Danilo Dolci: Environmental Education and Empowerment [1st ed.] 9783030518523, 9783030518530

The book presents the multi-faceted opus of Danilo Dolci within the framework of Environmental Education, focusing on hi

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Danilo Dolci: Environmental Education and Empowerment [1st ed.]
 9783030518523, 9783030518530

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xii
Why Danilo Dolci Matters to Environmental Education (Abele Longo)....Pages 1-4
Danilo Dolci’s Life and Work (Abele Longo)....Pages 5-11
An Ecological Maieutics (Abele Longo)....Pages 13-25
The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) in Practice (Abele Longo)....Pages 27-41
A Pedagogy of Action (Abele Longo)....Pages 43-54
An Ecocritical Reading of Danilo Dolci’s Poetry (Abele Longo)....Pages 55-70
Danilo Dolci’s Legacy (Abele Longo)....Pages 71-77

Citation preview


Abele Longo

Danilo Dolci Environmental Education and Empowerment 123

SpringerBriefs in Education Key Thinkers in Education

Series Editor Paul Gibbs, Middlesex University, London, UK

This briefs series publishes compact (50 to 125 pages) refereed monographs under the editorial supervision of the Advisory Editor, Professor Paul Gibbs, Middlesex University, London, UK. Each volume in the series provides a concise introduction to the life and work of a key thinker in education and allows readers to get acquainted with their major contributions to educational theory and/or practice in a fast and easy way. Both solicited and unsolicited manuscripts are considered for publication in the SpringerBriefs on Key Thinkers in Education series. Book proposals for this series may be submitted to the Executive Editor: Nick Melchior E-mail: [email protected]

More information about this subseries at http://www.springer.com/series/10197

Abele Longo

Danilo Dolci Environmental Education and Empowerment


Abele Longo School of Health and Education Middlesex University London, UK

ISSN 2211-1921 ISSN 2211-193X (electronic) SpringerBriefs in Education ISSN 2211-937X ISSN 2211-9388 (electronic) SpringerBriefs on Key Thinkers in Education ISBN 978-3-030-51852-3 ISBN 978-3-030-51853-0 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51853-0 © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Springer imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

To Joc


My sincere gratitude and heartfelt thanks, first of all, to Prof. Paul Gibbs and Dr. Victoria de Rijke, directors of the Centre for Education Research and Scholarship (CERS) of the Department of Education at Middlesex University, London, whose enlightened insights and encouragement have helped me so much along the way. I am also very grateful to Dr. Debbie Jack, Head of the Department of Education, for her help and support and to the Erasmus Exchange Office at Middlesex and their coordinator Dr. Nosheen Rachel Naseem, for their assistance in my teaching and research visits to the University of Palermo. I am deeply indebted to Dr. Flavia Schiavo and Dr. Stefano Montes and their students at University of Palermo for their invaluable input and participation during my visits there. I would also like to thank Prashanth Ravichandran, Marianna Pascale and the team at Springer for their patience and support throughout. The advice and conversations with my Middlesex University colleagues Edgar Schröder, Angela Scollan and Dr. Raynalle Udris have been very inspiring and the support from all those colleagues who have shown their interest in many different ways has been immensely appreciated and I would like to mention in particular Prof. Marco Armiero (KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory in Stockholm), Dr. Rino Coluccello (Coventry University), Dr. Federico Farini (University of Northampton), Prof. Serenella Iovino (University of North Carolina), Dr. Monica Jansen (Utrecht University), Prof. Monica Seger (College of William and Mary, Williamsburg) and Dr. Sarah Vantorre (University of Antwerp). I have greatly appreciated the participation and advice of friends in Palermo and I am particularly indebted to Pippo Bisso, Salvatore Bonafede and Franco Maresco for their invaluable input and insight. Huge thanks to Pasquale Vitagliano and my friends from the Festival della Legalità in Terlizzi, and to Roberta De Luca, Doris Emilia Bragagnini, Giancarlo Locarno and malos mannaja. My friends Maurizio Gravallotti, Silvestro Micocci, Antonio Nicolì and the ‘1983 Group’ have all been a great support to me throughout the writing of this book. I am very grateful to Amico Dolci for his overwhelming generosity and interest during my visits to Palermo, to En Dolci, who I had the privilege of meeting in Palermo and at the Festival della legalità in Terlizzi, who enlightened me on many vii



aspects of his father’s work, and to Sereno Dolci, for the continuous provision of excellent and insightful materials related to his father’s work. My love goes to my mother, an inspiring example of courage and resilience in the face of adversity, and to my daughter Sophia in the hopes that she will continue to build her own castles in the sand. Finally my deepest love and gratitude goes to my wife Joc, for her priceless help, support and inspiration, and to whom this book is dedicated.

Note on Translations

With the exception of Italian texts that have been translated and published in English, all translations from Italian texts that appear in this book are mine.



1 Why Danilo Dolci Matters to Environmental Education . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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2 Danilo Dolci’s Life and Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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3 An Ecological Maieutics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.1 The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) 3.2 Communication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.3 Creativity and Love . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.4 Empowerment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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4 The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) in Practice . . . . . 4.1 Conversations with Peasants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.2 RMA in Children’s Education at the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.3 ‘Cortile Cascino’, an Example of the Application of RMA Practice in a University Context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.4 Couples and Family Relationships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 A Pedagogy of Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.1 Hunger Strikes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.2 Reverse Strike . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.3 The Protest March for World Peace and the Development of Western Sicily . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4 Organic Planning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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7 Danilo Dolci’s Legacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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6 An Ecocritical Reading of Danilo Dolci’s Poetry . . . . . . 6.1 An Ecocritical Perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2 Dolci’s Environmental Poetry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.3 A Maieutic Poetry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.4 Poetry as a Pedagogical Tool and Form of Activism References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Chapter 1

Why Danilo Dolci Matters to Environmental Education

In a world in which environmental apocalypse is no longer seen as a far-fetched notion but widely recognised as a clear and present danger, the work of the Italian educator, activist and poet Danilo Dolci (1924–1997) may be considered ripe for reevaluation. Dolci was among the first to identify that the future of the planet was under threat, as documented in Spreco (1960), ‘Waste’ (1963), in which he refers to waste of both natural and human resources, focusing on the environmental damage caused by thoughtless and inefficient farming and fishing methods in Sicily. In Comunicare, legge della vita (‘Communication as a rule for life’ 1993a), Dolci states that it is urgently incumbent upon us to completely rethink our approach to productivity and polluting industries with an eye to ecological impact. He wrote about the compelling need to change our mentality, attitudes and habits in order to safeguard the planet for generations to come. He spoke out about how allowing polluting industries to continue unchecked, failing to challenge brainwashing propaganda and advertising and the decline in meaningful communication, in spite of sophisticated developments in technology, were all closely connected to ecological disaster. In this study, Dolci’s work is assessed within the framework of Environmental Education, highlighting its relevance to our current era, often referred to as the ‘Anthropocene’ (Crutzen and Stoermer 2000), according to which the actions of human beings dominate the planet, subjecting it to acceleratingly punishing changes that are having an ever more devastating effect on the environment. A definition of our era, however, that more closely reflects Dolci’s own views is the ‘Capitalocene’, proposed by Moore (2014) and developed by Marco Armiero and Massimo De Angelis. Armiero and De Angelis accuse the Anthropocene of having become a ‘grand narrative’ that ‘does not speak any more of structural injustices, economic progress, or inevitable revolutions’, erasing therefore ‘hierarchies, power relations, and historical inequalities’ (Armiero and De Angelis 2017, p. 346). The concept of the Capitalocene on the other hand recognises that ‘capitalism, not a biological and indefinite human species, has actually shaped the planet. Capital as a social force appropriates nature for its own use, not the anthropos’ (Ibid.).

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 A. Longo, Danilo Dolci, SpringerBriefs on Key Thinkers in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51853-0_1



1 Why Danilo Dolci Matters to Environmental Education

Dolci is the author of a vastly significant body of work in the field of education. He is internationally renowned for his work in western Sicily, where he established himself in 1952, living in close contact with the people he sought to help, and leading the struggle against destruction and exploitation of the land and sea, poverty, unemployment, the Mafia and political corruption, until his death in 1997. Deep concern for the preservation of the planet emerges as the overriding preoccupation of Dolci’s multi-faceted opus—which includes reportages, surveys, treatises, journals, poetry and short stories. When looked at in the round, Dolci’s opus reveals a vision of life as a harmonious union between the human world and the natural world, a world in perfect balance. Discussion of Dolci’s pedagogy, known as the Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA), will form the main body of the work and will be framed within the tradition of critical pedagogy. Originally embodied in the work of the Brazilian Paulo Freire, critical pedagogy is now established worldwide and has a strong base in the United States, where its foremost exponents are Michael Apple, Antonia Darder, Henry Giroux, Donald Macedo, Peter McLaren, Shirley Steinberg and others (Darder et al. 2015). Its main aim is to lead people to question ideologies and practices considered oppressive, encouraging individual and collective action. Dolci’s RMA was initially aimed at community education for the development of citizenship, and later at children’s education, emphasising the importance of a child-centred approach, where the child is to be ‘valued as a person, and participate in forming an authentically democratic society’ (Dolci 1984, p. 156). As an educational method, RMA can be defined as a process of collective exploration that takes as its point of departure the experience and intuition of individuals (Dolci 1996). This method was developed by Dolci from the Socratic concept of Maieutics, which compares the philosopher to a ‘midwife of knowledge’ and eschews the temptation to fill people’s minds with information, helping them instead to use dialogue as a dialectic instrument to reach the truth. What differentiates Socrates’ and Dolci’s concepts is the fact that Socrates’ Maieutics was unidirectional, while, for Dolci, the concept of knowledge comes from experience, and a reciprocal relationship with others is necessary. The fundamental function of RMA is ‘empowerment’: giving a voice to the voiceless, providing people with the means to develop interpersonal trust and the ability to originate plans of action. Dolci’s pedagogy is that of an ‘empowered society that resolves common problems through communication and reciprocal adaptation’. He invokes a world free from the dominance of ‘social and political parasites’, in which humanity lives in nonviolent harmony with nature, coexisting in a perfect power balance. Just as it is unacceptable that some humans live as parasites, feeding off others, it is likewise unacceptable that the human species be permitted to grow at the expense of the natural environment and other living species. (Vigilante 2011, p. 9)

Dolci himself defined his Reciprocal Maieutic Approach as ‘Ecological Maieutics’ (Dolci 1993b, p. 188) and various commentators have identified concern about the environment as the key focus of Dolci’s work, including Vigilante (2012), Teresi (2011–2012) and Ragone (2011). Rosignoli (2018) highlights that, while Dolci is

1 Why Danilo Dolci Matters to Environmental Education


mainly known as an anti-Mafia figure and as a key exponent of nonviolent protest, a more detailed analysis of his work reveals that environmental issues were at the heart of all his concerns. Rosignoli sees Dolci as the father of Environmental Justice in Italy. She made this claim not only because of the issues tackled by Dolci such as the waste of water and land resources in Sicily, the importance of involving the population in decision-making processes, the fundamental role played by education and training to achieve full employment and the fight against organised crime, but also and above all for his ability to understand the potential of certain environmental policies—if brought about through the empowerment and participation of local communities—to act as a vehicle for local development and change (Rosignoli 2018, p. 133). In order to contextualise Dolci’s work within environmental education, we must first define the relevant terms. According to Palmer (2003, p. 7), a landmark in the history of attempting to define the term ‘environmental education’ was an IUCN/UNESCO ‘International Working Meeting on Environmental Education in the School Curriculum’ held in 1970 at the Foresta Institute, Carson City, Nevada, USA, which proposed the following: Environmental education is the process of recognising values and clarifying concepts in order to develop skills and attitudes necessary to understand and appreciate the inter-relatedness among man, his culture, and his biophysical surroundings. Environmental education also entails practice in decision-making and self-formulation of a code of behaviour about issues concerning environmental quality.

UNESCO (2014) has since then also highlighted how environmental education is a process in which individuals gain awareness of their environment and acquire knowledge and skills that enable them to act to solve environmental problems, emphasising the role of environmental education in safeguarding future global development of quality of life, through the protection of the environment, eradication of poverty, minimization of inequalities and ensuring sustainable development. According to Vélez Rolón (2016), the key components of environmental education are engaging with citizens of all demographics to think critically, ethically and creatively when evaluating environmental issues; to make educated judgments about those environmental issues; to develop skills and a commitment to act independently and collectively to sustain and enhance the environment and to enhance their appreciation of the environment, resulting in positive environmental behavioural change. All these elements are found in and are central to Dolci’s educational theories and practices. Dolci’s approach allows individuals to explore and develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues, creatively engage in problem-solving, become aware of and develop their skills to make informed and responsible decisions and ultimately to take action. This book comprises seven chapters. Following on from this introductory chapter, Chap. 2 offers an excursus into Dolci’s life, focusing on his many campaigns, the controversy and opposition generated by his thoughts and action and the international recognition and support he received throughout his career. Chapter 3 focuses on Dolci’s Reciprocal Maieutic Approach, his vision of human and nonhuman beings and nature as a whole as the essence and the raison d’être of his educational methodological approach. Chapter 4 looks at how Dolci applied his Ecological Maieutics in


1 Why Danilo Dolci Matters to Environmental Education

different environments, ranging from community education to children’s education. Chapter 5 explores in more detail the different forms of action that Dolci practised in pursuit of his educational and ideological goals, centred around different forms of nonviolent protest. Chapter 6 examines Dolci’s poetry within the context of Ecocriticism, a relatively new discipline that can be seen as part of environmental education. Finally, Chap. 7 offers concluding remarks on the importance and relevance of Dolci’s work today and on his legacy.

References Armiero, M., & De Angelis, M. (2017). Anthropocene: Victims, Narrators, and Revolutionaries. The South Atlantic Quarterly, 116(2), 345–362. (April, Duke University Press). Crutzen, P. J., & Stoermer, E. F. (2000). The Anthropocene. Global Change Newsletter, 41, 17–18. Darder, A., Mayo, P., & Paraskeva, J. (Eds.). (2015). International critical pedagogy reader. New York: Routledge. Dolci, D. (1960). Spreco. Documenti e inchieste su alcuni aspetti dello spreco nella Sicilia Occidentale. Turin: Einaudi. Dolci, D. (1963). Waste (R. Munroe, Trans.). London: McGibbon & Kee. Dolci, D. (1984). The world is one creature. (J. Vitiello, & A. Molino, Trans.). New York: Amity House. Dolci, D. (1993a). Comunicare, legge della vita. Manduria: Lacaita. Dolci, D. (1993b). Nessi fra esperienza etica e politica. Manduria: Lacaita. Dolci, D. (1996). La struttura maieutica e l’evolverci. Florence: La Nuova Italia. Moore, J. W. (2014). The Capitalocene, Part I: On the Nature and Origins of Our Ecological Crisis. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from www.jasonwmoore.com/uploads/The_Capitalocene__Part_I__ June_2014.pdf. Palmer, J. A. (2003). Environmental education in the 21st century theory, practice, progress and promise. London and New York: Routledge. Ragone, M. (2011). Le parole di Danilo Dolci, anatomia lessicale-concettuale. Foggia: Edizioni del Rosone. Rosignoli, F. (2018). La giustizia ambientale e Danilo Dolci. Cross, 4(1), 132–169. Teresi, N. (2011–2012). Danilo Dolci e la sociologia della nonviolenza-La Sicilia occidentale come laboratorio di uno sviluppo nonviolento. Università di Pisa–Corso di laurea specialistica in Scienze per la Pace: cooperazione allo sviluppo, mediazione e trasformazione dei conflitti. UNESCO (2014). Ecological Sciences for Sustainable Development. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/ecological-sciences/ capacity-building-and-partnerships/educational-materials/. Vélez Rolón, A. (2016) Che cos’è l’educazione ambientale? EPALE Electronic platform for Adult learning in Europe. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://ec.europa.eu/epale/it/blog/che-coseleducazione-ambientale. Vigilante, A. (2011). Presentazione. In M. Ragone (Ed.), Le parole di Danilo Dolci, anatomia lessicale-concettuale (pp. 7–10). Foggia: Edizioni del Rosone. Vigilante, A. (2012). Ecologia del potere. Studio su Danilo Dolci. Foggia: Edizioni del Rosone.

Chapter 2

Danilo Dolci’s Life and Work

The defining characteristic of Danilo Dolci’s work as an educator is that he took it beyond theory towards an engaged activism, making his whole life a manifesto of his ideas and beliefs. This led him to intimately engage with the community that he hoped would move towards a transformation—the desperately impoverished Sicily of the aftermath of the Second World War. He had an enquiring and open mind, was widely travelled and engaged in discourse throughout his life with key thinkers such as Aldous Huxley, Jean Piaget, Erich Fromm, Paulo Freire and Johan Galtung, who influenced his work in various ways, lending their backing and support to his many initiatives, and visiting him in Sicily to present talks and seminars. Danilo Bruno Pietro Dolci was born on 28 June 1924 in Sežana, a village near Trieste, now in Slovenia but at that time, and until the end of the Second World War, part of Italy. His father Enrico was a railway official, whose work entailed moving frequently from place to place. His mother, Meli Kontelj, a Slovenian from a traditional Catholic background, looked after his education and that of his sister, Miriam, eight years his junior. ‘I’d get interested in a subject if I liked the teacher, but my real passions were music and reading. Snow and springtime made me happy—as did swimming in crystal-clear lakes and streams’ (Dolci 1984, p. 93). The young Dolci was not happy with the rigid Italian school system. A lover of nature and sport, he played the piano, enjoyed the arts and at 16 was already an avid reader of the writings of Buddha, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita, Plato, the Bible, Dante, Galileo, Shakespeare, Goethe, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Schiller, all of which had a formative impact on his ideas (Benelli 2015, pp. 197–200). Thanks to these early influences, he developed his own form of humanism based on contact with nature and his passion for the arts. In 1943, aged 19, he refused to wear the military uniform of the newly formed and Nazi-controlled Italian Social Republic, known as the Republic of Salò, and was arrested for this but managed to escape. After the end of the War, he lived for a short spell in Rome, studying Architecture at the university and then moved to Milan, where he found a job teaching Building Science in an evening school for

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 A. Longo, Danilo Dolci, SpringerBriefs on Key Thinkers in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51853-0_2



2 Danilo Dolci’s Life and Work

adult education in Sesto San Giovanni. Among his students was Franco Alasia, a factory worker who would become a lifelong friend and associate. When he was close to completing his degree in 1950, he left behind the social and economic security of Milan and went to live in Nomadelfia, a community founded by the priest Zeno Saltini in Fossoli, near Modena, on the site of an old concentration camp. Nomadelfia was at that time a self-supporting community for destitute war orphans, guided by Saltini’s conviction that children not only need food and shelter but also love and affection. He, therefore, aimed to create a community that, unlike official institutions of the time, in some way tried to recreate a sense of family, with educators adopting parental roles (Vigilante 2012, p. 41). ‘Nomadelfia had its own pilot cooperative farm, church, school, store and recreation room. It was a creative society, a primitive work-and-prayer colony where everybody worked and money was never used, and there was one fixed point—[that of] great love’ (McNeish 1965, p. 33). His decision to go to Nomadelfia seems to have been a sort of ‘conversion’, a revelatory moment driven by a strong desire to take a different direction with his life. Dolci arrived prepared to take on any kind of work and had never previously had any kind of experience working as an educator. Saltini, therefore, a priest whose socialist ideas were uncomfortable for many in the Church, became his first mentor. Saltini came from a tradition of street educator priests like Giovanni Bosco, whose mission was to work their ministry in close contact with the common people, sharing their problems and helping them to learn practical trades. After a year and a half, Dolci’s experience in Nomadelfia came to an end, leaving him feeling ‘refined and cleansed’ but he also came to see the place ‘as an island, like a warm nest which was at risk, however, of becoming too comfortable’ (Spagnoletti 2013, p. 61). Then, in January 1952, he decided to leave for a small seaside village near Palermo called Trappeto, a place his father had once worked and where Dolci had visited him for a month between 1940 and 1941. He arrived in Trappeto without any kind of plan or idea about what he wanted to achieve, beyond the thought that he wanted to help the poor people who had seemingly been forgotten by the authorities. It seems he chose Trappeto because he was attracted by the culture of the place, of ‘wise fishermen who lived in harmony with nature’ (Benelli 2015, p. 21). On 14 October 1952, lying on the bed of an infant who had died of hunger, Dolci started his first hunger strike, a form of action that generated great public support for his causes. His strike only came to an end when the public authorities promised to take urgent action to provide relief for the population. One of the first people to recognise the value of Dolci’s protest was Aldo Capitini, a philosopher, poet, activist and educator, who contributed to the popularising of Mahatma Gandhi’s theories of nonviolence in Italy. Dolci and Capitini established a profound and fruitful dialogue that continued until Capitini’s death in 1968. Aside from being a constant and active supporter of all Dolci’s campaigns, Capitini also wrote two books on Dolci’s work: Rivoluzione aperta (1956) and Danilo Dolci (1958). As Galtung maintains, Dolci’s practical aims became more or less the same as those that had preoccupied and formed a central part of Gandhi’s activism: the fight against illiteracy; nursery places for children and adult education. The latter was

