23 December every year at the Central station in Naples, from which the train had departed.

Many reasonable factors can explain how this fragmentation was possible. For example, the explosion occurred within a tunnel in a very difficult place to access. For this reason, the commemorative ceremony could not be held in its most symbolical place but had to be moved to the nearest railway station in San Benedetto. As many victims were residents of Naples, it seemed unreasonable to organize the commemoration in an anonymous and distant place (a small railway station in northern Italy), rather than holding it at the central railway station in Naples. Yet even this solution was problematic, as in Naples the Camorra obstruct every opportunity of observing the proper commemoration of the victims (as we will see). On the other hand, the side commemoration on 2 August produced only a sort of 'side' visibility, for on the same day three attacks have to be commemorated (2 August 1980--Bologna railway station; 4 August 1974--Val di Sambro Italicus; and 23 December 1984--Val di Sambro Train 904). On that day all national attention is reserved for the victims of the Bologna attacks, who are remembered in their city exactly in the place where the explosion occurred, on the proper anniversary day of the attack, and by the same citizens who ran into the station on that terrible day, gave first aid to the injured, and helped the firemen to extract the bodies from the rubble.

Train 904: The Commemorative Ceremonies

Every year on the commemoration day in Bologna a special train leaves the station at 11:15 am for San Benedetto Val di Sambro, where wreathes are laid on the plaques in memory of the victims of the Italicus train bombing (4 August 1974) and of the 904 Naples-Milan train bombing (23 December 1984). The train journey of about 40 kilometers from Bologna to San Benedetto takes about 20 minutes. The Italicus tragedy occurred on 4 August, six years before the Bologna massacre. The proximity of the two dates naturally led to the two events being commemorated together. The ceremony in San Benedetto takes place every year in the little square outside the station. The commemorative monument of the Italicus bombing consists of an assembly of pieces of iron from the train shaped into a carriage door. There are hands grasping metal, pushing out in a last minute attempt to flee from the inferno of that explosion. These are desperate hands looking for an impossible escape route. And we see, against a mass of granite, a contorted tangle of metal sheets made from one of the train carriages that was ripped apart by the bomb explosion. A commemorative plaque similar to the one for the Bologna bombing was installed for the victims of the 904 train. The entire ceremony lasts 20 minutes and begins every year outside with the voice of a railroad worker, coming through a loudspeaker, recalling the victims of the bombing and inviting those present to observe a minute of silence. The first whistle of a locomotive is heard, and once the 60 seconds have passed, a second whistle is heard. The gonfaloni banners of the municipalities, which form a circle around the Italicus monument, are raised as a tribute to the victims. Soldiers present at the ceremony stand at attention and the priest of San Benedetto each year reads a different passage from the Bible to commemorate the victims. This is followed by the laying down of wreaths. Political and institutional authorities take part in the ceremony but never address those present. The mayor of San Benedetto is always present, as is the president of the provincial authority, the president of the regional authority, the mayor of Bologna, and representatives of the Jewish community in Bologna, (4) together with the presidents of the other victims' associations.

The victims of Train 904 have been commemorated since 1985 on 23 December and, at the specific request of the victims' relatives, on 23 December the victims of the Italicus are also remembered. As a result it was decided also to commemorate all the victims of 4 August 1974, and 23 December 1984, on the second of August. The ceremony concludes with a large buffet lunch offered by the mayor to all present and held in the station bar. The ceremony differs from the one held every year in Bologna. However, any comparison of the two ceremonies must take into account an important analytical dimension. The apparently less politicized nature of the commemoration in Val di Sambro may be read in a different light if the two ceremonies are interpreted not as juxtaposed but as subsequent and therefore strongly integrated with each other. In this perspective they are not two scripts of separate ceremonies but rather one single script. The natural consequence of the square's greater prominence in Bologna as an arena of public discourse, both in the local discursive context and the national context, is that political demands are given space and are powerfully articulated in that context, rather than in the more intimate setting of San Benedetto. The real difference appears to lie more in the presence of the ecclesiastical authorities, who, in this case, dominate the civil (the presidents of the victims' relatives associations) and political representation (for example, the mayor of San Benedetto). This difference, too, cannot be analyzed in the abstract but must necessarily be considered within the wider context of the relationships among the local ecclesiastical authorities, the victims' relatives, and the political and civil authorities. What is striking in comparing the two ceremonies is the fact that the political authorities in Bologna have developed a double mode of participation. Some institutional figures show their solidarity and respect for all the victims simply by being present; others take the floor on the station stage. In San Benedetto, however, the second mode has never gained ground, and the sole authority that speaks is the ecclesiastical authority, who has been absent from the commemorative ceremony in Bologna (at least until 2002, when for the first time a mass was held in the cathedral). Another peculiarity of the Val di Sambro ceremony is the rhetorical device of the railroad worker's voice, which is broadcast from a loudspeaker to indicate the start of the commemorative ceremony.