2 Danilo Dolci’s Life and Work


pursued both in a formal and informal way through meetings and discussions focusing on matters of local production and cultural interest in which Dolci and his supporters acted not as teachers but facilitators, making their extensive knowledge and experience available to the community (Galtung 1957, pp. 363–364). Apart from Gandhi and Capitini, other points of reference that became important for Dolci’s community education were the work of his friends Erich Fromm and Paulo Freire. The aim of Fromm’s critical theory, as part of the tradition of the Frankfurt School, was to transform oppressed people, converting them from objects of education to subjects with agency, creators of their own emancipation. According to this school of thought, individuals should act in a way that enables them to transform society, an objective that is best achieved through emancipatory education. Freire, who is considered the founder of critical pedagogy, also rejects the idea that knowledge is ever politically neutral, arguing that education is an inherently political act. According to Lake and Dagostino (2013), of all of the Frankfurt School philosophers that influenced Paulo Freire, Fromm was foremost, sharing with him a social vision and humanist reading of philosophy that create possibilities for individual and collective liberation from oppression. Fromm and Freire both wrote extensively on the subject of hope, which they never saw as a passive concept or wishful thinking, but a force for change based on action towards freedom that leads to a humanist vision of a better world. In 1953, Dolci established the Borgo di Dio (‘Village of God’) in Trappeto, where he built a nursery for the most needy children of the village. The title of the book he wrote at that time is significant: Fare presto (e bene) perché si muore, ‘Hurry up (and do good): people are dying’ (Dolci 1954). The book comprises a survey with fishermen, peasants and unemployed people from the poorest area of Trappeto. It was in those years that Dolci started practising his public self-analysis meetings, which he subsequently developed into his Reciprocal Maieutic Approach, a process of collective exploration inspired by Socratic Maieutics, stimulating the growth of consciousness through the dialectic method of listening to different points of view. In October 1953, he married Vincenzina Mangano, a widow with five children who had worked as a volunteer at the Borgo di Dio. Danilo and Vincenzina subsequently had five children together: Libera, Cielo, Amico, Chiara and Daniela. In 1955, Banditi a Partinico (‘The Outlaws of Partinico’ 1960a) was published. It contains a diary recounting the latter period in Trappeto, the first years in Partinico and an investigation, with transcripts and witness statements, denouncing authorities that focused investment on trying to repress the activities of bandits without trying to resolve the social issues that were the root cause of the problem. Banditism in Sicily was in those years in its final stages after the most notorious bandit Salvatore Giuliano, who was from Montelepre, a nearby village to Partinico, was killed in 1950. In January 1956, Dolci organised a collective hunger strike to protest against fishing from motorboats near the coast, an illegal practice controlled by the Mafia. The protest was banned under the charge of ‘unauthorised public fasting’ but it represented a great achievement since more than a thousand people had gathered together to join the strike. In February 1956, his so-called ‘reverse strike’ took place, which involved doing unpaid work of public utility as a form of protest. Protesters had


2 Danilo Dolci’s Life and Work

started working on a poorly maintained country road that people needed to use to get to work, when Dolci and others were arrested and charged for illegally occupying a public space. Dolci was sentenced to a fifty-day custodial sentence. In August 1956, Processo all’articolo 4 (‘Trial of Article 4’, 2011), Dolci’s account of the court case, including extensive transcripts of the Court documents, was published. During the court case, Dolci received messages of support from renowned intellectuals and educators, including Ernst Bloch, Erich Fromm, Johan Galtung, Lewis Mumford, Jean Piaget, Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre, and as a result of the international attention that his actions were attracting, support groups sprang up across Europe, in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Great Britain, Holland, Norway and France, and volunteers from all over the world went to Sicily to take part in Dolci’s activities. There were also many detractors who tried to ridicule Dolci’s efforts and results, on occasions amounting to defamatory campaigns and even the Italian Government tried to put a stop to his efforts. The Italian Home Office, headed up Fernando Tambroni, withdrew Dolci’s passport for several months on the grounds that he had spread defamatory statements about Italy during his visits abroad. Dolci’s initiatives and indefatigable engagement in community education continued however in spite of all this. In 1957, Dolci’s book Inchiesta a Palermo (2014) (‘Report from Palermo’ 1959), an analysis of unemployment and underemployment in some of Palermo’s poorest quarters, was published. In 1958, he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize. His acceptance of the Prize caused a public controversy, leading Dolci to make a statement that he was not a communist but profoundly thanked Moscow as he believed in the need for peace and moreover for class struggle and nonviolent revolution (Barone 2010, p. 51). He used the prize money to set up his Centre for Research and Initiatives for Full Employment (‘Centro studi e iniziative per la piena occupazione’), which had branches in different parts of Sicily. One of the first initiatives organised by the Centre was a series of conferences attended by experts in various disciplines from Italy and abroad. Papers from these conferences are included in Spreco (Dolci 1960b) (Waste 1963), which collated documents and investigations into various aspects of waste in western Sicily, where waste in the title refers to waste both of natural and of human resources. This work foresees ecological threats and presents collective action solutions to problems such as the inefficiency and environmental damage caused by contemporary farming and fishing methods. A great outcry was caused when, on Palm Sunday 1964, the then Archbishop of Palermo, Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini, wrote a pastoral letter in which he claimed that Sicily was the birthplace of many illustrious men but it was unfortunately let down by people like Danilo Dolci who had put about a distorted image of Sicily and Sicilians. In 1965, Verso un mondo nuovo (‘Towards a New World’) was published, comprising a collection of reports, originally published in the Palermitan newspaper L’Ora, on Dolci’s visits between 1961 and 1963 to the USSR, the former Yugoslavia, Senegal and Ghana, where he went to learn about experimental planning. Also in 1965, Dolci denounced the government Minister Bernardo Mattarella, together with other politicians and various Sicilian notables for collusion with organised crime. More than one hundred people, including many peasants, signed the petition, directly

2 Danilo Dolci’s Life and Work


exposing themselves to Mafia retaliation. In spite of the clear evidence set out in the witness statements of the corruption of a whole class of politicians and their cronies, it was Dolci and his friend Franco Alasia who were found guilty of defamation and given a two and a half year suspended prison sentence. From 5 to 11 March 1967, the March for Peace for Western Sicily and a New World took place over a 200 km distance from Partanna to Palermo. Dolci’s work continued to receive international praise and recognition: in 1968, he was awarded an honorary degree in Education by the University of Berne and in 1970, the Stockholm Socrates Prize ‘for world class work in the field of education and for activities directed towards the promotion of peace’. In the following year, he was awarded the Sonning Prize for his ‘contribution to European culture and civilisation’ by the University of Copenhagen. On the first of January 1968, building work started on the Training Centre for Organic Planning (‘Centro di formazione per la pianificazione organica’) in Trappeto. The Training Centre became a beacon for change in Sicily, organising seminars that brought together people with similar concerns from across Italy and abroad. The centre enabled Dolci to accommodate visits from notable intellectuals who contributed to the popularisation and development of these group sessions dedicated to creativity and research with the aim of promoting a culture of self-awareness. Chissà se i pesci piangono (‘I Wonder if Fish Cry’ 2018) recounts Dolci’s thoughts and findings from that period, focusing in particular on children’s education. In the book, apart from the influences already mentioned of Capitini and Freire, a vision inspired by the great traditions of educators like Rudolph Steiner and Maria Montessori emerges. Like them, Dolci believed passionately in the importance of creativity and imagination, qualities that are held to be of equal value to the rational powers of the intellect. An enterprise with similar goals can also be found in A. S. Neill’s Summerhill School, established in 1921, which provided children with space, time and empowerment for personal exploration and with freedom from adult rules and coercion. From 1970 onwards, Dolci started to publish his main poetic works, drawing inspiration from the daily experience of struggle, his work with the poorest of people and his commitment to education and the environment: Il limone lunare (‘The Moon Lemon’ 1970), Non sentite l’odore del fumo? (‘Don’t you smell the smoke?’ 1971), Poema umano (‘Human Poem’ 2016), Il Dio delle zecche (‘The God of Ticks’ 1976), Creatura di creature (1979). The first edition of Creature di creature is the only collection that has been translated into English as Creature of Creatures (1980) by Justin Vitiello. From the beginning of the 1970s, Dolci focused on building appreciation for local arts and crafts, aiming to promote a form of progress that also looks towards the past: We must discover how to correlate individual convictions and actions by embodying the genuine values of local cultures at the structural levels where we might conceive the whole world as a creature of creatures (Dolci 1984, p. xii).

It is from this context that the idea for the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre emerged. In January 1975, the Centre started its experimental education aimed at


2 Danilo Dolci’s Life and Work

children from four to fourteen years of age supported by an exceptional group of associates: Paulo Freire, Johan Galtung, Otto Klineberg, Bogdan Suckodolski, Ernesto Treccani, Paolo Sylos Labini, Italo Calvino, Gastone Canziani, Mario Lodi and Aldo Visalberghi (Barone 2010: 49). In October 1983, the Educational Centre was recognised as an ‘experimental’ State school with the aim of developing innovative methods of teaching and learning, including individual discovery and maieutic group exercises. During these years, Dolci deepened his links with UNESCO, which acknowledged him as a leader in the field of educational thinking and the environment. He also developed his Reciprocal Maieutic Approach, discussing and refining it through seminars in schools and universities. In 1985, Palpitare di nessi (‘The Quivering Nexus’ 2012), which explores the Reciprocal Maieutic Approach at a couple and family level, was published. This book is dedicated to his second wife Elena Norman, who he married in 1976, and their two children Sereno and En. In 1989, he received the Bangalore International Gandhi prize and in the same year, following a long period of exhaustive research involving a large number of contributors, he produced the manuscript of his manifesto Dal trasmettere al comunicare (‘From Transmission to Communication’ 2011). In this work, he denounced the damage that flows in every context from persistently unidirectional relationships, proposing an alternative approach to relationships based on communication, nonviolence and reciprocal Maieutics—all inextricably linked to an environmental sensibility governed by harmony between humans and nature and the protection of the future of the planet. In May 1996, the University of Bologna awarded him an honorary degree in Educational Sciences. Between 1996 and 1997 in preparation for a public denunciation initiative, Dolci was collecting evidence relating to a US nuclear submarine facility on a NATO base on the Sardinian island of La Maddalena, which had been constructed without the approval of the Italian government or the knowledge of local authorities. He died in Trappeto from heart failure at dawn on 30 December 1997.

References Barone, G. (2010). Danilo Dolci, una rivoluzione non violenta. Milan: Altreconomia Edizioni. Benelli, C. (2015). Danilo Dolci tra maieutica ed emancipazione–Memoria a più voci. Pisa: Edizioni ETS. Capitini, A. (1956). Rivoluzione aperta. Milan: Parenti. Capitini, A. (1958). Danilo Dolci. Manduria: Lacaita. Dolci, D. (1954). Fare presto (e bene) perché si muore. Turin: Francesco De Silva. Dolci, D. (1955). Banditi a Partinico. Bari: Laterza. Dolci, D. (1959). Report from Palermo (P. D. Cummins, Trans.), New York: The Orion Press. Dolci, D. (1960a). The outlaws of Partinico (R. Munroe, Trans.). London: McGibbon & Kee. Dolci, D. (1960b). Spreco. Documenti e inchieste su alcuni aspetti dello spreco nella Sicilia Occidentale. Turin: Einaudi. Dolci, D. (1963). Waste (R. Munroe, Trans.). London: McGibbon & Kee.



Dolci, D. (1965). Verso un mondo nuovo. Turin: Einaudi. Dolci, D. (1970). Il limone lunare. Bari: Laterza. Dolci, D. (1971). Non sentite l’odore del fumo?. Bari: Laterza. Dolci, D. (1976). Il Dio delle zecche. Milan: Mondadori. Dolci, D. (1979). Creatura di creature. Milan: Feltrinelli. Dolci, D. (1980). Creature of creatures (J. Vitiello, Trans.). Saratoga: Anma Libri. Dolci, D. (1984). The world is one creature (J. Vitiello, & A. Molino, Trans.). New York: Amity House. Dolci, D. (2011). Processo all’articolo 4. Palermo: Sellerio. Dolci, D. (2012). Palpitare di nessi. Messina: Mesogea. Dolci, D. (2014). Inchiesta a Palermo. Palermo: Sellerio. Dolci, D. (2016). Poema umano. Messina: Mesogea. Dolci, D. (2018). Chissà se i pesci piangono. Messina: Mesogea. Galtung, J. (1957). Gandhi, Dolci e noi. Trento: Il Ponte. Lake, R., & Dagostino, V. (2013). Converging self/other awareness: Erich Fromm and Paulo Freire on transcending the fear of freedom. In R. Lake & T. Kress (Eds.), Paulo Freire’s intellectual roots: Toward historicity in praxis. New York: Continuum Publishers. McNeish, J. (1965). Fire under the ashes. The life of Danilo Dolci. London: Hodder and Stoughton. Spagnoletti, G. (2013). Conversazioni con Danilo Dolci. Messina: Mesogea. Vigilante, A. (2012). Ecologia del potere. Studio su Danilo Dolci. Foggia: Edizioni del Rosone.

Chapter 3

An Ecological Maieutics

Danilo Dolci’s aspiration was to progress towards a future in which humanity is intimately connected with nature. What emerges from his very first published poetic output, Parole nel giorno (‘Daytime Words’, 1950), is a vision of the life of human beings immersed in and inseparable from nature. Nature, seen as ‘always varying from place to place and from season to season, every day and in every moment of every day’ (Chemello 1988, p. 19) is the constant refrain in these verses, and came to be a key feature of all Dolci’s subsequent writings, with terms and metaphors from the natural world used throughout to reflect on people’s needs and feelings. This vision of the human world and nature as a unified whole is also the essence of his method, which Dolci himself defined as ‘Ecological Maieutics’ (Dolci 1993d, p. 188) and is mainly known as the Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA). This chapter illustrates the meaning of RMA (Sect. 3.1) and its applications, focusing in particular on its constituent features: communication (Sect. 3.2), creativity and love (Sect. 3.3) and empowerment (Sect. 3.4).

3.1 The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) Dolci’s holistic vision was deeply influenced by the philosophy of his friend and mentor Aldo Capitini, who also introduced him to the work of Mahatma Gandhi. Capitini believed in ‘the unity of all creatures that form life’, each one of which deserved to be treated ethically and to participate actively in a relationship of openness towards the ‘thou’ in everybody: The act of opening oneself up towards the other allows one to acquire the profound awareness that while I say ‘thou’, I am saying ‘thank you’ for the gift that the utterance of this ‘thou’ will continue to give me forever. One’s openness, stimulated by the ‘passionate awareness of finiteness’ (Capitini 1969), becomes an ‘infinite opening of the soul’ (Capitini 1937), in a restoring gesture that expands to encompass everyone. (Falcicchio and Barbiero 2015, p. 9)

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 A. Longo, Danilo Dolci, SpringerBriefs on Key Thinkers in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51853-0_3



3 An Ecological Maieutics

We can also see a deep harmony of vision between Dolci’s work and that of Paulo Freire, who travelled to Sicily in 1976 and contributed to the planning of Dolci’s Mirto Experimental Educational Centre. Freire was one of a group of South American educators who, alongside Moacir Gadotti and Leonardo Boff, in the late 1990s coined the term ‘ecopedagogy’; a discourse, a movement and an approach to education that seeks to re-educate ‘planetary citizens’ to care for, respect and take action for all life. Freire was deeply inspired by ecological concerns and stressed the need to educate young people towards a sustainable social development, focusing on the fundamental awareness that all peoples have a common destiny and are all part of the same family, equally responsible for the safeguarding of the planet as members of a unified planetary citizenship. Au and Apple (2007, p. 459) highlight that for Freire there is an indivisible solidarity between the world and humans and that our consciousness, our knowledge, is a social consciousness, leading Freire to conclude that subjects cannot think alone and that there is no ‘I think’ but rather a ‘we think’. Dolci’s Ecological Maieutics represents the highest fulfilment of what has become known as ‘The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach’ (RMA), a dialectic method of inquiry which aims to stimulate the growth of consciousness by guiding the participants to listen to different points of view and focus on any contradictions that emerge: ‘the core principle of Dolci’s pedagogy is that the first phase is divergence of opinion and the second phase is the coming together of ideas without compromising points of difference’ (Giani and Bruschi 2010, p. 23). Dolci practised his RMA from the very beginning of his experience in Sicily. It was originally mainly directed towards community education and later extended to include children’s education. Thanks also to assiduous exchanges and collaborations with renowned educators and intellectuals from around the world—including Johan Galtung, Erich Fromm, Ernesto Treccani, Ervin Laszlo, Lamberto Borghi, Noam Chomsky, Aldo Capitini and Paulo Freire—from the late 1960s onwards, it became one of the main topics of Dolci’s books, culminating in Comunicare, legge della vita, (‘Communication as a rule for life’, 1993a), which, in its sixth and final revised editions, constitutes a manifesto of his ideas. Dolci refers to Socrates’ concept of Maieutics, which compares the philosopher to a ‘midwife of knowledge’ and avoids the temptation to fill people’s minds with information, helping them instead to use dialogue as a dialectic instrument to reach the truth. Thus, the educator must try to help the participants to draw out of themselves qualities and abilities that already exist inside them, but which external forces have constrained them to hold in and not express. What differentiates the concepts is the fact that Socrates’ Maieutics was unidirectional, while, for Dolci, knowledge comes from experience, and a reciprocal relationship with others is necessary. In fact, while Socrates’ approach focused on drawing out the truth that lies within each individual, Dolci aimed to reveal the truth—or rather a shared version of reality— from collective experience, creating a tapestry of multiple voices. As Johan Galtung observes, there is also another major difference with Socrates; while in the western tradition dialogue often leads to the dominant truth, ending with an exclamation mark, in Dolci a question mark prevails. ‘If we take the words of Danilo out of the dialogues he collected, we found that nearly everything remained’ (Galtung

3.1 The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA)


2007, p. 77). For Dolci, ‘educators are not “leaders”, but “midwives”, experts in the theory and practice of group work, involved in clarifying the essence of everybody’s intuitions and experiences’ (Dolci 1984, p. ix). For him, educators are all those who are able to help others to construct their own method, to teach themselves what they already know but are not aware of knowing. A genuine interest in others, a desire to learn how to be with others as someone who teaches and learns continuously, is essential (Benelli 2015, p. 63). Interestingly, in Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2017, p. 23), we find the same metaphor of midwifery: Liberation is thus a childbirth, and a painful one. The man or woman who emerges is a new person, viable only as the oppressor-oppressed contradiction is superseded by the humanization of all people. Or to put it another way, the solution of this contradiction is born in the labor which brings into the world this new being: no longer oppressor no longer oppressed, but human in the process of achieving freedom.

For Dolci, education is ‘learning to see and observe through one’s eyes, one’s ears, one’s skin, through one’s whole being through roots and umbilical cords that reach out into the world’ (Dolci 2012, p. 109). Michele Ragone (2011, pp. 141–143) takes up this metaphor of midwifery when he explains how, for Dolci, it was critical to bring out in everyone the need to be ‘among’ others because we all react and grow in different ways. He also highlights the importance that Dolci gave to organising maieutic workshops in which the physical environment has the effect of liberating the participants from ‘various forms of introversion, oppression, ignorance, anxiety, and fear’. Finally, he references how Dolci emphasised the need to contribute to the development of learning methods, an active formation of a sense of responsibility (the midwife doesn’t hide her methods but she also doesn’t say ‘this is the way to do it’), respecting the need for personal development and our status as citizens of the world, taking into account shared aims and objectives. As Dolci states, it is an approach that goes from the local to the national level and is finally placed into a ‘planetary’ context of respect for and enhancement of the beauty and historical–artistic integrity of environmental identities and of all species and their many varieties. Dolci poses the question as to whether a valid ethicalplanetary vision can be achieved without the promotion of maieutic ethics that urges everyone towards creative self-discovery. Can a valid scientific vision of the world develop where there is no inter and trans-disciplinary Maieutics that values diversity? (Dolci 1993d, p. 188). For Dolci, the maieutic approach should not be limited only to interpersonal relationships: nature, trees, flowers, animals, insects, lakes and seas all speak and are able to teach those able to observe and listen to what they have to say: ‘We need to look beyond the Socratic myth to the crux of the matter; how to deepen and widen our powers of observation; how to exercise and express it in different ways; how to widen our field of experience; how to enhance and value experience in order to try to resolve the problems that life throws at us’ (Dolci 2018, p. 300). Dolci’s main concerns were for people to be inspired by their culture to find solutions to their problems, overcoming individualism through a personal transformation in which communication evolves only if a specific type of reciprocal interaction


3 An Ecological Maieutics

includes an awareness of the wider world. Ultimately, this would lead to a world in which competition and rivalry have no place and would lead to a society based on harmony and balance; a ‘work of art’ fully at one with nature. Dolci’s ideas about education are often illustrated through analogies with art: ‘A work of education, like a work of art, comes into being as it develops and it evolves in a way that is, by definition, unforeseeable’ (Dolci 1973, p. 146). The ‘unforeseeable’, the element of discovery and self-discovery are key to Dolci’s maieutic approach.

3.2 Communication Propaedeutic to Dolci’s Reciprocal Maieutic Approach is communication. There is no Maieutics without communication, writes Dolci, who defines communication as a combination of ‘the will to connect’ and ‘a shared verbal and non-verbal code’ with ‘a certain experience and common vision, which has the capacity to develop through dialogue’ (Dolci 1993a, p. 24). For Dolci, communication means above all ‘to have in common’, ‘to share’, ‘to bear together’. The verb ‘to communicate’ in Latin, communicare, also means ‘to involve others in a munus’, signifying ‘gift’, ‘task’, ‘service/duty’, ‘kindness’, ‘advice’, ‘agreement’ (Battaglini 2002). It involves a spiritual tension that encompasses the body and all things and is renewed in a continual process of creative reciprocity: ‘sincere are those who aspire to grow together and sincerity is the desire to become one’ (Dolci 1993a, p. 24). At the start of his RMA sessions, Dolci used to explain what he meant by communication, focusing on the difference between ‘communication’ and what he defined as its opposite, ‘transmission’. Communication allows us to relate to others on an equal footing and through dialogue to arrive at a solution, or a new point of view, having modified our relationship. Transmission, on the other hand, is unilateral, or rather the message of a speaker to a receiver without the possibility of a response, so the receiver is forced into a passive listening role. In Dolci’s vision, society needs to employ ‘power’ to combat ‘dominion’, based on the sharing of power in contraposition to domination, which implies the concentration of power. For Dolci, ‘dominion’ or ‘domination’ above all represents the person who is in overall authority, holding others subject to that absolute authority. Power, by contrast, represents the ability to resolve common issues through mutual adaptation, becoming liberated from the ‘virus of domination’ and from those that Dolci referred to as ‘parasitic ticks’. It leads to humanity that exists in nonviolent harmony with nature because the dimension of power is that of co-existence, of growing together not of growing at the expense of others. When Dolci talks of ‘power’, potere in Italian, he is referencing both the verb and the noun, which in Italian are both potere. For Dolci, potere as a verb carries the meanings: ‘to have the opportunity to’,‘to be capable of’, ‘to have the right to’, ‘to be probable’, ‘to be desirable and hoped-for’, ‘to be in a position to’, ‘to manage to’, ‘to have the strength to’, ‘to be effective at’. As a noun, potere indicates ‘potential’, ‘strength’, ‘virtue’, ‘ability’, ‘attitude towards influencing situations’,

3.2 Communication


‘what is allowed by the will and willingness of the subject’. Learning to express one’s personal power is, for each one of us, a practical and intimate need on several different levels, connected to the urge to be creative (Ibid., p. 12). According to Dolci, we need to rescue the strength and intrinsic ability that each of us possesses. ‘Power’ means ‘have the power to do’, to be capable of and this distinguishes it from ‘domination’, which is the mistaken, negative and violent use of power. Domination is that power over another being that restricts their liberty, their needs and even their potential. As a consequence, for Dolci, in the same way that each one of us possesses a fragment of truth that needs to be developed, so each of us has an intrinsic ability that must be nurtured. In contemporary society, domination exists above all in the violence produced by lack of information, in disinformation and in the creation of the idea of the masses. ‘Mass communication’ does not, cannot, exist according to Dolci; there is no communication with ‘the masses’. As Teresi (2011–2012) notes, for Dolci, communication implies two living beings reciprocally helping each other to grow and develop, while the concept of ‘the masses’ annuls this. In the very moment that people is conceived as or conceives of itself as a mass, it is reduced to being an inactive, unthinking organism. The mass can only be moulded, it cannot stand up and decide to change things. ‘The mass will exist for so long as it is regarded in this way, for so long as it is made practically impossible for individuals to conceive of themselves as autonomous beings able to work together’ (Ibid., p. 241). Where consciousness is shut down, instead of determining the nature of society’s structures, we become subject to them. Dolci’s views recall those of Theodor W. Adorno on the culture industry as an instrument of social control, where freedom to choose a system of economic coercion ultimately meant the ‘freedom to be the same’ (Horkheimer et al. 2002, p. 136). His views also echo those of Erich Fromm (1956), who believed that communication is possible only when humans seek to understand interpretations of the world by others and to share their understandings with others. In Dolci (2011), the maieutic structure is a ‘creature of creatures’, referring to St. Francis’s Canticle of the Creatures; ‘an organism that enhances people’. It is Dolci’s practice of nonviolent action that, sensing the complexity of reality and diseased relationships, conceives of itself at the same time as a structure and as links between new and constructive organisms. Enhancing individual abilities is the starting off point for any healthy form of development, in that it allows individuals to relate to each other through dialogue. The maieutic structure shares methods and has a positive and constructive relationship with society and with individuals, seeking to be open to and to bring people together, so that they can devise a common plan for an organised form of development and growth that is a true expression of the interests of those individuals. Conceiving development as a grassroots process, Dolci cannot avoid the urge to seek out and put into practice a system that, more than any other, is able to free people from domination and help them to mutually enhance each other, constructing a model for a nonviolent society. The art of Maieutics serves to build structures that, through dialogue with political and economic forces, will lead to the creation of institutions


3 An Ecological Maieutics

that are more fit for purpose for citizens (Teresi 2011–2012, p. 243). So, just like the maieutic groups, communities, societies and whole nations need to become a ‘creature of creatures’—maieutic structures, the importance of which is guaranteed by the fact that each part of it is keenly valued. Another useful key to understanding Dolci’s concept of communication is his book La legge come germe musicale (‘Law as a musical seed’, 1993c). Dolci finds analogies in music in the way that his ‘law of communication’ works. In the creative maieutic relationship, writes Dolci, each one of us, while retaining our individual distinctiveness, tends towards harmony with others, with the whole, in a deeply empathetic rapport. The same is true of music, which rises out of ‘listening to oneself’ and animates our inner being because it carries the intimate force of love and cosmic becoming, of reconciling opposing forces. Thus, music is ‘food’ for moral law, leading us towards collaboration, to live honestly, with hope, in spite of everything (Ibid., p. 248). As Ragone (2011, pp. 150–151) points out, for Dolci, it is this attitude towards communication that favours the evolution of the species, and in particular, the human species that, thanks to the creation of language, has invented something that goes beyond its creator. In one of his last works, Dolci examines the nexus between the maieutic structure and evolution, about which he writes: ‘the natural world is not that violent version conceived of by Darwin, a world of the survival of the fittest. On the contrary, nature can be a completely interconnected evolutionary system in a process of harmonious development, in which even competition is part of a wider sphere of cooperation’ (Dolci 1996, p. 210). Dolci saw the human being ‘as an open system, just like the structure of an essentially dialectic group, who has experience in communication and mediation, regulates himself/herself by mutual help and inspiration, is able to self-correct and learns how to problem-solve his/her way towards a new and more complex harmony’ (Ibid., p. 219). Dolci recognised that the abandonment of the old way of doing things is sometimes necessary in order for new things to emerge, hence ‘the next revolution will be a re-evolution of humanity that will deeply engage each one of us and will lead to the re-creation of ourselves and of our world’ (Ibid., p. 44). Extending this idea, he concluded that the universe grows through diversity and unity. Evolution proceeds through communication: communication between different parts provides sustenance from the inside. The intimate process of communication transforms us all (Ibid.). Such a vision, and the concept itself, as we will see in Sect. 3.3, of ‘reciprocal creative adaptation’ used by Dolci to define communication, has fundamental aspects in common with the work of the Russian naturalist and anarchist philosopher Peter Kropotkin, in particular to his Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution (2014). Kropotkin highlighted that Darwin wrote powerful pages in The Descent of Man on ‘how in numberless animal societies, the struggle between separate individuals for the means of existence disappears, how struggle is replaced by cooperation, and how that substitution results in the development of intellectual and moral faculties which secure to the species the best conditions for survival’ (Ibid., p. 12). These are aspects, adds Kropotkin, that were not intimately scrutinised by Darwin and were accorded even less importance by his followers.

3.2 Communication


Murray Bookchin’s Social Ecology, with which Dolci’s Ecological Maieutics shares some striking similarities (see also Chap. 7), is also based on this concept of ‘mutual aid’. Like Dolci, Bookchin was also seriously concerned about the perils facing the environment already in the 1960s. In The Ecology of Freedom, The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy (1982), Bookchin wrote that the very notion of the domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human (Bookchin 1982, p. 5). He identifies a new form of libertarian social ecology which was later defined as ‘eco-anarchism’. Like Dolci—and Freire—Bookchin also drew the distinction between domination and power to rebel, as he refers to the domination of ‘the young by the old, of women by men, of one ethnic group by another, of “masses” by bureaucrats who profess to speak in their “higher social interests,” of countryside by town, and in a more subtle psychological sense, of body by mind, of spirit by a shallow instrumental rationality, and of nature by society and technology’ (Ibid., p. 7). Indeed, classless but hierarchical societies exist today, concludes Bookchin, yet the people who live in them neither enjoy freedom, nor do they exercise control over their lives. Seeming almost to echo Dolci’s own thoughts, Bookchin concludes that: The social horizon presents the starkly conflicting prospects of a harmonized world with an ecological sensibility based on a rich commitment to community, mutual aid, and new technologies, on the one hand, and the terrifying prospect of some sort of thermonuclear disaster on the other. Our world, it would appear, will either undergo revolutionary changes, so far-reaching in character that humanity will totally transform its social relations and its very conception of life, or it will suffer an apocalypse that may well end humanity’s tenure on the planet. (Ibid., p. 17)

In the era in which, Dolci said, communication would become global, penetrating every aspect of our lives, it is necessary to work with and not against the evolutionary process. We, therefore, need to learn how to interpret each other and create intimate relationships in which we exchange sense and meaning, and whoever is able to reciprocally listen and express themselves will be transformed. This is a challenge in the first instance for education. The process of communication in which each of us is both learned and learner requires each of us to understand the process, allowing us all to grow together, forming different groups and systems that are part of a single whole.

3.3 Creativity and Love As we have seen, for Dolci, dialogue is the only way to stimulate creativity and solve problems. In Comunicare legge della vita, he maintains that our worst enemy is ‘the fear of being creative, the lack of courage, the inability to rouse ourselves from our deep inertia, also when it comes to planning and organisation’ (1993a, p. 40). Creativity, a ‘collective creative intelligence’, becomes something that the educator must strive to protect and stimulate within the group. Creativity, which begins with language, cannot happen unless ‘language itself is refined’, finding its


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ultimate, most perfect expression in the form of poetry (Dolci 1993c, p. 126). As one of the most engaged and enlightened Italian poets of the second half of the twentieth century (see Chap. 6), Dolci believed in the power of poetry, of a poetic language that belongs to all of us regardless of our level of education, or the language or dialect that we express ourselves in. ‘When Dolci speaks, writes and acts, there is a presence of poetry. In almost every sense of the word Dolci is a poet. It is there in his conversations with peasants, in his nonviolent actions, in his most technical discussions of regional development’ (Amato 1973, p. 33). By expressing ourselves in our own poetic language, we are truly capable of finding solutions to our own problems. Creativity becomes self-realisation, enabling each of us to express our most profound thoughts and feelings. It is not transmitted, but each of us, by coming into contact with it, can be inspired. We need to seek out suppressed or hidden creativity and bring it to the light, endowing it with worth and value including through group activity. To grow creatively, we learn day by day and it is a lengthy process both on the personal and on the collective level. Dialogue, communication and creativity are inseparable. Creativity helps the individual to achieve his or her potential, both from a psychological and emotional perspective and in terms of how we interact and engage with others: ‘We must learn to use our eyes, ears, hands, mouths, every one of our organs and senses, our whole being, creatively’ (Dolci 1984, p. 158). Eliciting responses from each of us leads to the germination and development of new solutions and renewed power: ‘From family to school, from institutions to work environments, right up to the organs of State and on an international level, in the most varied of contexts, immense synergies can develop, based on the desire for new discoveries and self-realisation rather than fear and mistrust’ (Dolci 1989, p. 15). The concept of creativity in Dolci is closely linked to love. Love is nothing other than ‘the most intimate creative communication’ (Dolci 1993c, p. 7). Here, love is intended in a general sense, both of the loving couple, to which Dolci dedicated many inspiring thoughts in Palpitare di nessi (2012) (see Sect. 4.4), and love in its wider sense as love towards one’s neighbour, to others in general, love for nature and for the environment. All these different types of love are regarded by Dolci as fundamental to his Ecological Maieutics. The comparison with Mahatma Gandhi comes naturally to mind. For Dolci, as for Gandhi, ‘a purity must exist between ends and means in all action; all social action must have its beginning and end in a positive estimate of the human heart’ (Amato 1973, p. 31). Fromm’s The Art of Loving (1956), which undoubtedly Dolci was familiar with as he was familiar with the rest of Fromm’s work (Dolci 1988), is another point of reference here. ‘Love is possible’, writes Fromm, ‘only if two persons communicate with each other from the center of their existence, hence if each one of them experiences himself from the center of his existence’. So, for Fromm, only in this ‘central experience’ is human reality, ‘aliveness’ and the basis for love: Love, experienced thus is a constant challenge; it is not a resting place, but a moving, growing, working together; even whether there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness, is secondary to the fundamental fact that two people experience themselves from the essence of their

3.3 Creativity and Love


existence, that they are one with each other by being one with themselves, rather than by fleeing from themselves. (Fromm 1956, 103)

Returning to Dolci’s concept of nature, seen as a completely interconnected and harmoniously developing system, a recurring example that we see in Dolci is that of the relationship between the bee and the flower. This relationship, as one interviewee for Dolci’s book Gente semplice (‘Simple People’, 1993b) notes, can provide a model for the resolution of many of our problems: ‘Bees and flowers communicate. The flower uses its scent to signal the availability of its nectar to the bee. The shape of the corolla recalls that of the bee and is saying ‘I am here, I am ready, smell my perfume’. Bees and flowers become a single organism; without the flower there could be no bee (Ibid., p. 74). The relationship between bee and flower is the exact paradigm of the maieutic relationship. The bee and the flower use and rely on each other without either of them suffering any detriment; on the contrary, each of them benefits from the relationship. A balance is established between living beings that belong to different species, in fact to different kingdoms, which is vital to the survival of both. And so in society, as in nature, everything that ossifies dies, becomes separated from the environment, attempts to hold itself up, fearing the challenge of transformation. These parallels will constitute and form the basis of Dolci’s method. Dolci also refers to ‘reciprocal creative adaptation’, which, as we saw in Sect. 3.2, is also reflected in Kropotkin’s concept of mutual aid. Dolci in fact maintains that even the pregnant woman who nourishes her embryo via the umbilical cord is involved in an exchange with the embryo in which, Dolci believed, ‘each sustains the other’. ‘We should reflect’, says Dolci, ‘on how everything is more complex: even the seed of life little by little determines a woman’s adaptation to creating life. There is a difference between commercial exchange and reciprocal creative adaptation’ (Dolci 1993d, p. 36). While the embryo makes the mother creative, the mother creatively nourishes the embryo, so the relationship works both ways. Dolci mentions scientific studies related to mother/foetus coadaptation, and his own conclusions, based on these studies, were that a pregnant woman each day becomes different ‘she is adapted to creation, even though it seems like a contradiction to talk of adaptation to creativity’ (Ibid.). For Dolci, love is ‘the mysterious search to fill the void’ (Ragone 2011, p. 70). It is an art and therefore an intuition, science and practice, for which there is no recipe. We must imagine it with humility, as for any art, and learn it with strength, wisdom and keen discipline. Each of us is reborn in love. When search, discovery and growth are not renewed, we fall into the desire to possess, and love comes to an end. As a revitalising force for renewal and growth, love for another leads at the same time to love for all others (Ibid.). Love is conquered only when narcissism and morbid love for one’s own family or clan are overcome through the loving respect and subsequent knowledge one acquires from the union with another. There is no knowledge without love: this ageold intuition has been confirmed over and over by experience. In La creatura e il virus del dominio (‘The Creature and the Virus of Domination’, 1987, pp. 39–40),


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Dolci writes ‘nonviolence and love are values in and of themselves, as ways of being […] that need to be studied with care and precision as the fundamental means by which we can better create integration between individuals, groups and humanity’. Love is an instrument of knowledge, we can conclude, in that it generates creativity. But it is also, as Dolci says of creativity, ‘the ability to hold together something that appears fragmented’ (Dolci 1993d, p. 137)—and this ‘holding together’ is, definitively speaking, giving meaning to things. And this, in the end, is what Dolci was aiming to achieve through his reciprocal maieutic meetings: taking a fundamental step towards formulating a plan of action by becoming aware of one’s own abilities and potentialities. This awareness means, as well, independence from dominant opinions, from subjugation to others and being able to assert oneself. ‘The big change’, Dolci says, comes about slowly, and can start with the rejection of the idea that every person needs to be ‘owned and controlled’ by someone else; with the rejection of the opinion that human beings are ‘imperfect creations’ from which ‘nothing perfect can come’; with the rejection of the prejudice that the domination of one human being by another is necessary along with its attendant implications of ruler and ruled and obedience–subjugation. The big change can come about by developing an ethics that states that each one of us needs to learn to communicate, plan and grow creatively—an ethics that considers domination, subjugation of the masses to domination, the exaltation of the power of domination through the ‘Super man’ and the State to be a crime (Ibid., p. 68). As a form of exhortation for what he defines as a planetary maieutic laboratory, Dolci writes: ‘the planetary laboratory needs to highly value the experience of each being and of the collective’ (Dolci 1993c, p. 17). The worst form of waste is in fact that of failing to connect experiences, to extinguish and suffocate conscience, to lose all sense of direction and squander creativity. It is, therefore, necessary for RMA to protect and nurture creativity, since the betrayal of creativity poisons everyone, the individual and the disconnected whole.