On 23 December, the commemorative ceremonies are held both at the railway station in San Benedetto Val di Sambro and at the Central Station in Naples. For brevity's sake, about the former it will be said only that the script of the ceremony is similar to that of the 2 August event, and the participation of the citizens over time has been meager. Local and national dailies publish few articles about this event, and never in the first pages. Since 1994 (10 years after the attacks) a commemorative ceremony has also been held in Naples inside the Central Station. It is a brief ceremony held at the platform where Train 904 left in 1984, but until 23 December 2003, no symbols of the bombing existed inside the station. For nine years, the wreaths were usually left at the end of the platform, on the ground. In 2002 the Victims' Relatives Association, after many difficulties, finally managed to have a commemorative plaque unveiled by the new mayor of the city, Rosa Russo Jervolino, at the Central Station. This plaque, set up after a delay of 19 years, represents the only tribute to the victims and is the only symbol of the bombing officially granted to the victims and their relatives by the municipality of Naples.

Several clues provide evidence that in Naples the organization of any form of commemoration and the attempt to construct legitimated symbols of this memory clashes with the Camorra's willingness to forget. On the third anniversary of the attacks, only seven people took part in the mass celebrated to commemorate the victims. On the fourth anniversary (24 December 1988), the president of the Victims' Relatives Association, Riccardo Meschini, injured alongside his wife in the explosion, tried to organize a concert of sacred music in the cathedral. Monsignor Graziosi helped the association, but in the end Cardinal Giordano forbade the concert. He was afraid of possible retaliation, since Giuseppe Misso, a prominent boss of the Camorra, was on trial in Florence for the attacks at the time, and the cathedral borders the Forcella neighborhood, the area under the control of Misso's clan. The Victims' Relatives Association then asked other parish priests in churches in other neighborhoods, but they all refused Meschini's proposal. The association approached the following churches: the San Gennaro Cathedral, San Francesco di Paola, San Ferdinando, Santa Maria degli Angeli, and San Giacomo degli Spagnoli. The concert was never organized, but on that occasion the local and the national dailies published several articles accusing the cardinal of collusion with the Camorra. Interviewed by a journalist, Monsignor Giordano denied it: 'Personally I have never received any request by the Victims' Relatives Association concerning the concession of the Cathedral to organize a commemorative concert, nor do I know of any request made to the parish priests of other churches in Naples ... As concerns the use of churches for non-religious purposes the dispositions set out by the Pope are very strict ... Obviously the decisions of the priests have been inspired by those criteria and any different interpretation of what happened is tendentious and bizarre.' On 24 December 1988, Corriere della Sera, one of Italy's most important national dailies, published an article headlined 'The Church is Afraid of the Camorra. The commemorative concert organized in memory of the dead on Train 904 will not take place because of the denial of the parish priests.' On the same day the daily Il Tempo published an article entitled 'No church in Naples is willing to commemorate the attacks. Too much fear of reprisal by Misso's Clan.' To avoid any misleading interpretation of the role played by the Catholic church in the battle against the Camorra and 'Mafia' in many cities and villages in southern Italy, one must remember that in the last 20 years many priests have been killed by the Camorra and similar organizations because of their courage in defending the citizens.