3.4 Empowerment Empowering people, providing them with the means to determine their own destiny, summarises the aim of Dolci’s RMA. For Dolci, change can only be brought about by means of a free and democratic process of dialogue starting from a grassroots level. At the heart of his educational thinking is the value given to the knowledge of ordinary people and a methodology based on motivation and a thirst for knowledge as the source of learning, and socioeconomic enhancement. Making individuals aware of their own capabilities helps them to find solutions for their own needs, identifying plans and strategies to achieve them. This process, via which people learn to express their personal ‘power’, as part of a deep-felt need to be creative, known as ‘conscientisation’ or ‘critical consciousness’, can be linked to Freire’s ‘conscientização’, defined as ‘learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive

3.4 Empowerment


elements of reality’ (Freire 2017, p. 9). As with Freire, Dolci fosters an ‘empowered’ community, invoking a world in which humanity lives in nonviolent harmony with nature, coexisting in a perfect power balance, as opposed to existing as a burden on and flourishing at the expense of others. Empowering people was a key aim of Dolci’s work, since the very beginning of his experience in Sicily in the early 1950s and well before his journeys to the United States, where, in the 1950s and 1960s, the term ‘empowerment’ came into use in liberation movements for civil rights, women and minorities. In that context, the concept referred to the possibility of freeing oneself from constrained opportunities, moving from a state of passivity and dependency to a state of activity, becoming a protagonist. What is involved, therefore, is the awakening of self-awareness, awareness not only of one’s marginalised status but also of one’s personal resources and objectives. In the context of Latin America, the educational basis of Freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed is focused on a formative project for the liberation of the politically and socially marginalised. This term can also stand for the awakening of consciousness not only of one’s personal status of being oppressed, but also of the fundamental basis of oppression itself, of one’s relationship with the forces of oppression and of the possibility of freeing oneself from them. Like Freire, aside from working towards restoring power to individuals, Dolci also supported the ability to choose and the autonomous planning of the type of development identified by the group. More specifically, this means the ability to identify and increase the natural resources of local areas, understand what stands in the way of initiative and group formation, leading the way towards changing behaviours, lifting oneself out of passivity and towards the affirmation of democracy, relying on the potential and motivation of individuals as a transformative force (see Sect. 4.4). These ideas are very much in line with the work of John Friedmann, who Dolci knew and who, in 1992 wrote Empowerment—The Politics of Altermative Development, which focuses on the social and political power of the poor, acquired through autonomous decision-making in self-organised communities. In Dal trasmettere al comunicare (2011), Dolci states that authentic communication can only occur if and when a specific type of reciprocal interaction takes place between at least two individuals that, in a contemplative way, encompasses the rest of the world. In the same way, for Dolci, emergence from the state of oppression and alienation can be reached to the extent that, by meeting and engaging in maieutic dialogue, people succeed in pursuing a common objective and work together towards the enhancement of the cultural and social growth of their local environment. In order to develop a new world, Dolci maintains, we need to make use of three key instruments: the individual as the centre of consciousness and discovery, the open and mutually enhancing group and democratic and enhancing planning. He also believed that, in order to fully value each individual, it was necessary to ‘strive to create and form links between new open democratic groups and at the same time sweep away the older restricting groups at every level of society’ (Dolci 1968, p. 23). Dolci’s conviction was that people in general are not aware of their own problems, but are subject to them and to educate oneself also means becoming able to identify, to make choices. The development of creative symbiosis is a very different thing to the


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development of parasitism. For the ideal city that Dolci had in mind, the ‘terrestrial city’, which envisages a more human type of environment combining the city and the countryside, the new citizen needs to be able to face and solve problems at an individual, group and structural level. For Dolci, democracy is formed above all within a culture, in people’s hearts and minds. There is that constant striving to create the social and political conditions in which each individual can develop a sense of their own worth, their own power, the need to make themselves heard, to give value to their own existence. Furthermore, all of this takes on an educational connotation. He defined the processes of change that he proposed in Sicily from the 1950s as collective growth, growth of a people, which cannot be imposed from above. By the same token, he does not recommend a juridical or military solution to the problem of the Mafia but works at eroding the strength that the Mafia system acquires due to the lack of initiative both at individual and at state levels. Like Freire, Dolci sees sociocultural growth as a means of challenging old ways of doing things, of overcoming old barriers and embarking on a process of transformation. Both are political educators but not in a strictly ideological sense. Despite their traditional Catholic backgrounds, both opposed a theology that sought mainly to alleviate the suffering of the poor, confirming a passive role and instead advocated a spirituality aimed at subverting oppressive forces. In both, we find the ability to expertly and incisively analyse the functioning of power in the precise context in which they operated, introducing new and innovative educational tools and methods. Like Dolci, Freire also had a maieutic scope to his work, which he defined as critical dialogical. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2017, p. 62), Freire states that dialogue, as ‘an encounter among women and men who name the world’, is an ‘act of creation’ and, therefore, ‘must not serve as a crafty instrument for the domination of one person by another. The domination implicit in dialogue is that of the world by the dialoguers; it is the conquest of the world for the liberation of humankind’. Both Dolci and Freire believed in the importance of love and creativity, which in Dolci is linked back to his work as a poet. Perhaps the greatest contribution they both made to education is precisely this: the development of the idea that to educate is to offer someone the opportunity to make their life creative, in fact to see their life as an act of creation. In the next chapter, we will see how Dolci’s RMA can be applied to different educational contexts, spanning from community education to its application in schools from primary to university level as well as to the most minimal of social environments, the relationship within a couple. Later, in Chap. 4, we will look at examples of how Dolci’s RMA translated into action, making reference to key campaigns, causes and achievements that his educational activism produced.



References Amato, J. A. (1973). Danilo Dolci, a Poetic Modernizer. Worldview, 28–34, December 30. Au W. W., & Apple, M. W. (2007). Reviewing policy: Freire, critical education, and the environmental crisis. Educational Policy, 21, 457–470. Battaglini, G. (2002). Note sul tema della “comunicazione” in Danilo Dolci e in Paulo Freire. Atti del II International Forum Paulo Freire. Bologna: Ed. CLUEB. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://danilodolci.org/archivio/comunicazione-freire/. Benelli, C. (2015). Danilo Dolci tra maieutica ed emancipazione. Pisa: Edizioni ETS. Bookchin, M. (1982). The ecology of freedom the emergence and dissolution of hierarchy. Cheshire Book. Capitini, A. (1937). Elementi di un’esperienza religiosa. Bari: Laterza. Capitini, A. (1969). Il potere di tutti. Firenze: La Nuova Italia. Chemello, A. (1988). La parola maieutica—Impegno civile e ricerca poetica nell’opera di Danilo Dolci. Florence: Vallecchi Editore. Dolci, D. (1950). Parole nel giorno. In U. Fasolo (Ed.), Nuovi poeti (pp. 137–151). Florence: Vallecchi Editore. Dolci, D. (1968). Inventare il futuro. Bari: Laterza. Dolci, D. (1973). The maieutic approach: The plan of a new educational centre at Partinico. Prospects quarterly review of education (Vol. 3, No. 2, 137–146). Unesco. Dolci, D. (1984). The world is one creature (J. Vitiello & A. Molino, Trans.). New York: Amity House. Dolci, D. (1987). La creatura e il virus del dominio. Latina: L’Argonauta. Dolci, D. (1988). Il concetto di amore in Erich Fromm. In P. L. Eletti (Ed.), Incontro con Erich Fromm. Atti del Simposio Internazionale su Erich Fromm: Dalla necrofilia alla biofilia: linee per una psicoanalisi umanistica (pp. 323–328). Florence: Edizioni Medicea. Dolci, D. (1989). Bozza di manifesto. Turin: Edizioni Sonda. Dolci, D. (1993a). Comunicare, legge della vita. Manduria: Lacaita. Dolci, D. (1993b). Gente semplice. Milan: Camunia. Dolci, D. (1993c). La legge come germe musicale. Manduria: Lacaita. Dolci, D. (1993d). Nessi fra esperienza etica e politica. Manduria: Lacaita. Dolci, D. (1996). La struttura maieutica e l’evolverci. Florence: La Nuova Italia. Dolci, D. (2011). Dal trasmettere al comunicare. Casale Monferrato: Sonda. Dolci, D. (2012). Palpitare di nessi. Messina: Mesogea. Dolci, D. (2018). Chissà se i pesci piangono. Messina: Mesogea. Falcicchio, G., & Barbiero, G. (2015). Loving openness towards nature: Aldo Capitini and the moral value of biophilia. Visions for Sustainability, 3, 5–15. Freire, P. (2017). Pedagogy of the oppressed. London: Penguin. Friedmann, J. (1992). Empowerment—the politics of alternative development. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Fromm, E. (1956). The art of loving. London, New York: Harper & Row. Galtung, J. (2007). Sintesi dell’intervento di Johan Galtung. In Symposium zum 10 Todesjahr von Danilo Dolci, Basel, March 9/10, Palermo (pp. 76–83). Giani, G., & Bruschi, G. (2010). Quando Danilo era nostro ospite. In D. Dolci (Ed.), Il potere e l’acqua (pp. 13–23). Milan: Melampo. Horkheimer, M., Adorno, T. W., & Schmid Noerr, G. (2002). Dialectic of enlightenment: Philosophical fragments. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Kropotkin, K. (2014). In W. Jonson (Ed.), Mutual aid: A factor in evolution. Printed by Amazon. Ragone, M. (2011). Le parole di Danilo Dolci, anatomia lessicale-concettuale. Foggia: Edizioni del Rosone. Teresi, N. (2011–2012). Danilo Dolci e la sociologia della nonviolenza—La Sicilia occidentale come laboratorio di uno sviluppo nonviolento. Università di Pisa—Corso di laurea specialistica in Scienze per la Pace: cooperazione allo sviluppo, mediazione e trasformazione dei conflitti.

Chapter 4

The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) in Practice

4.1 Conversations with Peasants Everybody clarifies soberly and grows: a meeting coheres if by the end you’re no longer yourself and more yourself than before (Dolci 1984, p. 46).

Dolci’s public self-analysis meetings with peasants, fishermen, workers and herdsmen, dating back to his arrival in Sicily in 1952, were characterised by the use of what he later called his Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA). The starting point for these meetings, which were held more regularly after the Centre for Research and Initiatives was established in 1958 in Partinico, was Dolci’s realisation that an area can suffer chronic hardship because its people do not realise its potential for authentic development and growth and furthermore fail to identify ways that wasted resources can be saved and used for the good of the community. For Dolci, the worst form of waste was the failure to appreciate the contribution that every individual has the capacity to make. These meetings, therefore, aimed to draw out existing knowledge and expertise, helping the participants to develop problem-solving approaches and create strategies to address specific issues identified during the sessions. The meetings acquired political weight in that they gave people the opportunity to act against the exploitation of natural resources, lack of work and the hardships of poverty generated by a © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 A. Longo, Danilo Dolci, SpringerBriefs on Key Thinkers in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51853-0_4



4 The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) in Practice

system controlled by the Mafia in collusion with corrupt politicians. RMA sessions were not exclusively limited to the local people; apart from Dolci himself, who acted as a moderator, and some of his associates, they were often open to intellectuals and specialists in different fields, who became part of the maieutic exchange and contributed in different ways to the action plans formulated. Dolci believed it was essential to the success of an enterprise for each person involved to feel a common sense of ownership, and that projects imposed on people from above were destined to fail. Dolci’s main concern during the sessions was, therefore, to establish a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, which was helped by the fact that Dolci and his associates spent time establishing a rapport with the likely participants ahead of the sessions. According to Dolci’s account in Conversazioni contadine1 (‘Conversations with Peasants’ 2014a), the meetings took place regularly, usually on Thursday evenings and were attended by both men and women, mostly of the labouring classes, often accompanied by their children. The participants were mainly people from the neighbourhood, with only a few from more distant areas and attendance fluctuated between 20 and 30 as some joined and others left. At the start of each session, Dolci asked each individual questions such as: ‘how can we change?’, ‘what do we need?’, ‘what are the problems we face?’. The next step consisted in focusing on a specific problem and working together to identify solutions. Some of the issues discussed at the meetings included whether it was right to certify that a young person who was seeking work had been engaged by the Centre when this was in fact untrue; what was meant by ‘development plans’ and whether they were necessary; how local government worked and how it should work; whether it could ever be right to kill; how children should be educated; what it meant to be a man or a woman; which elements of Sicilian life and culture should be preserved and developed and how chemicals were being used in the production of local wine and how such abuse could be stopped (Dolci 1984, pp. 46–47). Once a topic was identified, the discussion opened with the participants being asked, one by one, to express their point of view on the topic, starting with the more hesitant and less vocal participants, such as women and children, and concluding with those more confident in expressing their views. After the first round, people were able to comment at will and an open debate was established. The aim of getting everyone to speak by following a formal process placed a certain pressure on the participants and had the advantage of ensuring that everybody, including the more reticent, would have the chance to speak. Furthermore, it meant that women, who were not expected to speak up in public according to the customs of Sicily at that time, were also heard. In fact, as we can observe from Dolci’s Conversazioni Contadine, women played a key role in these discussions and, supported and encouraged by Dolci, expressed themselves on subjects that were considered taboo at the time, frequently showing a

1 Danilo

Dolci’s Conversazioni contadine (2014a), first published in 1966, comprises a collection of the transcripts of some of the meetings that took place in Partinico between 13 April 1961 and 2 March 1962, recorded by Dolci’s associate Franco Alasia.

4.1 Conversations with Peasants


deep understanding of the ingrained discrimination that their culture subjected them to. The coordinator kept the conversation going, making sure all the participants expressed their own ideas, and allowing people to speak later on, if they preferred that. It is notable from the transcripts how Dolci, as coordinator, is respectful of pauses, allowing time for reflection, so that people only speak when they are ready to speak. In the final part of the session, the coordinator summarised the discussion and set out the common thoughts that had emerged. Based on the findings of the meeting, the date for the next session was then set, which would focus on refining the method that would be adopted to carry out a plan of action. The key aspect that Dolci highlights is the need to create the right atmosphere, to foster a mutual respect and a genuine interest in the other person and what they have to say. The setting itself, with chairs placed in a circle, also had a role to play in this by negating any sense of hierarchy within the group. From 1961 onwards, the meetings were recorded using a tape recorder and afterwards transcribed, a practice that then became a constant feature in Dolci’s RMA sessions. The transcripts report literally in the Sicilian dialect used or, often, in an Italianised Sicilian, what was said at the meetings, clarifying at times parts of the speech and omitting only small points that were not considered relevant to the discussion. The importance of these meetings, ‘the authentic values’ they express is summarised by Dolci (1984, p. 48) as follows: • knowledge of people, their living conditions, their ways of acting and reacting, what they consider most vital, how they manage to survive; • development of people’s interests, attitudes, thoughts, as they interact, disagree, change their minds, feel more confident, propose ways to change their whole environment; • the vital need for community, i.e. unity with ourselves, with our companions, with all human beings on this Earth—a unity that makes us all grow healthier; • trust and mutual understanding that emerge from our collective effort to search and dialogue; • intuition, lucid expression, poetry; • awareness of the need to give birth to a new and coherent praxis (a virtual catharsis). The RMA sessions were directed in such a way that people came together to develop a fully fledged plan of action, a grassroots resistance movement leading to the extension of the Centre for Research and Initiatives’ activities beyond Partinico to the towns of Roccamena, Menfi, Corleone and Cammarata. A further aim that Dolci hoped to accomplish through these sessions was to identify and nurture latent talents and abilities in the participants, empowering them to then form local leadership groups. It was in one of these meetings, focusing on analysing resource poverty in the region, that a suggestion put forward by a peasant developed into the idea of building a dam on the river Jato, which ultimately became key to local economic growth.


4 The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) in Practice

Water scarcity was in fact one of the key issues facing the area and one of the Mafia’s best businesses was selling water at hugely inflated prices. Technical experts and consultants confirmed that the idea of building a large reservoir in which to collect the Winter rains was viable but, as we will see in Chap. 5, it would take ten years of hard-fought battles and collective action to finally deliver the project. This experience confirmed, for Dolci, the efficacy of RMA by demonstrating that solutions to problems need to be sought together, especially by the people who are suffering directly as a result of those problems. ‘We can have lots of technical expertise’, concludes Dolci, ‘but we also have to respect each other, develop a real concern for each other as people. […] compassion and friendship are the best catalysts to make us construct a better world for all humanity’ (Ibid.).

4.2 RMA in Children’s Education at the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre In 1975, Dolci opened his own school, the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre (‘Centro Educativo Sperimentale di Mirto’), for children from four to fourteen years of age, which, notwithstanding all the administrative and financial problems it faced, quickly became a beacon for progressive education in Italy. In the preparatory phase of the Centre, Dolci not only consulted educators and psychologists, but brought together the children themselves and their parents for group discussion, so that the school might meet the needs and desires of those directly concerned. The Centre came into being in response to the dire situation of the Italian educational system of the day. According to Dolci (1993a, p. 44), schools suffocated children, repressing all creativity, and he objected that they were not healthy environments but places of coercion and authoritarian rule. One severe drawback that schools had, according to Dolci, was their inability to pose maieutic questions, a failure to strengthen the natural questioning instinct, from the earliest infancy, in the widest range of contexts. State school was, for Dolci, a place characterised by domination, where children were typically expected to acquire discipline and memory skills. With the RMA, the aim was instead to create a sense of co-responsibility, to make the group responsible for its own education. Dolci’s vision for school is of a healthy environment where children can grow and learn, ultimately becoming the architects of their own lives and futures. Dolci notes that Montessori and Decroly had already understood how, in ‘unidirectional’ schools, every child turns into a ‘problem child’ and they can only flourish if they can learn in environments that appreciate and value them and where they learn to appreciate and value others (Dolci1993b, p. 18). The school opened its doors on 7 January 1975 with two groups of children between four and five years of age. In the following September, a full curriculum was introduced to four groups of children aged between four and five and two groups

4.2 RMA in Children’s Education at the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre


of children aged six (90 children in total). That Dolci had already been applying RMA in a school context is evident from one of his poems published in 1974 about the first day of school: I place the chairs in a circle and try to draw them out listening to each of them one by one slowly thawing, they start to communicate each voice a call to the next digging deeper unites them all their eyes brighten, losing their glazed look […] Little by little in the intense hours they open up like the petals of flowers2 (Danilo Dolci, Poema umano, 2016, p. 187, my translation)

We will turn now to how Dolci employed his RMA in the context of the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre, while in Sect. 5.4, how the Centre, the planning for which originated in community RMA sessions, was brought into being will be examined. Dolci’s methods, which he combined under the title of the Reciprocal Maieutic Approach, were drawn from a number of sources and not entirely new in children’s education. However, we can regard the clarity and persistence with which the method was applied as innovative in and of itself, harmoniously combining, as it did, theories from different educators, notably Maria Montessori and Aldo Capitini in Italy, and Rudolf Steiner and Paulo Freire internationally. Montessori’s different forms of peer tutoring were a continuous point of reference for Dolci, whose associates included Grazia Honeger Fresco, who later became the Director of the Montessori group of schools in Italy. As we have seen (Sect. 3.1), Capitini introduced Dolci to the life and work of Gandhi and helped him from his early days to formulate and refine his ideas, while Freire provided a key point of reference for him by his own pursuit of a similar maieutic approach. Both Capitini and Freire, like Dolci, saw education as the coming together of educator and educated believing that it should not be the source of pre-fabricated answers to pre-determined questions but the means by which an individual can explore their own ideas about their own culture. Also, their concerns focused on the amelioration of inequalities in the classroom, the basis of critical pedagogy, which focuses on the relationship between education and power in society (Darder et al. 2015). As far as Steiner is concerned, despite the different historical and social contexts, there are some striking similarities both from a practical and theoretical perspective (Di Benedetto 2016). In common with the other educators mentioned, Steiner came from a tradition that ‘rested on the need to guide the child towards using his own 2 Dispongo

le sedie a cerchio/ cerco si esprimano/li ascolto attentamente – ad uno ad uno/sgrumandosi comunicano:/ogni voce è uno stimolo e un invito/ogni prova di scavo tende a unirli –,/ osservo gli occhi disintorbidarsi. [..] A poco a poco nelle ore intense/si aprono come petali di un fiore.