This is only an emblematic example, as the list of single decisions, events, and activities that have contributed in 20 years to construct the invisibility of this memory is very long. This list of inaction, silence, and humiliation of the victims and their relatives by the local institutions unequivocally documents that the 'imperfect oblivion' requires constant work, day by day, to stop all initiatives, to silence the witnesses, to destroy all symbols. On 5 March 1991, Judge Corrado Carnevale suspended the life sentences against Pippo Calo, Guido Cercola, Giuseppe Misso, Luigi Cardone, Giulio Pirozzi, and Alfonso Galeotta. The municipality was silent, but many posters appeared on the streets exulting over Giuseppe Misso's release.

In trying to better understand how the cultural amnesia of this terrorist act was possible, another example is emblematic: the history of the plaque in Casoria, a town near Naples. Among the victims was a whole family: Angela (33 years old), Anna (nine), Giovanni (four), and Nicola de Simone (40). Because Nicola worked at the National Electricity Organization (ENEL), the ENEL trade union was active for many years in attempting to organize commemorative initiatives. Moreover, Angela's sister, Titta Calvanese, worked in the school, and in that context several initiatives were organized. At the end of January 1985 (one month after the attack), the mayor unveiled a bronze plaque bearing the names of the victims in the main square of Casoria, near the city hall. In 2004, the plaque has become forgotten, dirty, and abandoned. Interviewed by the author, Titta Calvanese commented, 'Luckily the plaque is not on the ground; otherwise they would park on it.' The 'imperfect' oblivion that characterizes this attack cannot be regarded as the passive result of other processes; it does not depend on the inertia of the citizens but on their fear of retaliation in the logic of terror itself. In many cases where state-sanctioned terror has occurred, the battle against terrorism has to be fought in civil society, day by day. It is a war of symbols, a war against a 'dis-culture' that must be changed.

The Globalization of Terrorism: A Comparison with Madrid, 11 March 2004

On 11 March 2004, 20 years after San Benedetto Val di Sambro, the trains traveling in southern Europe were again under attack by terrorists. The Madrid attacks consisted of a series of ten explosions aboard four commuter trains connecting Alcala de Henares (where Latin American and Eastern European immigrant communities live) to the southeast of Madrid. At 7:39 am four bombs exploded at Atocha station on Train 21431, and, simultaneously, three bombs exploded just outside Calle Tellez station on Train 17305. A few minutes later, at 7:41, two bombs exploded on Train 21435 at El Pozo del Tio Raimundo station. At 7:42 one further explosion occurred, on Train 21713 at Santa Eugenia station. The number of victims was the highest in all the history of terrorist attacks in Spain: 191 people died (178 at the scene and 13 in hospital). More than 1800 were injured. As many of them were illegal immigrants, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar announced an amnesty for all the victims of the terrorist attack. According to the police, the bombs aboard the Atocha and Tellez trains were designed to bring down the roof of the Atocha station and aimed to cause an even higher number of victims. This commuter rail line is used by blue collar workers, students, and middle-class people who commute every day to the more expensive city. Comparing 11 March to the Italian terrorist attacks, one finds several similarities: the incident in Madrid, in fact, was a terrorist attack on trains, in a southern European country, targeted against the working class, as was the case in Bologna and in Val di Sambro. The explosions were organized to obtain the highest number of victims; the terrorists' desire was to kill as many innocent people as possible and to do this in a spectacular way through massive devastation. In this respect, the mass media might be considered a contributing factor in the new patterns of terrorism we are witnessing. Nowadays it seems that terrorists cannot 'only' devastate and kill, but they have to do it according to the aesthetic codes proposed by the television system. It might be argued that the increasing role of the mass media in affecting public knowledge of what happens worldwide has the side effect of modifying the patterns of expressing violence and terror. From this point of view, the Atocha station attack cannot compete with the level of 'spectacularity' of 11 September whose images were transmitted for several months worldwide. (5) Neverthless, 11 March is clearly on a scale exceeding any other terrorist attacks organized by European terrorists.