4 The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) in Practice

intellect without imposition’ (Ibid.). This tradition was based on the proposition, as expressed by Steiner, that the most important thing to prepare in the child, in the man to come, is that at a certain point, at the right time in his life, s/he will arrive at that moment of liberation by coming to know herself/himself. True freedom is something we experience inside ourselves and it can only be nurtured in someone if, as teachers and educators, we look on others in this way. As Di Benedetto (Ibid.) maintains, Steiner aimed not to brusquely impose himself on the development of the individual but to prepare the ground so that the individual might reach that point of development on their own. We can find analogous concerns expressed by Dolci in Chissà se i pesci piangono (1972), where he grappled with the desire to arrive at a sincere connection between educator and student, aiming always to overcome the burden of authoritarian attitudes that reside within the pedagogical relationship. Like Freire and Capitini, Dolci’s starting point was a reconsideration of the terminology typically used in the school environment at that time, for example as set out below: FROM: TO teacher: educator pupil: student school: educational centre class: group headmaster: coordinator discipline: responsibility lecture room: council grading, tests, examinations: collective assessment ‘Certain terms, used in a new context, obviously take on a new meaning. Thus an educator […] is a counsellor who fulfils his/her responsibilities, and anyone may be an educator’ (Dolci 1984, p. 156). The principles for learning and development devised by Dolci were based on individual discovery and group discussion, in which the participants’ individual interests and the study of the environment constituted ‘the basis both of the methods used and of the programme content’ and led towards ‘the ultimate goal of creating an essentially maieutic society’. He also highlighted the need for ‘co-ordination in planning, so as to be able to produce things together in the short or long term, and in co-operation with the groups involved in the development of the region’ (Dolci 1973, p. 138). According to Rodari (2018, pp. 297–301), it was on these principles that Dolci’s new education was based, rejecting the idea of formal lessons, embracing the concept that you can only truly know what you discover for yourself, and seeing Maieutics as the need to develop in each individual the ability to discover, to create and to engage in constructive exchanges. A school that intends to advance down that path needs to have a strongly utopian vision: a utopia seen as a shared dream, a common struggle, where it is clear that we are not focusing simply on the life of the school but of the whole social context and the wider world. The work carried out does not take as its objective merely the formation of young people but it aims to positively influence their families as well. This exemplifies how

4.2 RMA in Children’s Education at the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre


Dolci’s educational work is not an end in itself but is always geared towards creating links between the micro and macro environments, between the cultural change of the individual and the opening up of new horizons. A key aspect of Dolci’s children’s education is the need to strike a balance between thought and action, and to encourage physical and mental activity in accordance with the following progression: • observation, concentration; • maieutic elaboration of the initial statement of the problem and of the hypothesis; • establishment of a plan of experiments (individual and group) to test the hypothesis; • thinking through of the problem (individually and in groups); • tentative formulation or verification of the theory; • verification of suggested hypothesis; • adjustment of the theory (Dolci 1973, p. 139). Dolci is aware that the emphasis will vary according to the various age levels. For the youngest, the emphasis is on the play and a ‘carefully protected spontaneity’, whereas for older children, ‘a sounder relationship with the world, a growing capacity for systematic thought and for the acceptance of responsibilities’ becomes more relevant. Dolci’s fundamental assumption is that children have their own vital interests, which they must discover for themselves, and develop together with people who are willing and able to discover, to create and to stimulate interest (Ibid., 140). This approach recalls Steiner-Waldorf educators, for whom, as De Rijke (2019, p. 10) notes, ‘fantasy and imagination are held to be precious human qualities and equal partners with the rational’. The three activities of the human soul: ‘thinking’, ‘feeling’ and ‘willing’ constitute a ‘curriculum’ of sorts, aiming for an education with all systems harmoniously in balance. In the context of the Italian educational system of the time, the concept that children should not be forced to go to the Centre, as the Centre itself must attract them there, was regarded as somewhat unorthodox. Used to strict attendance rules, some of the mothers Dolci met in an RMA session, found this difficult to accept (Dolci 2018, pp. 23–35). In following what the children’s interests were, in a process of collective exploration, Dolci replaced the traditional figure of the teacher with that of the ‘educator’, who is basically an expert in Maieutics, whose main concern is the experience and the intuition of the student. Also, the children were encouraged to coordinate their own activities, finding maieutic ways of understanding one another and taking decisions together. According to Geraci (2013), what Dolci is trying to do through his interview method is first of all make people aware that there is this alternative ‘associative life’ and that, secondly, they can express themselves to someone else who approves and will not ‘take reprisal against them’. The nonviolent, peaceful man replaces the menacing father. Dolci’s approach recalls A. S. Neill’s work at Summerhill School in Suffolk and Dolci would undoubtedly have approved on Neill’s dictum that education is basically approval of the child; a shift from authority to acceptance (Ibid.).


4 The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) in Practice

Another important constituent of Dolci’s method, in line with the Montessori experiential approach, is learning by doing. For Dolci, learning about a subject, for instance music, did not mean having a teacher who merely talked about music, but rather actually listening to a musician and then doing it themselves. Referencing Kodály’s method, from which he drew his inspiration, Dolci extends this thought with the example of the painter or sculptor who helps the children to discover and to express form through drawing, painting and modelling (Dolci 1984, p. 158). Similarly, the Steiner curriculum involves the integration of the arts into all academic disciplines throughout the education. It is felt that abstract and conceptual thinking come more naturally to children at a later stage and that young children learn best when the teaching appeals foremost to their feelings and artistic sense (De Rijke 2019, p. 10). This educational approach was intended to be constantly discussed and improved, not only by educators themselves but by the children, the educators and the parents together. As we will see in Sect. 5.4, it also focused on creating a relationship between the experience of the Centre itself and other experiences from their own world. ‘There should be no gap between the Educational Centre and life’, says Dolci, ‘the mother, the peasant, the artisan, the workman and the cooperative member will bring their problems and they will be studied together. […] Our aim is to create a real pedagogical alternative to authoritarianism and its antithesis, permissiveness’ (Dolci 1973, p. 142).

4.3 ‘Cortile Cascino’, an Example of the Application of RMA Practice in a University Context In this part, I will present an example of the application of Dolci’s Reciprocal Maieutic Approach in University teaching from my own experience, focusing on a series of three seminars entitled ‘Slums outside the Cathedral, Repression and Persistence, an Ecocritical Reading of Palermo’s Cortile Cascino’. These seminars were part of a Middlesex University Erasmus teaching visit that I undertook in May 2018, hosted by Dr. Flavia Schiavo, Course Leader of ‘Fundamentals of Urbanistics and Urban Planning’ (Department of Architecture), and by Dr. Stefano Montes, Course Leader of Linguistic Anthropology (Department of Culture and Social Studies), both at the University of Palermo. This case study may be of interest to anyone who might consider employing these methods as practitioners in a Higher Education context. Content and Aims of the seminars. The seminars presented an ecocritical3 reading of Cortile Cascino, a now demolished quarter of Palermo, which, until 1968, comprised a yard divided by the railway, where overcrowded single-roomed dwellings without mains water, electricity or drainage, were home to around 1,000 people. It was located close to the seat of power in Palermo and only 200 m from the Cathedral. Notwithstanding this, it was ignored by the authorities and generally regarded as a place to avoid. The existence of Cortile Cascino was decried by 3 For

an introduction to Ecocriticism, see Chap. 6.

4.3 ‘Cortile Cascino’, an Example of the Application of RMA …


Danilo Dolci in his book Inchiesta a Palermo (2014b) and he also went on a hunger strike in protest about the appalling conditions there. The book and hunger strike were undoubtedly contributing factors leading to the controversial decision by the authorities to demolish the slum and erect walls to hide the remains, dispersing the inhabitants and destroying their sense of community. The seminars focused on the representation of Cortile Cascino in different texts, the most prominent of which are Danilo Dolci’ Inchiesta a Palermo; Cortile Cascino (1962), Robert Young’s cinéma vérité style documentary for NBC network television; Children of Fate: Life and Death in a Sicilian Family, a documentary focusing on one of Cortile Cascino’s families thirty years later in 1992, made by Robert Young’s son, Andrew Young, and Susan Todd; Goffredo Fofi’s book Cortile Cascino (1994), which recalls Fofi’s experience in 1957, working as part of Dolci’s project in the slum and finally, the use of extracts from Robert Young’s documentary in Viva Palermo e Santa Rosalia (2005), made by the Palermitan film-makers Daniele Ciprì and Franco Maresco. The aims of the seminars were to reflect on the representation of the desolate cityscape and the daily struggle to survive that emerges from these texts and the role they play in keeping a record of this time; to focus on the ‘erasure’ of Cortile Cascino and, finally, to formulate a plan of action to preserve the memory of the place and the events that occurred there, at the same time introducing Dolci’s work and applying his RMA during the seminars in order to assess its relevance and value as an educational tool. Structure of seminars. The first two two-hour seminars were held, respectively, on 8 May 2018 and 9 May 2018: the first hosted with the participation of students from the Fundamentals of Urbanistics and Urban Planning course, and the second with the participation of students from Linguistic Anthropology. They comprised a presentation of the topic, accompanied by a discussion and suggestions for further reading and research activities to learn more about the history and the current conditions of Cortile Cascino; e.g. visits to the Cortile Cascino site, interviewing people, including within students’ families, who might have known or heard of Cortile Cascino. A third two-hour seminar, on 10 May 2018, focused on the application of Dolci’s RMA to the discussion. This seminar, the content of which will be illustrated below, comprised two parts: one in which all participants expressed their ideas and opinions, and suggested practical initiatives, and a second part devoted to defining a possible action plan to preserve the memory of the place and the events that occurred there. Report on the RMA session in the seminar held on 10-05-2018, hosted by Dr. Flavia Schiavo with the participation of students from the Fundamentals of Urbanistics and Urban Planning course. Participants—Tutors: Abele Longo (Middlesex University), Flavia Schiavo (University of Palermo). Students: Andrea, Castrense, Cristina, Desirè, Enrico, Fabrizio, Gabriele, Giovanna, Salvo, Sonia, Zaira. Introduction to the RMA session and guidelines. Dolci’s RMA method was introduced to the students, focusing on the importance of mutual questioning and the need to identify shared solutions; on how the questions put forward by an individual,


4 The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) in Practice

through discussion with the other participants, become owned by the group. Guidelines about how to conduct the session were discussed and participants agreed and acknowledged that the output from the session could be used as research material for and be included in a publication. It was decided that the output from the session would be treated as a collective response, without identifying the individual contributions of the participants in the transcript of the discussion. As with Dolci’s sessions, participants sat in a circle. RMA directions.4 Attention was paid to the following: ensuring that each person expressed their thoughts by first going around the circle and then opening up to free discussion; intervening to avoid the discussion becoming dominated by a limited number of participants; instituting a process of hand raising; respecting pauses in the discussion and allowing individuals to formulate their thoughts words and ideas; avoiding providing answers to questions even when these are sought by the participants from the coordinator but instead encouraging the process of finding them together, without pressure to conclusively find answers to the questions posed during the session. The seminars were recorded and notes were taken during the discussion. Introducing ourselves, ‘dreams’. The RMA session started with participants introducing themselves and saying what their dreams and aspirations were, in line with how Dolci frequently opened his sessions, as a way of getting to know each other and establishing better communication. The participants expressed their dreams and aspirations for a more just and peaceful world; for an end to all wars and world peace; that humanity would finally understand its role as guardian of the planet Earth, not its exploiter; to improve Palermo; to be a good parent and teacher; to fulfil their potential and to have a family and a fulfilling job; to have a job involving international travel, to live abroad and see the world; to work in the film industry, in the aeronautics industry, for Sony. Reflections and Suggestions on How to Preserve the Memory of Cortile Cascino The following reflections and suggestions were put forward during the session: • It is significant that before these sessions some students, despite being from Palermo, had never even heard of Cortile Cascino. ‘It is therefore of the utmost importance that the memory of the place as presented in Andrew Young and Susan Todd’s documentary be preserved’. • ‘We need to reflect on the desperate conditions in which the people of Cortile Cascino lived without even the bare essentials—such as a table to eat at—that we take for granted’. ‘Aside from the squalid conditions that they lived in, [the film] also reveals how the inhabitants of this quarter were reviled and derisively labelled “cascinari”’.

4 RMA practices which follow these procedures can also be found in Francesco Cappello, Seminare

domande – La sperimentazione della maieutica di Danilo Dolci nella scuola, Bologna: EMI, 2011.

4.3 ‘Cortile Cascino’, an Example of the Application of RMA …


• ‘We need to look at the political institutions and also to ourselves as citizens, when we think of choosing competent people, capable of doing good. Our role as citizens is key in working towards the redevelopment of the area’. • One participant asked their grandmother if she knew of Cortile Cascino. The grandmother said she remembered a cousin who had moved into the area with his wife and had a difficult time there. ‘In Young and Todd’s documentary, the image that emerges of Cortile Cascino is that of a ghetto, a rubbish heap, an open sewer, a place where the lowest forms of labour, such as the cleaning of human hair for wig-making, were carried out’. • In view of the lack of funds made available for public projects, there would be a need to rely heavily on volunteer work and to develop projects that public administration could be pressurised into getting involved with. • Ideas and projects would have to come from the people and not from the institutions. • Working with people means that new and unexpected ideas are constantly generated. • There is also a need to identify organisations that are already involved in initiatives of this kind. One example could be local parishes, looking towards the important work they have done in quarters such as Albergheria. • There would also be the need to generate fund raising initiatives for the redevelopment of the area, for example involving local artists. • Redevelopment could involve creating a multimedia centre recalling those years, or a centre dedicated to the arts including an archive of new documents being created about Cortile Casino, possibly on the site of the railway station currently being built at the location. • The name of the square should recall Cortile Cascino; for now, there is only a restaurant ‘I cascinari’, that preserves the memory of the place. • We should find out if there is a building that can be converted into a cine-club which could house the recordings of the interviews conducted by Dolci, included in his book Inchiesta a Palermo. • Convert the area into a green space with vegetable patches. Make this ‘black hole’ a place of rebirth. Transform the area into a green space that reconnects the quarter to the city, making it into a play park or space for outdoor concerts. Organise sporting activities in the football pitches in the area. • Instead of building a centre, instal a large outdoor screen to show films and documentaries. [This suggestion was objected to because of the likelihood of vandalism or theft. Then, the case of similar initiatives in the Zen quarter was mentioned, where, by involving the community in projects, they gradually took on a greater sense of pride in and ownership of their environment.] • Talk with the people who had lived in that area and still live nearby, and get them involved in identifying a renovation project for the area. • Launch a competition for university students to put forward suggestions and ideas.


4 The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) in Practice

Action Plan Proposals In the second part of the seminar, a possible action plan for the renovation of Cortile Cascino and the preservation of the memory of the place was outlined: • Just as was done for the monuments in the Panormus: the school adopts the city initiative organised by the city council, Cortile Cascino could be ‘adopted’. The beauty of Cortile Cascino lies in making people aware of the life that was lived there and preserving that for posterity. • Write an open letter to the mayor and local council together with photos, reflections on and suggestions for initiatives to redevelop Cortile Cascino, to preserve it and keep the memory of the place alive. Involve the local population and those who had lived there in the past in the proposals for redevelopment initiatives. • Contact the Danilo Dolci Centre for Creative Development, as well as voluntary organisations, parishes and other interested bodies to canvass their support. • Undertake a process of gathering testimonies and life stories related to Cortile Cascino and leading to a publication. Assessment of the session. The students were interested and engaged, some had undertaken preparatory background reading and others had interviewed relatives and neighbours. The discussion took place in a relaxed but focused atmosphere, and the discussion flowed freely. At the end of the session, the students gave very positive feedback about the seminar, highlighting how interesting and useful they had found everything they had learned about a topic that most of them had previously known nothing about. It was noted how useful it had been for those students intending to pursue a career in urban planning to work on developing an action plan and how all who took part now felt more motivated and engaged in the desire to do something for their city.

4.4 Couples and Family Relationships In his theorisation of the Reciprocal Maieutic Approach, Dolci also considered the most minimal of social entities; the family, the couple and even the individual. However, the term Maieutics implies at least two individuals, whether it is unidirectional, as in Socrates, or reciprocal, as in Dolci. Dolci’s RMA is based on the concept that it is through dialogue that people find a shared truth, living happily together in harmony with the environment, ultimately becoming one with it. This being ‘all in one’, prompted Dolci to observe that togetherness can also be reached by a single individual, as the English word ‘alone’ (‘all-one’) implies (Dolci 2012, p. 136). He concluded, therefore, that the first form of Maieutics needs to be applied to ourselves. What Dolci really means here is a form of ‘self’ Maieutics, in which the individual becomes able to see and listen to himself/herself at the same time, almost like an observer or interlocutor from the outside. Though human beings need each other, they also have to be able to search within themselves. In this way they will,

4.4 Couples and Family Relationships


inevitably, understand the other too: ‘If we explore our own light and shade, we will discover the shining light of others. In order to breathe deeply we need to loosen up our tangled insides, to plough our deepest furrows’ (Ibid. 32). Notwithstanding this interest in ‘individual’ Maieutics, Dolci focuses more on the RMA within the couple and at a family level. What we can say about these two specific social entities is that, in contrast to his approach with community and children’s education, Dolci does not foresee here the role of a facilitator. In other words, he did not speak of a specialist, a psychologist for instance, or someone specifically trained in RMA, to act as an intermediary. He suggests, instead, that a couple or family could read his Palpitare di nessi (‘The Quivering Nexus’ 2012), which he dedicated to his second wife Elena Norman and their two sons Sereno and En, aged eight and five at the time. The first part of the book is a fictional theatre-like work called Palpito which, Dolci explains, serves to: ‘transmute family bickering and arguments into a new form of creativity’ (Ibid., p. 11). The dialogues have a clear educational intent and are intended to be read and discussed in small groups. The story centres around a young couple, Flora and Giovanni, who are married with two children, a son and daughter. Their relationship difficulties reach a crisis when Giovanni unexpectedly has to travel for work. Palpito highlights the importance of not ‘hiding or repressing conflict but instead seeing it as an inevitable feature of any authentic relationship, representing a precious opportunity for growth and better understanding’ (Barone 2012, p. 6). As Barone says, the question we need to ask is how well we are ‘equipped for dealing with conflict in a healthy way’. We are in fact much more used to reiterating ‘absurd jibes that waste our vitality instead of making us stronger’ (Ibid). Crisis should not be avoided: ‘The self-pitying victim tries to justify their own failure and by becoming a victim they make the other person into the guilty party’ (Dolci 2012, p. 47). ‘A balance between healthy conflict and empathetic listening, freedom and desire’ is what Dolci terms ‘reciprocal creative adaptation’ (Barone 2012, p. 7), which also corresponds to his definition of love (see Sect. 3.3). This is love not just in the ethical sense but also on a sexual level; sexual behaviour in nature is in fact, for Dolci, a clear example of mutual creative adaptation. Dolci’s attempt to read nature in this way, says Vigilante (2012, pp. 448–452), is not objective but constrains and distorts scientific knowledge in order to make it fit with an edifying image of nature. Society is not, according to Dolci, something that sits apart from nature but instead an organism that forms part of it. Human beings need to learn from nature how to solve their problems, become creative and evolve. This reading of nature has, however, been called into question, for example by Remotti (2019), who maintains that it is mistaken to talk about a natural state of humanity by looking at forms of family in the animal kingdom, given that many different types of family groupings exist in nature. As far as the human species is concerned, no so-called natural state of humanity appears to exist: Homo sapiens is a strongly culturally driven animal and for this reason lives in different types of society, at the same time developing different types of family groupings. If by the expression ‘in nature’ we mean how humans would live if governed solely by their natural instincts, anthropologists would object that this kind of human nature does


4 The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) in Practice

not exist independently of all the principles, laws and characteristics that guide and determine human behaviour. Dolci’s vision of nature should not, however, lead us to draw hasty conclusions about his theories, and the teachings from Dolci’s Palpito nevertheless remain valid; for instance, many of Dolci’s observations anticipate what then became Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (2015). Central to Palpito is, in fact, the concept of ‘avoiding dominance or being dominated’ (Dolci 2012, p. 29). Dolci tried, as Rosenberg did, to understand what drives the individual towards a position of dominance and comments ‘at times a person can drag around a system of personal defence within themselves from place to place for years… a system built in the earliest stages of life, seeing in new people ghosts from the past’; and then he also adds: ‘often if someone is reminded of a traumatising event from the past, this will distort their response to a new situation, viewing it through the lens of that past experience and leading to the re-living of old suffering. In the moment they do not realise, are not aware, and this unbearable pain explodes for non-existent reasons’ (Ibid.). Dolci also offers advice on how to raise children. If when a child is born, the parents tend to do everything for him/her without establishing a process of mutual creative adaptation—which Rosenberg calls ‘mutual desire to give from the heart’ (Rosenberg 2015, p. 6)—because they only know how to receive, they will become a monstrous child/adult incapable of producing anything themselves (Dolci 2012, p.37). Human beings demand love until they become capable of giving love (Ibid. p. 55)—even though they feel loved, children demand unconditional love. This can happen anywhere at any time, in its most dangerous forms, to a person at any age or stage in life in any context until a person learns how to generate love. Dolci establishes the difference between dialogue and ‘toxic bickering’ (Ibid. p. 43), which can be summarised, quoting Rosenberg (2015, p. 6), as follows: ‘our attention is focused on classifying, analysing, and determining levels of wrongness rather than on what we and others need and are not getting’. If divided human beings seek each other, says Dolci, it is wise for them to trace what they have in common, to discover through dialogue where their points of difference lie, to understand the basis of their relationship. For Dolci, crisis is inevitable and it is precisely through crisis that ‘creative leaps’ can be accomplished (Ibid. p. 94). Sometimes a relationship in crisis can seem to have fallen apart; however, by understanding it, the relationship can instead be reborn. Resolving the discord between two individuals in love is also, for Dolci, the first step towards resolving discord on a much wider planetary level. Dolci, says Bonora (n.d.), dreamed of a world comprising of a single Polis involving the active engagement of any creature potentially destined to be creative. The Earth, therefore, becomes a living organism, a ‘creature of creatures’. After his active period of socio-political engagement in the 1950s and 1960s, his work became increasingly focused on developing these educational maieutic ideas both in Italy and abroad. The importance of the meetings in which he evolved his method lies not so much in the themes and ideas discussed as much as in the methodological approach to the discussion and the development of his maieutic approach. During the course of the

4.4 Couples and Family Relationships


seminars, he was always the one who spoke the least; he preferred to make space for others to speak, especially young people. Once the right atmosphere had been established, each participant felt able to make their own contribution to the discussion, a fact which surprised and amazed some teachers who found themselves discovering things about their students that they had never imagined. Many parents were deeply moved by the experience and thanked Dolci for helping their children to open up in the family environment after many years of incomprehension (Ibid.).

References Barone, G. (2012). Un preludio possibile. In D. Dolci (Ed.), Palpitare di nessi (pp. 5–8). Messina: Mesogea. Bonora, G. (n. d.). A quattro anni dalla morte di Danilo Dolci. Nonviolenza, Capitini, Gandhi, obiezione di coscienza e disarmo. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://nonviolenti.org/cms/rub riche/i-volti-della-nonviolenza/danilo-dolci/. Cappello, F. (2011). Seminare domande - La sperimentazione della maieutica di Danilo Dolci nella scuola. Bologna: EMI. Darder, A., Mayo, P., & Paraskeva, J. (Eds.). (2015). International critical pedagogy reader. New York: Routledge. De Rijke, V. (Ed.) (2019). Art and Soul: Rudolf Steiner, Interdisciplinary Art and Education. Cham: Springer. Di Benedetto, G. (2016). Gli occhi, le mani, la bocca – tra Steiner e Dolci. PalermoGrad. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from http://www.palermo-grad.com/blog/gli-occhi-le-mani-la-bocca-tra-steinere-dolci. Dolci, D. (1973). The maieutic approach: the plan of a new educational centre at Partinico. Prospects Quarterly Review of Education, 3(2), 137–146. UNESCO. Dolci, D. (1993a). Comunicare, legge della vita. Manduria: Lacaita. Dolci, D. (1993b). La legge come germe musicale. Manduria: Lacaita. Dolci, D. (1984). The world is one creature (J. Vitiello, A. Molino, Trans.). New York: Amity House. Dolci, D. (2012). Palpitare di nessi. Messina: Mesogea. Dolci, D. (2014a). Conversazioni contadine. Milan: Il Saggiatore. Dolci, D. (2014b). Inchiesta a Palermo. Palermo: Sellerio. Dolci, D. (2016). Poema umano. Messina: Mesogea. Dolci, D. (2018). Chissà se i pesci piangono. Messina: Mesogea. Fofi, G. (1994). Cortile Cascino. Palermo: Edizioni della Battaglia. Geraci, J. (2013). Danilo Dolci: Nonviolence in Sicily. Satyagraha foundation for Nonviolence Studies. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from http://www.satyagrahafoundation.org/danilo-dolci-non violence-in-sicily/. Remotti, F. (2019). Somiglianze. Una via per la convivenza. Bari: Laterza Press. Rodari, G. (2018). Danilo Dolci Socrate in Sicilia. In D. Dolci (Ed.), Chissà se i pesci piangono (pp. 295–301). Messina: Mesogea. Rosenberg, M. (2015). Nonviolent communication. Encinitas: PuddleDancer. Vigilante, A. (2012). Ecologia del potere. Studio su Danilo Dolci. Foggia: Edizioni del Rosone.

Chapter 5

A Pedagogy of Action

5.1 Hunger Strikes When he arrived in Trappeto in January 1952, Dolci had no specific strategy in mind. His awareness-raising work and encouragement of people to rebel against the dire conditions of poverty and exploitation that they were living in was something that developed organically out of his own direct contact with that reality. His first form of protest was fasting. It was a spontaneous reaction, prompted by the need for urgent action in the face of a desperate situation, a form of protest that would bring these harsh realities into the public arena, forcing the authorities to act. In October 1952, Dolci was called on by a mother desperately worried about her infant child. The mother was undernourished and had not eaten for days and, as a result, was unable to produce any milk to feed her infant. Dolci went straight out to buy some formula milk but by the time he returned, the child was already dead. Deeply shaken by this experience, Dolci said: ‘If children are dying of hunger, then it is not possible for us to eat; it means we are betraying our duty to support the weakest and most vulnerable. If children are dying of hunger then we ourselves must not eat until things change’ (Vigilante 2012, p. 54). Dolci then started a fasting protest from the bed of the deceased child and wrote a letter to the authorities denouncing the situation. Fasting had acquired a political dimension from when it was first practised by Gandhi, whose moral and political beliefs were founded on satyagraha, the belief that truth and justice in the end always prevail, without the need to resort to violence. However, before Dolci, there was no tradition in Italy of fasting as a form of activism and it is difficult, according to Vigilante (Ibid., p. 52–53), to judge to what extent Dolci’s fasting was influenced by Gandhi. Dolci does not refer to having read Gandhi in his formative years and in fact he first met Capitini, who was largely responsible for bringing the teachings of Gandhi to public attention in Italy, during the time of this first fasting. It could, therefore, have been that Dolci was not emulating Gandhi but that he became more aware of Gandhi after adopting this form of protest. One important aspect of Gandhi’s teaching was that he embraced individuals even from the © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 A. Longo, Danilo Dolci, SpringerBriefs on Key Thinkers in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51853-0_5



5 A Pedagogy of Action

lowest levels of society, seeing this identification with them, as a way of serving God. Vigilante (2012, p. 53) highlights the close affinity between Gandhi’s and Dolci’s lifestyles: both started their day at 4:00 am, the time that peasants in India and Sicily headed off to start their working day, and both men opted to dress in the same worn humble clothing as the peasants around them. Dolci read the Bhagavad-Gita in his early youth alongside other religious and philosophical texts including the Gospels. His religious beliefs during this period were based on the twin ideas of sacrifice for others, becoming like the Host in Christian communion, and empathising and identifying with the weakest and most vulnerable on the deepest level. If one bears in mind this process of profound identification, then the choice of fasting can be seen as deeply logical. Fasting in this way obliged the political class to take urgent action and at the same time achieved the objective of bringing the desperate situation in the area to nationwide public attention. Capitini was the first to respond, writing a letter of solidarity to Dolci. After eight days, when Dolci’s physical condition was starting to become deeply concerning, Sicily’s regional presidency announced that a substantial sum of money would be allocated towards improving the conditions in Trappeto. It was Dolci’s first major victory. Dolci’s fast had the effect of attracting international attention to the conditions in Sicily. Having established the efficacy of fasting as a form of activism, it then became one of the core strategies of the nonviolent approach to political change enshrined in his Reciprocal Maieutic Approach, developed over the coming years, with the emphasis on the need for a grassroots revolution. As discussed in Sect. 4.1, it was during a public self-analysis meeting in 1955 that the idea of constructing a dam on the river Jato was born. The lack of water was one of the major issues in the area and a cornerstone of Mafia power. The dam on the Jato imagined by Dolci needed to be something different, a grand project for the benefit of the local area brought about due to public pressure and seen through to its successful conclusion by them, a project by the people for the people. Posing the question of how best to act, after a lengthy period of reflection, Dolci suggested fasting and, on this occasion, he was joined by thirty people. In conjunction with the fasting protest, a letter was sent to local and national authorities demanding that all necessary action be taken for the construction of the dam and at the same time making additional demands, including school places for all children under 14, financial assistance for the families of those in prison and jobs on the construction of the dam for local unemployed workers, all of which went unanswered. When he started this fast, which lasted from 27 November to 4 December 1955, Dolci had also called on all right-thinking people to fast for at least a day, so as to remember what it felt like to be hungry or experience hunger for the first time. He had discussed the content of the letter with Capitini, who added that fasting was not just about finding a way to ensure that the hungry were fed but also a means of feeling close to them, which, while of no practical help, expressed unity through love (Ibid., p. 79). Another fast was embarked on in January 1956. The protest this time was against fishing from motorboats, a widely practised and commonly tolerated illegal practice, which deprived the local fishermen of any form of livelihood. Dolci organised a

5.1 Hunger Strikes


collective fast on the beach in San Cataldo, an action that was banned under the novel charge of ‘unauthorised public fasting’ (Barone 2010, p. 23). Despite the derailing of this particular protest, it was nonetheless a great achievement in terms of nonviolent action, as Dolci had managed this time to gather together more than a thousand people. Even though it was prevented by the authorities, this protest raised awareness and led to the mobilisation of people for the cause, leading to the reverse strike of 2 February 1956 (see Sect. 5.2). In the same year, Dolci fasted for seven days from 16 to 23 December, along with some of his followers in a squalid dwelling in the run-down area of Palermo known as Cortile Cascino (see Sect. 4.3). This event caused a domino effect in that many of his supporters and disadvantaged people decided, on 23 December, to follow suit. It was a hunger strike that led to a mass popular reaction in response to the words he wrote, published in the Palermo-based anti-Mafia newspaper L’Ora: With each passing day the divide between the North and the South of the country widens; and everyone knows that this division derives from the lack of basic provision for the people of the South. It is of vital importance that everyone is made aware of the utter terror, fear and subjugation to the power of the Mafia that people here are living under. (Forte 2003)

Dolci’s last hunger strike, protesting about the failure to commence construction of the dam on the river Jato, took place on September 1962 and was accompanied by mass popular support. On the ninth day of his hunger strike, the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno, a government fund set up to finance and stimulate economic growth in the south of the country, announced its approval of the funding for the construction of the dam, definitively proving that Dolci had managed to create a credible force for change against the power of the Mafia and its long-standing water racket (Ragone 2011, p. 31). Hunger strike was one of Dolci’s more innovative methods of collective action, considering the context in which he was operating. As Dolci himself had identified, the real issue about working collectively as a democratic association or group in the city of Palermo and its surrounding areas was that such groups were inextricably linked, in people’s minds, to organised crime. Dolci reclaimed the value of collective action as the instrument of mediation between individuals and society and between individual effort and collective democratic action. As Rosignoli (2018, p. 133) maintains, ‘Dolci’s activism in Sicily undoubtedly represents an anticipation of the themes and the actions subsequently to be called movements for environmental justice’. Despite the term not having been coined yet, his actions can be considered to fully belong within this new paradigm, which places at its heart the voices of those most affected by environmental inequality. By so powerfully raising a voice against unemployment, illiteracy, environmental injustice and organised crime and thanks to his intuition that certain environmental issues could act as a vehicle for change in local communities if driven by an empowered grassroots popular movement, he can undoubtedly be considered ‘the precursor to environmental justice in Italy’.


5 A Pedagogy of Action

5.2 Reverse Strike Among the various forms of protest used by Dolci, the reverse strike holds a special place, for the impact it had on national and international public opinion. Consisting, as the name itself suggests, of the reverse of what usually characterises a strike, namely refusing to work, this protest saw unemployed people voluntarily undertaking work in sectors where there was insufficient support. The key aim was to draw the public authorities’ attention to the problem of unemployment (‘thousands of our men spend six months of the year doing nothing. To spend six months of the year in this way is the most serious crime against our families and against society’ (Dolci 2011, p. 43)), invoking the provisions of Art. 4 of the Italian Constitution: The Republic recognises the right of all citizens to work and shall promote such conditions as will make this right effective. Every citizen has the duty, according to capability and choice, to perform an activity or function that contributes to the material or spiritual progress of society’ (Quirinale n.d.).

The strike had been preceded by various public self-analysis meetings and other types of meetings to organise and finalise the protest. The protestors wanted to highlight not only that there was work of public utility that needed to be done, such as repairing roads that had become impassable for the local people, but that they, the protestors, were dignified hard-working people who simply wanted to work, and the reverse strike provided a means of clearly highlighting this objection (Spagnoletti 2013, pp. 81–88). It also needed to be a means of nonviolent protest, in accordance with RMA principles that Dolci continued to refine, thanks also to input from Capitini and his Gandhian practices. This protest was only put into action following a process of dissemination of information and public awareness-raising, as well as directly notifying the relevant authorities of the aims and intentions of the protest, to ensure that its nonviolent nature was fully understood. In the months leading up to the protest, Dolci travelled all over Italy meeting intellectuals and ordinary people and in the weeks immediately preceding the protest wrote numerous letters to figures of authority, including the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the President of the Region of Sicily (Spagnoletti 2013, pp. 81–88). In the early morning of 2 February 1956, Dolci, together with other activists and around two hundred unemployed people, made their way towards a country road that they intended to commence repair works on. They took with them the necessary work tools but deliberately left at home the pocket knives that they usually carried with them for slicing bread for their lunch, to avoid the possibility of any accusation that their protest had a violent intent. They had planned to work a standard eight-hour day in order to deliver the benefit of a repaired road to the community. However, before they could even start work, the police arrived on the scene and ordered them to desist. Dolci replied that, in accordance with Art. 4 of the Italian Constitution, they had a legal right to work but the police ignored his words and started to move in on the protestors, who, without putting up any direct resistance, sat down on the ground. Dolci was picked up and physically removed from the scene and was arrested along

5.2 Reverse Strike


with others, characterised in the court proceedings as ‘communist activists’. Dolci was charged with having organised an unauthorised meeting, failing to disperse and inciting others to fail to disperse when ordered to do so, for illegally occupying a public space, violently resisting arrest and insulting an officer of the law. The final charge derived from the fact that, immediately before his arrest, Dolci said: ‘whoever fails to provide work for these people and lets them die of hunger, is acting outside the law and is a murderer’ (Dolci 2011b, p. 63). The arrest provoked public outrage. Public opinion mobilised against the government, deputies and senators intervened with parliamentary questions, and the most influential voices of the nation publicly expressed their support for Dolci. Piero Calamandrei, one of the most renowned lawyers of the time and a founding father of the Italian Constitution, offered to defend Dolci on a pro bono basis and the case involved the testimony of some influential and leading figures such as Norberto Bobbio, Carlo Levi, Lucio Lombardo Radice and Elio Vittorini. It was the very values of liberty, regeneration and equality—which, after the end of the Regime, having triumphed over the ideologies of fascism, had led to some of the most inspired articles of the Italian Constitution—that were under attack from the authoritarian holders of power as they sought to violently repress the legitimate aspirations of the people. It was democracy itself that was being held hostage. While recognising that Dolci and his co-defendants had been motivated by legitimate moral and social concerns, the sentence stated that the right to work set out in the Constitution was expressed in ‘a generic indeterminate way, as an undertaking to provide general rights in this area’ and the court nonetheless imposed a one month and twenty days custodial sentence on Dolci (Vigilante 2012, p. 83). Can this strike be considered a success? In the first instance, Vigilante notes that, while the reverse strike was not invented by Dolci and was in fact common in Italy during the 1950s, Dolci’s strike was undoubtedly the one that received the most public attention. An example of one other such strike, which bore a particular resemblance to Dolci’s, took place in 1951 in Roccagorga, a village in the Lazio hinterland which, like Partinico, was deeply affected by widespread poverty and unemployment. In that instance, too, the focus of the local peasants was a road in poor repair that they had to use every day to get to work. If measured against Dolci’s initial aims, the reverse strike in Partinico might be considered a failure (Ibid, p. 84). Unlike the hunger strike in Trappeto, in this instance the authorities were unwilling to bend, there was no suggestion of funds being made available or of work being started on the dam; for them, this was yet another protest by unemployed southerners. The form it took, however, using the methods of nonviolent action, led to it gaining a higher profile with the media and public sympathy, emphasising the potential power of popular grassroots activism. Dolci’s arrest gained him huge support in Italy and turned him into a hero figure in Northern Europe and the USA, where committees were formed to raise funds for his work. Dolci’s Processo all’articolo 4 (‘Trial of Article 4’ 2011b), published on 30 August 1956, includes the content of the Court documents for the reverse strike as well as providing an account of the conditions inside the Italian jail and some of the forms of torture that were practised there. The book provides useful insights into


5 A Pedagogy of Action

Dolci’s ideas about strike action and its planning and organisation. His comment: ‘I believe that a strike needs to be a work both of science and of art, something creative’ (Spagnoletti 2013, p. 83) is particularly revealing as it helps us to understand how these forms of protest are linked to his RMA. Dolci concludes that empowering people to be creative, open to one another and to feel part of a whole, goes with ‘science’ too, which translates as expertise and planning. From all of this, it becomes clear just how innovative and indeed revolutionary Dolci’s work may be regarded. Even though the effects of the strike were not as expected and desired, reading the following words by Dolci about how people behaved during the strike is evidence of a great achievement in community and environmental education: Everything had been designed to achieve that objective and I have to say that the creativity and self-control of the group was exemplary. When the trumpet sounded we all calmly sat down on the ground and because the road was in such a poor state the police had to advance on foot to approach us so as to physically carry us from the scene and take us over to the waiting police vehicles. The police were convinced that we were making fun of them, that we were completely crazy. Used as they were to people reacting violently, they didn’t know how to behave and seemed disorientated. (Spagnoletti 2013, p. 85)

5.3 The Protest March for World Peace and the Development of Western Sicily In the late 1960s, a period of youth protests, Dolci (1967, pp. 169–175) wrote that political action should not be regarded as part of the old order, something that had been superseded, but that there was a need to draw a distinction between old and new ways of being political. The old way was moved by violence, rhetoric, elitism and secrecy, while the new way gave value to groups and was nonviolent, direct and educational. The march became what, for Dolci, most effectively translated this new politics. In fact, he became the promoter and organiser of Italy’s March for Peace in Vietnam, coordinating the convergence in Rome of two separate marches departing from Milan and Naples in which more than 50,000 people took part (Ragone 2011, p. 34). The high point of this form of protest was reached with the Protest March for World Peace and the Development of Western Sicily, also known as The March for Western Sicily and a New World which, from 5 to 11 March 1967, covered the 200 km from Partanna to Palermo. The objectives remained those that had emerged during the Reciprocal Maieutic Approach meetings, inextricably linked to matters of environmental protection. In addition to the dam on the river Jato on which construction work was well underway, there were other urgent local issues that needed to be addressed: dams in the region that were in need of repair and more still that needed to be built; hydrographic and geological testing; clean drinking water for every local area; re-forestation; new industrial and agricultural projects; providing villages with water, light and essential services; schools for everyone; developing opportunities for tourism in the area of Selinunte; for the Board for Agricultural Development (‘Ente di sviluppo agricolo’)