One of the primary differences between Madrid and the Italian terror of the 1980s is that the tactics used for the former are more typical of Islamic extremist groups. The process of attributing the responsibility for the Madrid attacks entailed two phases: the ETA hypothesis and the Al Qaeda hypothesis. Several indications suggest that in the days immediately following 11 March and immediately before 14 March (the election day in Spain), the Spanish government unsuccessfully attempted to use the attacks for political purposes. One hour after the attack, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said that ETA was surely responsible for it. Two similar abortive attempts and a long tradition of terrorist attacks staged by the Basque separatist group to demand independence made it reasonable to suspect ETA. But at the outset, a sports bag containing an unexploded bomb and a cell phone configured in Arabic was found near the site of the explosion. Aznar decided to ignore this fact and called the director of El Periodico, Antonio Franco, and the director of El Pals, Jesus Ceberio, to assure them that ETA was behind the bombings. A few hours after the attacks, Juan Josd Ibarretxe Markuartu, the head of the government in Basque country, stated: 'ETA is writing its own end with these terrible actions ... Those who commit these atrocities are not Basque.' On the same day the Spanish foreign minister, Ana Palacio, sent a message to all Spanish embassies declaring again that ETA was without a doubt responsible for the attacks. The Catalan prime minister Pasqual Maragall, borrowing from John E Kennedy, said: 'Todos somos madrilenos (We are all Madrilenos) ... If terrorists intended to divide us, they will have achieved the exact opposite, and the best way to reject terror is to vote on Sunday.' (6)

On Sunday 14 March the day of the election, an editorial published in El Pais stated, 'The prime minister gave his word to the heads of the media so that they would present the attacks as the work of the ETA terrorist group.' On the same day Spain's socialists won the election, defeating the Popular Party and Aznar. El Periodico's Franco decided to make public the reasons for the mistake his news article had made by attributing the attacks to Basque terrorism: 'It was then that I, convinced that the prime minister of my country was unable, in the exercise of his duty, of giving assurances about something he was not completely sure about, decided on the headline ETA2 M-11.' However, the ETA hypothesis also gained consent in the international debate: the UN Security Council, at the request of the Spanish government, passed Resolution 1530 condemning the attacks and charging ETA with responsibility for them: 'the resolution condemns in the strongest terms the bomb attack in Madrid, Spain, perpetrated by the terrorist group ETA.' A few days later the Spanish ambassador had to submit an apologetic letter explaining the new progress of the investigation (involving Al Qaeda), but still confirming the strong conviction of the government that the Basque terrorists were behind the bombings. The most critical person from the beginning was Fidel Castro who, during a TV interview held on 13 March, accused the government explicitly of 'deceiving the Spanish citizens over the attacks for electoral gains.'

Four days after the attacks, on 16 March, an article published by the Washington Post reported that 'the Spanish government knew early on that there was evidence pointing to Islamic terrorism, but they instructed the police to keep quiet about it and instead pushed the idea that ETA was behind it.' On 18 March, the Inter Press Service published an article titled 'Spanish Reporters: Government Silenced the Truth about the Attack,' which stated: 'EFE (a group representing reporters and editors at Spain's state-run news agency) knew, from the very morning of last Thursday's attacks in Madrid, about the existence of a cell phone configured in Arabic and about a van found in Alcala de Henares, and knew that one of the dead was a terrorist.' After this declaration, the committee of the EFE employees accused the agency's news director, Miguel Platon, of imposing a regime of censorship favoring the interests of the Popular Party with a view to the 14 March elections and asked him to resign. The list of events, politicians' statements, and comments could be cited further. That the government and the Spanish Popular Party made political use of the terror in the days immediately after the massacres seems a reasonable hypothesis. In this respect, the Madrid case differs greatly from the Italian terror of the 1980s: in the former, there is an unsuccessful attempt at using the terror for political gain. Among the reasons that can explain why this falsification was discovered after such a short time are some 'objective' clues that caused international public opinion to focus on the Al Qaeda hypothesis. For example, the symbolic significance of the data is striking: the attacks occurred exactly 912 days after 11 September ('9-11'). There were 911 days in between the two events. Moreover, ETA, which usually claims responsibility for its actions, strongly denied any responsibility. In the Italian case, on the contrary, the most reasonable hypothesis, still unproven, refers to state-sanctioned terror and implies the structure of a counter-memory. In the case of 11 March, the shift from the ETA to the A1 Qaeda hypothesis implies a shift from the structure of the counter-memory to that of the public memory designed by the state and realigned by civil society, and a big decrease in the possible conflicting versions of the event. In the context of Tilly's (2004) classification, the ETA hypothesis referred to the case of 'the militias' (specialists operating in home territory); the Al Qaeda hypothesis to the case of 'the conspirators' (specialists operating outside home territory).