5.3 The Protest March for World Peace and the Development of Western Sicily


to properly address the issues surrounding the then current agricultural contracts; bringing into effect a democratic plan for development and, finally, the expulsion of Mafia members and their cronies from public office (Ibid., p. 33). The march was the fruit of many years of grassroots planning, working with public administrative bodies, local mayors, unions, workers, who had all contributed to a ‘Joint Plan of Development for the Belice, Carboj and Jato Valleys’. It was the first march in Sicily and represented a historic occasion, mobilising the population around the values of the inalienable rights of the individual and the protection of the common good. It was attended by all those who believed in change and who cared not only about the development of Western Sicily but also the powerful issues of the day such as an end to all wars and the hope for a better world. The model for the initiative can be found in Capitini’s Peace March (Catarci 2012). In fact, the educational initiatives for which Capitini is best known are his Marches for Peace and International Unity, the first of which took place on 24 September 1961 in response to the international crisis in Cuba. The march started in Perugia, Capitini’s place of birth, and ended in Assisi, the city of St. Francis, and was intended not only as a protest against the issue itself but also to educate people towards peace. Capitini was influenced by Gandhi’s peace marches but also by a later anti-nuclear protest in Aldermaston in England in 1958 organised by Bertrand Russell. The rainbow peace flag employed by the Aldermaston protesters was first seen in Italy at Capitini’s first march, which was underpinned by four key characteristics: • the initiative was driven entirely by an independent pacifist group; • its aim was to raise awareness, even among the most apolitical sectors of the population, of how much world peace was under threat; • the march should serve as an opportunity to present the idea of nonviolent action to those who were unaware, unconvinced or antagonistic; and, finally, • all of this should recall the teachings about nonviolence practised by St. Francis of Assisi (Catarci 2012, p. 47). The innovative message of the first peace march thus spread the idea that international conflicts were no longer the sole preserve of institutional power, political parties or the State but the people also had a role to play and should make their voices heard. Many aspects of Capitini’s march are to be found in Dolci’s march. Dolci’s march was open to everyone, people and associations, including political parties and unions of different political views, who shared the same cause, underlining Dolci’s political independence and the non-ideological nature of his work. Like Capitini’s, it also had an educational intent, aiming to create awareness not only about social conditions and the environment and the overarching power of the Mafia in every aspect of life in Sicily, but also, more in general, about the importance of peace and how threatened it was in that particular moment of history. As in Perugia, the march to Palermo had a joyful air of festival to it, bringing men, women and children from different villages together in Partanna and then marching together, on foot or travelling by different means of transport, to Palermo. On 11 March in Piazza Kalsa in Palermo, Dolci made the following remarks in a speech at the conclusion of the march:


5 A Pedagogy of Action Today I know that my voice is the voice of every Sicilian, of every Italian of every person in the world of conscience, when I say: enough is enough. The old world is over (…). With all due respect, affection and gratitude to those who came before and tried to make the world a better place, to improve people’s lives, we now have to face up to the fact that a new world order is needed.’ (Centro Sviluppo Creativo Danilo Dolci 2011)

Dolci’s vision definitely represented the end of an old world, an old way of conceiving politics and education. His empowering people to believe and act for themselves ‘sowed the seeds’, as he said, for generations to follow, especially in the fight against the Mafia (Dolci 1967). On 20 September in the same year, Dolci led an anti-Mafia protest on the steps of the Parliament building and the Anti-Mafia Commission in Rome, which many people from Sicily came to—people for whom the march had served not only to make them aware of Dolci and his ideas but also to gain an understanding of their own strength and the power of collective action. One effect of this protest was that politicians that Dolci and his associates had denounced for their Mafia connections were excluded from the government that was at that time being formed (Ragone 2011, p. 34). The success of the march was proven internationally by the fact that Dolci was finally nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize following many unsuccessful attempts in previous years.1 On a national level, the success was proven by the support, once again, of eminent intellectuals, including Carlo Levi, Bruno Zevi, Lucio Lombardo Radice and Ernesto Treccani, who all took part in the march, as well as the support of the leaders of the newly formed student movement and of left-wing extraparliamentary groups. A key figure in one of these left-wing groups, Peppino Impastato, later killed by a Mafia incendiary device on 9 May 1978, claimed that the march had been a formative event for him in inspiring his fight against the Mafia and developing his ideas about environmental protection. As Dolci did before him, Impastato publicly called out known Mafiosi and also, inspired by Dolci’s short-lived radio experiment Radio dei poveri cristi, set up his own radio station on which he openly mocked the Mafia boss Gaetano Badalamenti, who Impastato’s own father had connections with. Like Dolci, Impastato also saw the protection of the environment as a priority, fighting against the expansion of the Punta Raisi airport in Palermo, which had led to the expropriation of peasants’ land.

5.4 Organic Planning In the process of developing his Reciprocal Maieutic Approach, Dolci started to place increasing importance on organic planning. Between 1961 and 1963, he made visits to the USSR, ex-Yugoslavia, Senegal and Ghana to learn about experimental planning, accounts of which were published in Verso un mondo nuovo (‘Towards a New World’ 1965.) Also, in January 1968, building work on the Training Centre for Organic Planning (‘Centro di formazione per la pianificazione organica’) began in 1 He

was nominated a further two times until 1982 but was never awarded the prize.

5.4 Organic Planning


Trappeto. The Centre became a key point of reference in Sicily, where seminars were frequently organised, putting people into contact with other associations in Italy and abroad. Dolci came to realise that isolated forms of protest, like his first hunger strike in 1952, despite the success he had achieved, were not sufficient, so he developed a planning model that revolved around a continual dialogue between politicians and the community, the centre and the outskirts. His experience of activism led him to the conclusion that the State needed to be involved in this planning process in a positive way, especially with public works like the dam on the river Jato and the establishment of the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre, which subsequently became a State school. The heightened emphasis on planning, therefore, demonstrated both the power of the community and its ability to gain an awareness of its own problems and to act independently to solve them as well as the ability to bring pressure to bear on the authorities in a nonviolent way. It would perhaps be too much to claim that the construction of the dam on the river Jato transformed the economy of the South of Italy but perhaps even more importantly it did prove to Italians that the problems in the South could be changed by working from a grassroots level. The same can be said of the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre, despite the difficulties it faced, both to become established and during its time of operations. It was not initially recognised as a State school and had to obtain its funding from a number of private sources, provided with the help of support groups in America, England, Finland, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. However, despite this help, on occasion there were insufficient funds to pay the teaching staff who eventually took legal action against Dolci for non-payment of wages (La Repubblica n.d.). We have seen how the construction of the dam on the river Jato came from an idea put forward by a peasant at one of Dolci’s self-analysis sessions in 1955, and how hunger strikes and reverse strikes had formed part of the planning to finally achieve the desired result of getting the dam built. Work on the dam started in 1963 and it struck directly at the heart of Mafia power since many were for the first time able to obtain work without seeking it via the Mafia. For this reason, it is still seen today as the symbol of community action against the stranglehold of the Mafia in the region. Dolci’s ability to mobilise communities in forms of nonviolent resistance and hunger strikes justifies including him within the ranks of notable figures who have fought for environmental justice, a true ‘ecologist of the poor’ as Rosignoli (2018) defines him. By claiming that the construction of dams achieved the dual purpose of eliminating poverty and social injustice as well as reducing the insidious power of the Mafia over local politics, Dolci implicitly recognised that a good environmental strategy is also capable of reducing social and economic inequality. As far as the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre is concerned, planning was not only crucial for the construction work but also became one of the cornerstones of everyday education at the Centre. As Dolci said in the presentation of the Centre’s programme, first thing in the morning, groups were formed around specific activities. ‘Each group should choose a different coordinator and a different evaluator every week and try to get at least one parent involved in the whole process’ (Dolci 1984, p. 160). ‘The children should have the chance to participate in the cooperative’s


5 A Pedagogy of Action

meetings just as the parents participate in the Centre’s activities. Discussions of educational, agricultural, i.e. political, issues won’t stop there. They’ll continue at home and in the streets’ (Ibid., p. 161). In order to understand Dolci’s idea of planning, it is useful to consider the meaning of ‘organic’ attached to planning. According to Vigilante (2012, p. 483), this expression was most probably suggested to Dolci by Carlo Doglio, the anarchic urban planner who was one of Dolci’s close associates. Doglio’s architectural vision placed great emphasis on forms that reflected and were in harmony with human beings in the natural world. For Doglio, organic architecture is based on the conviction that progress can work in harmony with the natural environment, what Dolci calls Reciprocal Creative Adaptation. One example of where Dolci applied the principles of organic architecture was at the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre. Dolci’s central idea was that school architecture should be specifically adapted to children, with particular care to their needs and desires. Italian State schools were the opposite of this and Dolci gave the example of schools built during the fascist period, the monumentalist architecture of which reflected the image that the fascist regime had of itself and wanted to project. On the inside geometric volumes, cylindrical shapes and round apertures created the feeling of a detached and metaphysical space. Windows were set high in the walls, specifically so that children could not look out. The fascist era buildings seemed to have been designed to deliberately disorientate the pupils, to take away their own sense of self and to subjugate them to the power and might of the institution. Hence, there was a need not only to rebuild the links between children and the outside world, so that everything could be visible to them, but also a need to reinstate the child as a key observer of the world, so that their most fundamental needs would be met (Casarrubea1998). As part of the planning to build the Mirto Centre, Dolci discussed the project with the local population, analysing models and blueprints at every stage of planning, resulting in an entirely bespoke and new type of educational environment. Chairs and tables were built by local artisans on the children’s scale and the windows were at eye-level so they could look out. An amphitheatre, able to seat more than six hundred and that opened out to a splendid view of the whole valley, was cut into the mountain. A functional yet beautiful dwelling was built to house the peasant family employed to take care of the land and there was also a mill (Dolci 1980, p. 165). As discussed in Sect. 3.4, Dolci’s ideas are very much in line with the work of John Friedmann, who in his Empowerment—The Politics of Alternative Development (1992) focuses on a changed idea of planning from being something for experts to being something that the people could engage in, seeing it as a form of self-education at a regional level. Friedmann also writes about a sphere of shared interests and points of view, which he calls domains of social practice, life, space and economic space (Ibid., p. 8), values that have been suffocated by the capitalistic economy and that need to be revived. The question at issue is the need to give greater importance to shared public interests over private interests for the power of the many to gain sway over the power of the few. The political community needs to be liberated from the dominance of over-powerful groups of multinationals interested only in pursuing their own profit-driven agendas and from a State that has developed sophisticated

5.4 Organic Planning


methods of manipulation, considering not only the human but also the environmental costs of economic growth (Ibid., p. 9). The objective is to re-empower people, to make them aware of their own ability to influence the direction of social and political organisation, not with a revolution that tries to overthrow the State and to create a centralised form of economic planning but by rebuilding a new form of everyday life, starting from the bottom up and refusing to comply with the system of capitalistic dominance. As Vigilante (2012, p. 486) points out, Friedmann focuses his practice in four different areas, the first of which is the family, the most intimate of environments. In his view, families need to detach themselves from the State and from the capitalistic system and to form their own independent self-sufficient political units, claiming their own space and time and working with other families to fight for common goals. The second area of focus is local councils, the traditional political community (the polis). Friedmann maintains that, to make the economic dimension more accessible, it is necessary to extend the political dimension to the same level, so that local council federations have regional decision-making powers to limit capitalistic interests. The third area of focus is the rural outskirts, those areas that have not been urbanised and are characterised by poverty and underdevelopment or what used to be called the Third World. Here, there is a need for independent development, which takes a step away from the pressures of world capitalism, recognises the value of local agricultural resources and works towards improving the living conditions of rural populations. For Friedmann, this necessitated reform to introduce a fairer and more rational distribution of land, shared control of water resources and a substantial power of self-determination with regard to mobilisation of resources, production and collective consumption. The last area of focus is the global community; intervening on a global scale to change the direction of world politics and the world’s economy. For Friedmann, radical planning could not in any case be effective unless it had an impact at a global level, having regard to three defining aims: the protection of the ecological balance of the planet; the search for a new international economic order and the search for a political system that guarantees rights for all. Vigilante (Ibid.) demonstrates how many aspects in common there are between Friedmann and Dolci. Friedmann’s four areas of focus are also the main areas that Dolci operated in for more than forty years. The first of these, the fight against poverty and unemployment, commenced in Sicily in 1952 in what we might consider, in Friedmann’s terms, to be deprived rural outskirts. The road travelled by Dolci was one of empowerment through dialogue and nonviolent action. Instead of taking the easier route of industrialisation, Dolci sought out an alternative way based on selfsufficiency, making use of agricultural resources and local crafts, in harmony with the local environment and its history and traditions. ‘A countryman’ who was profoundly concerned by the growth of the city and its attendant ills tried, therefore, to imagine a city built on a human scale that does not exploit the countryside but coexists in a state of mutual benefit and harmony with it. As if extending his view further into the distance, from the 1970s onwards, Dolci became increasingly focused on the dynamics of dominion, on the destruction of the environment and on the general human malaise that is the result of dysfunctional economic, political and human


5 A Pedagogy of Action

relationships. Dolci was also interested in the family context, as we have seen in Sect. 4.4, and reflects on the potential of the couple’s relationship to reveal solutions to wider issues that might on the surface appear more complex. Dolci does not limit himself to observing family dynamics but also considers the importance of nonviolent practices within the family unit. Thus, it is not too far a stretch to regard the establishment of a balanced, equal and fair dynamic based on mutual respect within the family as the model for creating such harmonious relationships on a global scale.

References Barone, G. (2010). Danilo Dolci, una rivoluzione non violenta. Milan: Altreconomia Edizioni. Catarci, M. (2012). La pedagogia della nonviolenza di Aldo Capitini. Studium Educationis year XIII, no. 1, February, Pensa MultiMedia Editore, 37–50. Casarrubea, G. (1998). Danilo Dolci: sul filo della memoria. Pratica della libertà, anno II, n. 7. Centro Sviluppo Creativo Danilo Dolci. (2011). Marcia per un mondo nuovo. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://danilodolci.org/eventi/marcia-per-un-mondo-nuovo/. Dolci, D. (1965). Verso un mondo nuovo. Turin: Einaudi. Dolci, D. (1967). To the Young (A. Cowan, Trans.). London: McGibbon & Kee. Dolci, D. (1980). Creature of Creatures (J. Vitiello, Trans.). Saratoga: Anma Libri. Dolci, D. (1984). The world is one creature (J. Vitiello, & A. Molino, Trans.). New York: Amity House. Dolci, D. (2011). Processo all’articolo 4. Palermo: Sellerio. Forte, L. (2003, December 24). Vigilia di digiuno al cortile Cascino. La Repubblica. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://ricerca.repubblica.it/repubblica/archivio/repubblica/2003/12/24/vig ilia-di-digiuno-al-cortile-cascino.html. Friedmann, J. (1992). Empowerment—The politics of alternative development. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. La Repubblica. (n.d.). Danilo Dolci—Storia d’Italia dal ’45 ad oggi. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from http://www.storiaxxisecolo.it/larepubblica/repubblicabiografie5.htm. Quirinale. (n.d). The constitution of the Italian Republic. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https:// www.quirinale.it/allegati_statici/en/costituzione_inglese.pdf. Ragone, M. (2011). Le parole di Danilo Dolci, anatomia lessicale-concettuale. Foggia: Edizioni del Rosone. Rosignoli, F. (2018). La giustizia ambientale e Danilo Dolci. Cross, 4(1), 132–169. Spagnoletti, G. (2013). Conversazioni con Danilo Dolci. Messina: Mesogea. Vigilante, A. (2012). Ecologia del potere. Studio su Danilo Dolci. Foggia: Edizioni del Rosone.

Chapter 6

An Ecocritical Reading of Danilo Dolci’s Poetry

6.1 An Ecocritical Perspective Human, says man when he means kind gentle and compassionate; man, the poisoner of rivers blue lakes, limpid seas defoliator of green forests each leaf rapacious exterminator of families of fish and birds1 (Dolci 1980, p. 42, translated by Justin Vitiello).

Dwelling, as it does, on the connections between human beings and nature and on our impact on the natural world through his critique of consumerism, his denunciation of the waste of resources, of blind consumption and the destruction of the landscape and bearing witness to dramatic changes on a planetary level, Danilo Dolci’s poetry undeniably has environmental concerns at its core. Dolci started writing poetry when he was still an adolescent because of the need, he claimed, to save himself ‘from a surfeit of words, from vague rhetoric: in order to preserve what it is possible to intuit in clear and essential “voices”’ (Dolci 2016, p. 5). In 1949, when he was 25, Dolci destroyed the manuscripts of all the poems he had written up to that time, keeping only his Ricercari, in which the main themes are the centrality of nature in our lives and how each person’s life needs to become the host of holy communion for others (Ibid). 1 umano,

dice l’uomo/ benevolo significando,/ mite compassionevole:/ lui, l’avvelenatore di fiumi/ azzurri laghi nitidi mari/ spogliatore a verdi foreste/ di ogni foglia/ rapace sterminatore/ di famiglie di pesci e uccelli.. © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 A. Longo, Danilo Dolci, SpringerBriefs on Key Thinkers in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51853-0_6



6 An Ecocritical Reading of Danilo Dolci’s Poetry

For many years, he considered writing poetry to be a waste of precious time compared to the issues he was grappling with when he arrived in Sicily. It was only in 1968 that he returned to poetry per se, even though in all his writings up to that time he had used an essentially poetic language. His reports on Sicilian society, for instance, while presenting a certain amount of data, strive to preserve the dialect that his interviewees speak to express their most deeply held feelings and beliefs. Also, frequent use of images and metaphors drawn from the natural world characterised his language. The ‘organic metaphor’, as Jay Parini (2008, p. 14) defines it, which came to be central to the discussion about poetry during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is recurrent in all Dolci’s writing. Parini notes that Samuel Coleridge held that ‘literary invention involves the natural, unplanned, and unconscious process by which things grow’ and adds that ‘like a plant, the poet gathers material from the atmosphere around him and puts out branches and leaves. The poem itself, also like a plant, begins with a seed or “germ” (Ibid.)’. Dolci’s writing, too, often offers the same analogy of the action of the seed, and ‘gathered material from the atmosphere around him’, which, as far as his poetic output is concerned, meant deriving inspiration from his activist and educational work too. This culminated in the publication of several poetry collections, including Il limone lunare (‘The Moon Lemon’, 1970), in which, staying faithful to RMA principles, he seeks to immerse himself in the lives of, and deeply identify with, Sicilian peasants and fishermen; Non sentite l’odore del fumo? (‘Don’t you smell the smoke?’, 1971), in which he gathers together stories about victims of violence and inhumanity, victims of concentration camps and of Hiroshima, giving voice to those who struggle to express their thoughts and feelings about such traumatic experiences; Poema umano (‘Human Poem’, 2016), an anthology of poems selected from the two previous collections together with further poems written in the early 1950s and a new section called Sopra questo frammento di galassia (‘Upon This Fragment of Galaxy’), where, according to Adriana Chemello (1988, p. 170), ‘joining together naturalistic impressions and rational interpretations, and filtering them through the lens of a compassionate humanity, the poet, in the guise of a modern day St. Francis, gives shape to his canticle of the universe’; Il Dio delle zecche (‘The God of Ticks’, 1976), in which environmental issues become the central discourse in an on-going self-interrogation about the relationship between God, human beings and nature and Creatura di creature (‘Creature of Creatures’), published in three different editions (1979, 1983, 1986), which comprises an anthology of previous poems, some in a revised form. The first edition of Creature di creature is the only collection that has been translated into English as Creature of Creatures (1980), by the American poet and activist Justin Vitiello, a friend and associate of Dolci. I will examine how Dolci’s poetry can be placed within the context of ecocriticism, revealing how Dolci’s views on the environment emerge from his poetry and the importance he places on environmental education as a way for humanity to advance towards a new and enlightened society, for the building of what he calls città terrestre, the ‘terrestrial city’. Ecocriticism can be defined both as a method and a movement. As a method it is characterised by its interdisciplinary approach, focusing on the study of literary or other artistic texts and seeking to ‘engage with environmental

6.1 An Ecocritical Perspective


history, philosophy, sociology and science studies, and not least with ecology and the life sciences’ (EASLCE n.d.). As a movement, since its origin in the 1990s, it has had a significant impact on the humanities, first in the US and then in the UK, as more and more scholars ‘began to ask what their field has to contribute to our understanding of the unfolding environmental crisis’ (Ibid.). Scholars of ecocriticism do not restrict themselves to studying texts on the relationships between humans and the environment, but aim to engage people with the environmental issues challenging the world we live in today. Monica Seger’s definition of ecocriticism as a discipline that deals with texts representing nature in its modified aspects, ‘land repeatedly built upon and ecosystems forever altered’ (Seger 2015: 3), is particularly pertinent to Dolci’s poetry in the era of the Capitalocene (Moore 2014), which in Italy, as Serenella Iovino points out, has led to ‘a dying ecosystem, a disrupted territory, and increasing cancer rates in places where vulnerable people share the same fate as vulnerable land and life forms’ (Iovino 2016, p. 5). Focusing on the dramatic situation in Sicily witnessed by Dolci, as well as on considerations from his journeys in various countries, Dolci’s poetry raises many concerns and foresees the ecological disasters that we are facing today, inviting us to completely rethink our approach to productivity with an eye to ecological impact and to change attitudes and habits in order to safeguard the planet. It analyses, in particular, how the unchecked advance of polluting industries, brainwashing by propaganda and advertising, ecological meltdown and our incapacity to communicate, in spite of staggering advancements in technology, are all closely interrelated. The following sections of this chapter will reflect on how Dolci’s poetry reflected his core environmental concerns (Sect. 6.2); translates his Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (Sect. 6.3) and can be considered a key pedagogical tool and a form of activism (Sect. 6.4).