Although it is very complicated to analyze this case in terms of collective memory six months after the attacks, some predictions about the future nature and trajectory of this memory are still possible. 11 March will surely be neither a counter-memory nor a very contested past. The first year after the massacres is the most important in determining to what extent Spain will remember its victims in the future. 'Todos somos madrilenos' might best represent the feelings of the nation in the first months following the attacks. But how will 11 March be commemorated? At Madrid's Atocha station two video walls have recently been installed, where passengers may now leave their electronic commemorative messages in memory of the victims. The video wall represents the electronic version of the small notes usually left around memorial sites--on the walls at the Bologna railroad station (Tota, 2003), and also near the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial (Wagner-Pacifici and Schwartz, 1991). However, the path to the 3/11 memorial is still long and full of debates: in Madrid, the national and city governments were each planning separate monuments. But recently they announced a single plan for the monument design. Explaining the decision, Minister of Development Magdalena Alvarez said, 'Initially we thought that we [the ministry] would put our monument inside the station, and the city government would erect theirs outside. But we realized that it didn't make sense, since our goals are the same, and the message is the same' (Abend and Pingree, 2004: 1). The most problematic features of the future commemorative site seem to be its location and the identification of those victims who should be commemorated. Here context becomes central, as the planning of this site cannot avoid taking into account the absence of any sort of memorial in honor of the 850 victims of ETA terrorism over the past 30 years. Will the planned site commemorate all terrorist victims or not? While Jose Alcaraz, the president of the Madrid association of the Victims of Terrorism (AVT) strongly asks that the new memorial site include all the victims, many Spaniards disagree. 'Juan Cordero, a teacher at the Louis Braille high school in Coslada, lost his wife in the attacks. Although he understands the AVT's motivations, he maintains that the two are not equal. You have to separate them. Madrid's major, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, appears to support Cordero's views. At a recent press conference he emphasized that 'the only qualification for the monument is that it pay homage to the victims of 11 March' (Abend and Pingree, 2004: 2). In this case, however, the political actors go beyond the local and national authorities: a reasonable hypothesis is that global community pressure will affect the commemoration and the public shape of this memory. But how and to what extent remain at this stage an open question. In the debate between AVT and the victims' relatives of 11 March, international pressure might play a role in sustaining the necessity for two separate memorial sites. In fact, a site commemorating all terrorist victims together would have the side effect of undermining the symbolic link between 11 March and 11 September and its potential use in terms of foreign politics.

During the summer of 2004 the location of the memorial site was decided to be a traffic island near the Atocha station. An official jury will select one from among the hundreds of proposals and the site will be inaugurated on the first anniversary. The controversy between the Madrid Association of the Victims of Terrorism and the victims' relatives of 11 March represents the attempt to 'use' the greater visibility gained by the new victims of terrorism to commemorate properly the old ones, too. That until now there has been no political willingness to plan a proper commemorative site for the more than 850 victims killed by the Basque terrorists seems to refer to a past that has not yet been properly inscribed into the national public discourse. From the point of view of AVT, 11 March might represent a unique occasion to focus the attention of Spanish citizens on the need for adequate means to commemorate their victims and to transmit their memory to future generations. On the contrary, for the 11 March victims' relatives this confusion between the ETA's victims and A1 Qaeda's might undermine the uniqueness of the 11 March attacks. When one compares all the commemorative dimensions of the Madrid case to the Italian ones, a strong similarity with the Bologna case seems to emerge. In this case, as in Bologna, the process of identifying the best location for the memorial site is quite simple, as it can be near the exact place of the explosions. In the case of Train 904, the poor accessibility of the bomb site--within a very long tunnel--represented an obstacle to locating that memorial in the best symbolic place. The symbols crystallized within a memorial site should be very simple and clear. Again, it is difficult to make any prediction, but surely the future of this very recent past, the trajectories of the 11 March public memory both in Spain and in Europe, will depend on all the micro-decisions planners will make during the next few months in designing the memorial site and the script of the anniversary day. The shape of this memory will also determine its future, and the global community pressure will play a role in affecting the elaboration of this past.


Some crimes take place twice: first when they occur, and second when their victims are forgotten. The collective memory of a massacre is a public good to defend, a value to transmit to future generations, a symbolic arena where the definition itself of democracy is questioned and the nature of the public sphere articulated. In this respect, the three cases compared appear to be more similar than one might expect at first sight: in Italy during the 1980s as in Madrid 11 March, the ways in which the public version of what happened is constructed go directly to the heart of democracy. The political abuse of the terror by Aznar and his defeat in the national elections a few days later reflect a well-functioning democracy that, after many decades of an authoritarian regime, has learned how to react against manipulation. The case of Bologna in Italy, where after 20 years citizens still remember with the same 'civic passion' as on the first anniversary, where a counter-memory has been constructed against the national state, reveals a highly democratic civil society able to defend democratic values from state terror. This link between the use of the past and the vitality of the democratic state can be seen also in the Italian case of 'imperfect oblivion': when the Camorra succeeds in dislocating the public memory of Train 904, it not only represents the murder of the victims (killed and forgotten) but also the devastation of the civil society and democratic values. By defending this past from oblivion, one is defending not only the victims and their relatives (that would be already a lot), but also the definition itself of the relation between every citizen and the democratic state.
Table 1.

Terrorist attacks in Italy during the 'strategy of tension'

Date               Place                        Number of victims

12 December 1969   Milan, piazza Fontana        16 dead and 84 injured
22 July 1970       Gioia Tauro, on the train    6 dead and 72 injured
31 May 1972        Peteano di Sagrado           3 dead and 1 injured
17 May 1973        Milan, police headquarters   4 dead and 46 injured
28 May 1974        Brescia, piazza della        8 dead and 103 injured
4 August 1974      San Benedetto Val di         12 dead and 44 injured
                     Sambro, on the train
27 June 1980       Ustica, on a DC9 jetliner    81 dead
2 August 1980      Bologna, in the railway      85 dead and 200 injured
23 December 1984   San Benedetto, Val di        15 dead and 267 injured
                     Sambro, on Train 904
27 May 1993        Florence, via dei            5 dead and 41 injured
27 July 1993       Milan, via Palestro          5 dead and 12 injured


(1.) I wish to thank Annamarie Oliverio and Pat Lauderdale for their very useful comments and critiques of a previous version of this article. I am very grateful also to the anonymous referees. A preliminary version of this article has been presented to the ESA Research Network Sociology of the Arts Interim Conference held in Rotterdam on 3-5 November 2004.

(2.) Regarding the distinction between collective memory, individual memory, and social memory, see Halbwachs (1950).

(3.) Both studies have been conducted using qualitative methods: a) in-depth interviews of the survivors and their families, journalists, political actors, and others; b) ethnographic observations during the commemorative ceremonies held on the anniversary of the attacks and during the artistic events organized 'to remember'; c) discourse analysis of the speeches held by institutional actors during the commemorative ceremonies and the articles published in the local and national news articles since 1980 and 1984; d) analysis of the commemorative web sites; e) analysis of the cultural symbols in which this past has taken its public shape.

(4.) The attendance of the representatives of the Jewish community in Bologna has a particular significance, as the attack was mounted by fascist terrorists.

(5.) It is very difficult to forget these young people interviewed in Italy immediately after the Twin Towers attack saying that these images transmitted during the TV news seemed to refer more to a movie rather than to reality.

(6.) For the analysis of Madrid 11 March the following web sites have been surveyed: europe_spanish_train_attacks


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Anna Lisa Tota is an Associate Professor in sociology of communication at the University of Rome III. She is the former chair of the Sociology of Arts research network of the European Sociological Association. Her most recent book is La citta ferita: Memoria e comunicazione pubblica della strage di Bologna, 2 agosto 1980 (il Mulino, 2003). Address: Dipartimento Comunicazione e Spettacolo Lettere e Filosofia, Universita Roma Tre via Madonna dei Monti 40, 00184 Rome, Italy. Email:

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Date:Feb 1, 2005
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