6.2 Dolci’s Environmental Poetry As Parini maintains (2008, p. xiii), poetry matters because of the way it evokes the natural world. Being ‘intimately connected to natural objects’, poetry ‘returns us to the natural world, [which] of late has been so threatened by environmental degradation from global warming, industrial pollution, and other offenses’. This close relationship with the physical environment recalls the work of Walt Whitman, perhaps the most influential eco-conscious poet or ‘eco-poet’ as he has been defined (Killingsworth 2004). While Dolci’s poetry is often contextualised within the postwar neorealist movement in Italian literature, mainly ‘on the basis of chronological coincidences and certain thematic affinities’, these coincidences are not enough to establish a convincing connection with neorealism (Chemello 1988, p. VIII) and nor does it seem to be influenced by any specific Italian poet. It does, however, share some striking similarities with the poetry of Walt Whitman, though Dolci does not mention the American poet in his writings. Indeed, we know very little about Dolci’s influences and when he discussed his poetry with the poet Giacinto Spagnoletti in


6 An Ecocritical Reading of Danilo Dolci’s Poetry

Conversazioni con Danilo Dolci (Spagnoletti 2013, p. 51), he admitted that when he started writing poetry he had not read any Italian poets of the time, as he did not feel drawn to them, and, for instance, he was familiar with the works of 16th and 17th German poets but not with his contemporaries. That he may have been influenced by Whitman, however, is an idea worth entertaining, since Whitman’s poetry, like Dolci’s, is firmly based on direct personal experience and he had a very significant impact on Italian twentieth-century poetry ‘stimulating the renewal of Italian literature’ (Camboni 2016, p. 361), helping it to free itself both from the ornamentation of the classical tradition and the influences of Decadentism, leading it to rediscover the direct link between lived experience and art. Whitman was greatly admired by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who recognised his influence, naming him as one of the ‘four or five great precursors of Futurism’ (Ibid., p. 368). Whitman also had a great impact on neorealist writers, for instance Cesare Pavese, who wrote his university thesis on Whitman and during the Second World War published a new translation of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and on Pier Paolo Pasolini, who discovered Whitman through Allen Ginsberg (Rohdie 1995, p. 144). Whitman’s free verse with his plain style characterised by constant use of anaphoras can also be found in Dolci’s poetry as well as his fondness for catalogues as a montage of images of rural and urban life. Whitman directs his readers’ attention towards life, towards movement and change to the continual ebb and flow of nature’s rhythms. His poetry is also consoling and participatory of human suffering, imbued by his experience in the midst of the Civil War, when Whitman travelled to Washington D.C. and dedicated himself to nursing. Both Whitman and Dolci looked at their poetry as a continuous work-inprogress. Though the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman produced different versions of Leaves of Grass and spent most of his professional life writing and rewriting it, revising it multiple times until his death. Similarly, Dolci wrote various versions of his poems, publishing them in different collections, including the three editions of Creature of Creatures, and culminating in his Poema umano, his poem for humankind. Interestingly, both Whitman and Dolci were inspired by music in their style. In Whitman, we find the atmosphere of a close rapport between singer and audience, and its varied styles—particularly recitative and aria—are the foundations upon which Whitman built many of his poems. As Stauffer (1998) maintains, it is possible to conceive of many of the long passages in Song of Myself and other poems as recitative in the Italian opera style: not only the catalogues, which rhythmically enumerate his experiences and perceptions, but the narrative or dramatic passages as well. Interspersed throughout these recitative passages are lyrical sections, such as the apostrophe to ‘voluptuous cool-breath’d earth’ in Sect. 21, that approximate operatic arias. The same construction can be found in many of Dolci’s poems and there is a declared influence from music in his Ricercari, plural of ricercare, the name of late Renaissance/early baroque polyphonic compositions, whose contrapuntal nature Dolci transferred into his poems constituting a dialogue between two people, and which represent one of the first examples of Dolci’s maieutic poetry.

6.2 Dolci’s Environmental Poetry


The troubled relationship between man and nature that characterises Dolci’s poetry is already obvious in Whitman, for whom nature is ‘divine and emblem of God’ (CliffsNotes 2020); ‘the universe is not dead matter, but full of life and meaning’. ‘He loves the earth, the flora and fauna, the moon and stars, the sea and all other elements of nature. He believes that man and nature form a vital part and must never be disjoined’ (Ibid.) Song of Myself , the longest poem in Leaves of Grass, is a celebration of the human self as an all-consuming state that interacts with all creations, focusing on the celebration of nature and humanity’s place within it. To sum up, the main themes in Dolci’s environmental poetry are: water, arguably its main topos; the monsters and the monstrosities produced by the destruction of the environment and, finally, his call for a more human type of environment that naturally combines the city and the countryside. Dolci laments that the connection between humans and nature has been severed. While this rupture has been mourned over and abhorred at different times in history, for Dolci, the turning point is very much represented by the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the rampant industrial and urban development that followed the Second World War. As a consequence of this, the key question he posed, the answer to which has become ever more relevant and pressing, was to what extent could nature continue to self-regenerate from pollution and damage to the environment. Dolci’s primary concern is therefore waste, not only of nature’s resources through unjustifiable consumption but also, crucially, of human resources. With reference to the immediate post-war years in Sicily, Dolci highlighted a dramatic situation in which human beings, even while living through a period of extremely limited supply, still managed to be wasteful. Dolci realised that it was a shameful waste of human potential not to appreciate the contributions that every individual can make, particularly those able to see the world as it is and as it could be (Dolci 1963). For Dolci, the most unforgivable wasteful act was failing to achieve wisdom through experience. In Inventare il futuro (‘Inventing the Future’, 1968, pp. 17–18), he wrote: The Winter rains flow freely into the sea while in Summer the land is dry and parched: but how is it possible to want a dam when you do not even know what a dam is? Manure is piled up and burned in the outskirts of many villages but how is it possible to make better use of it as fertilizer if you know nothing about the processes required to help it rot down and become useful? The earth will fall into landslides if trees are felled and not replanted and land that is not well cared-for yields little produce which is susceptible to disease.[…] The earth can produce enough for all but this is ignored.

What Dolci does in his poetry is not just to call out these ‘crimes against nature’ but also to offer solutions, solutions that require the engagement and mobilisation of society on a group and on an individual level to make change happen, a call to action that is also delivered through the uniquely powerful voice of poetry. An example of a poem that deals with the issue of waste and water, in particular, making reference to the lack of water in the Sicilian villages is ‘We dont want rivers wasted’ (Dolci 1980, p. 12)—it is to be noted that in the translation of this poem, as in others translated by Vitiello quoted here, Vitiello does not make use of apostrophes. This poem refers to a meeting in 1958 with local people in which Dolci asked what kind of businesses could offer jobs to all the unemployed workers. Among the


6 An Ecocritical Reading of Danilo Dolci’s Poetry

suggestions proposed, Dolci highlighted the following: ‘the whole country is made up of water, water flows freely across our squares and is wasted. But when you go looking for water you find women tearing their hair out just for a bucket of water’2 (Dolci 1970, p. 64). In ‘We dont want rivers wasted’(‘Non vogliamo si sprechino fiumi’, Dolci 1980, p. 12, trans. by J. Vitiello) Dolci tries to give voice to the demands of the local people, highlighting what they want and what they don’t want: We dont want rivers wasted barren mountains eroded land-sliding with every squall. We dont want houses without breathing space jails disguised as schools with decrepit walls fountains that cough a few shrubs in the public park for Sundays – and dont want to be idle or roam on earth to sell ourselves3 […]

While he continues to be concerned with the deleterious effects of humans on the countryside, after his first visit to New York, Dolci turns his attention increasingly towards the city. Although he had already visited many cities, in New York he found something different, ‘something more alarming than poverty and squalor’ (Vigilante 2012, p. 325). The feelings evoked by the experience of the city are expressed in a poem in Creatura di creature (Dolci 1986, p. 88), in which he says: I hate you New York/not because you are a city/[…] but because you think you are. Vigilante (2012, p. 326–327) highlights the influence of Lewis Mumford’s City in History (1984), first published in 1961, on Dolci. In his book, Mumford is highly critical of our urban epoch, defining it as ‘an age of a multitude of socially undirected technical advances, divorced from any other ends than the advancement of science and technology’ (Mumford 1984, p. 45). Mumford analyses the historical development of urban agglomerates in terms of cycles where a city’s high point is reached when it has clearly defined limits, is integrated with the countryside and inspired by a sense of harmony between man and cosmos, while a city reaches its lowest point when it becomes excessively large, feeds off the countryside and where the inhabitants are driven by unbridled appetites. Mumford speaks very highly of the model of the ‘garden city’ proposed by Ebenezer Howard, who, at the end of nineteenth 2

« Il paese è tutto acqua, in piazza è tutto acqua che va perduta. E se cercate acqua trovate le femmine che si tirano i capelli per un secchio d’acqua» . 3 Non vogliamo / che i fiumi si disperdano nel mare / e le montagne aride si erodano, / rimanendo allagati a ogni piovasco. / Non vogliamo / case insicure, senza respiro, / scuole-galere tra mura decrepite, / né fontane con quattro pisciatelle / né le piante in museo, in tre giardini / per la domenica. / Non vogliamo restare inerti, / o non valorizzati.. […] .

6.2 Dolci’s Environmental Poetry


century, introduced into city planning the ancient Greek concept of a ‘natural limit to the growth of any organism or organisation’ (Ibid., p. 586). Howard’s garden city is a system of satellite towns on a small scale linked by canals and railways to a larger central city, which itself is confined within a green belt. Even more important than this particular model was Howard’s insistence over the need to decongest the industrial cities and to create urban centres immersed in nature. This was an insistence that led Dolci to talk about a terrestrial city as the solution to the crisis of contemporary towns and cities. What distinguishes the terrestrial city from the capitalistic metropolis, la città delle zecche (‘City of Ticks’), is the quality of life, or rather the ‘possibility of remaining human’. Dolci’s thoughts and actions are inspired by ‘the urge to create a utopian terrestrial city constantly striving towards its creative goals in counter-position to the fragmented and poisonous city of ticks’ (Dolci 1976, p. xii). The city in symbiosis with the natural environment and humanity as a terrestrial city can only exist if the individual refuses to be subjugated and brainwashed and strives to transform their relationships with others. Creating these new cities involves the need to study city planning, and urban development, but also and above all to find ways of living together that are more authentic. In speaking of contemporary cities, a recurring image in Dolci’s poetry is that of the monster, which symbolises the economic and industrial system that overthrows nature with lorry loads of cement. It is a monster made out of monsters, a system made by humans who are progressively losing touch with their own humanity. And society is still split right down the middle between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. In a poem from In questo frammento di galassia, Dolci remarks on the loss of dawn due to light pollution and how the wonder of the past seems to have been eclipsed by our polluted reality, of how the river he swam in like a ‘little god, right to the bottom with his eyes open’ is now ‘corrosive piss’ (Dolci 2016, p. 59). Illegal building causes suffering to the land, which is seen as a creature that is suffocating, hardly able to breathe. It leads to the creation of a single global megalopolis, physically connecting all neighbourhoods, whole continents, airways, connecting webs but where people are more and more isolated and ‘only fragments of experience are transmitted’ (Dolci 1980, p. 19). Dolci’s idea of the terrestrial city on the other hand, modelled on Howard’s description of the garden city, is represented as an almost spherical city, a realistic utopia. It is an aerial city, with a purity of air fed by its many plants and trees and flying creatures but, at the same time, it is built with sand, and Dolci talks of the child who creates his/her dreams out of sand, writing in perhaps his most famous lines of poetry: The new city starts where a child learns how to build trying to mould sand and dreams that are


6 An Ecocritical Reading of Danilo Dolci’s Poetry unreachable4 (Dolci 1976, p. 89, my translation).

The terrestrial city is also visually evoked here with words acting as visual signifiers. Following in the tradition of concrete poetry, Dolci often breaks with linear and sequential patterns of organisation, such as sentence groups, phrases or words, spatial values, the topographical position of words and their distance to other words or word groups. The recurrent concept is the association of the blank space of the page to its counterpart in silence. More specifically in this stanza, we can find how the ‘building’ work of the child is visually reflected in the arrangement of the words, which follow a vertical pattern—the ‘aerial’ vision of the terrestrial city. The words ‘are’ and ‘unreachable’ are separated by a yawning space, highlighting how challenging a task it is for the child—and us—to pursue our dreams.

6.3 A Maieutic Poetry There is a word though indispensable little-used and rather teacherly that I am almost embarrassed to say: Maieutics. The art of midwifery, the science of bringing into life.5 (Dolci 1970, p. 166, my translation)

Returning to poetry after many years, Dolci wrote: I’m almost ashamed to write poetry though schooled in trials and tribulations and amazed by greying temples by still being alive. In my need for poetry earth water creatures have become

4 La

città nuova comincia dove un bambino impara costruire provando rimpastare sabbia e sogni inarrivabili. 5 C’è una parola,/ quasi ho vergogna a dirla/ anche se indispensabile – non si usa/ e può sembrare un po’ professorale:/ maieutica./ E’ l’arte di aiutare a partorire,/ la scienza di far nascere alla vita.

6.3 A Maieutic Poetry


my words.6 (Dolci 1980, p. 8, translated by J. Vitiello).

Dolci felt keenly the risk of gaining release through his poetry for those issues and problems that instead required urgent action. He eventually realised that poetry is in itself a form of Maieutics, in that it aimed to engage the most sensitive aspects of the human condition ‘enlarging’, as Percy Bysshe Shelley had remarked, ‘the circumference of the imagination by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new delight, which have the power of attracting and assimilating to their own nature all other thoughts, and which form new intervals and interstices whose void forever craves fresh food’ (Parini 2008, p. 15). We can discern this maieutic spirit in Whitman’s poetry too, since we find the holistic concept that ‘we all arise from nature, and to nature, the grass, we return’ (Tattoni 2008, p. 8). The word ‘leaves’ signifies both the leaves of a plant and the leaves of a book and therefore in a single word encompasses the world of nature and that of the written word and in Dolci too, ‘earth water creatures’ become his ‘words’ (Dolci 1980, p. 8). In accordance with Whitman’s metaphor, by characterising humanity as leaves of grass, we become more than individual leaves. ‘We become part of the beautiful unity—out of many, one— that is the field of green, blades shining in the sun. yes, seduce’ (Edmundson 2019). The singularity of each being matters, and their collective identity matters too, so one becomes more of an individual by being a part of the group. This whole extended metaphor is remarkably similar to Dolci’s core concept of the ‘creature of creatures’. Following Whitman, readers would discover self-reliance or more specifically their ability to construct their own individuality and their own unique and distinct life’s journey. They would learn from him to rely on no one but themselves, to reject all authority past and present, trusting only in their own resources and abilities. Rather than addressing the reader, Whitman, like Dolci, gives voice to him/her in the spirit of democracy and equality which Whitman most succinctly and elegantly expresses through his concept, title and metaphor of ‘leaves of grass’, evoking at once the idea of unity and the independence of the individual through each single blade of grass (Tattoni 2008, p. 12). Dolci’s poetry too, which drew inspiration from the group maieutic sessions he conducted, is constantly seeking to give voice to the simplicity and directness of expression of the participants, truly representing the collective maieutic experience in action. The definition given to Dolci’s Maieutics—as a dialectic method of inquiry, a process of collective exploration that takes as a point of departure the experience and the intuition of individuals (see Sect. 3.1)—directly aligns his poetry to Maieutics. In the collection Il limone lunare, ‘the pressing need to use poetry to fix in memory the existential crises of people emerges, leading the poet to allow himself to become eclipsed by the person to whom he gives voice, intentionally adapting the style and 6 Pudore

ho di poesia/ pure se esperto di fatiche e lotte/ meravigliato dei capelli bianchi/ di essere ancora vivo./ nel mio bisogno di poesia, terra/ acqua, creature sono diventate/ terse parole.


6 An Ecocritical Reading of Danilo Dolci’s Poetry

register of language to capture an authentic expression of feeling’ (Chemello 1988, p. 89). Through poetry, people have the chance to express what perhaps before had been encased in silence in a defensively solitary attitude. In fact, the Sicilian adage adopted as a book title by Dolci, ‘he who plays alone never loses’ (Dolci 1966), underlines the fact that there was no tradition of coming together as a community. Dolci stated that a poet needs the maieutic ability to help creatures that are on the cusp of acquiring as yet undefined potentialities. Poetry, therefore, becomes a way of establishing a maieutic approach, as becomes clearer in a definition of poetry given by Dolci (Dolci 1980, p. XX): Poetry is intuition […], the possibility of seeing every phenomenon in a single face, seeing that face clearly, and gathering from it the parable that reveals something, someone, beyond it… Every person is capable of discovering the invisible, innumerable roots that reach out in every direction to connect her/him to the rest of the world… Excavating and experimenting, you find that poetry opens your imagination to a different way of life, and has the potency to provoke that life into existence. Whoever has this experience starts to become aware of the infinite umbilical cords that connect him/her, in essence, to all other creatures. For Dolci, poetry is not made for people but with people, it is made together with them because it is built on the lives, the existence, the actions that they collectively experience: ‘we grow through developing our relationships with each other:/ the terrestrial city/ is everyone’s building site,/ we learn from each other how to heal—on our own/ we are insufficient’ (Dolci 1976, p. 121). We must first, says Dolci, create the terrestrial city within ourselves and, to do this, we need to learn how to heal each other. If we are unable to educate ourselves in a certain way and at times disregard what might be in our own best interests, we cannot hope to create the terrestrial city. So, in this way, poetry becomes the means of learning to heal each other and also the means by which people are freed to become an organism, through virtuous mutual connections. ‘At times for me, poetry was like lending myself to the lives of illiterate people who did not know how to express themselves; I became their pen or their voice’ (Spagnoletti 2013, p. 151). In the foreword of Il dio delle zecche, Dolci (1976, p. xi) talks explicitly about poetry as this ‘irrepressible need…triggered by meetings and discussions at work…photocopied for friends and companions’. Dolci’s habit of making multiple photocopies of his work that could then be widely distributed and easily read is witness to how he conceived of poetry as a ‘living breath’ (Dolci 1980, p. xviii), as a tool to be used in his maieutic sessions to stimulate the creation of awareness, of consciousness. Poetry instils a different mode of existence, and whoever experiences this deep down starts to recognise the infinite roots that connect it or that should connect it to everything. So poetry becomes integral to Dolci’s Ecological Maieutics, which spans from the ‘local […] to the national level, towards an active awareness of the dynamic planetary system.’ (Dolci 1993d, p. 188). Dolci ultimately realised that his poetry was in fact part of his method. He often underlined the poetic nature of his RMA sessions, that the maieutic groups are often characterised by a choral quality,

6.3 A Maieutic Poetry


which is reciprocated and reproduced, opening the participants up to towards others and the wider world. As Vigilante notes (2012, p. 143), in these meetings ‘there is the search for the precise word, the word that expresses reality exactly as it is but at the same time opens the way to a future reality’. And this is in fact what poetry means to Dolci, entering into communion with other living creatures and with the entire world.

6.4 Poetry as a Pedagogical Tool and Form of Activism The maieutic function that Dolci envisaged in poetry led him to view poetry as an important pedagogical tool and a form of activism. Poetry, according to Dolci, is the point from which education should begin. To become an educator, Dolci asserts ‘don’t begin with grammar, nor the alphabet; rather begin with poetry—that is the revolution—for poetry starts with a search born out of real interest. Poetry teaches the eye to see, the skin to feel, the imagination to conceive, the spirit to live’ (Dolci 2016, p. 131). This ‘search’, as Amato points out, prompted Dolci to see ‘poetry as born out of a spirit that joins love and life. “If one loves life, he loves his work, his wife, his land, his family, his friends; but take away love, and life is voided’.[…] ‘everything even bread-if made with love, is a work of art”’ (Amato 1973, p. 33). Maieutics, like poetry, serves to create and to strengthen links and ties and to go beyond selfish individualism: ‘each one of us sends out roots that connect us to the rest of the world; each body, each person, is, or rather can be, a centre that radiates outwards in every direction’ (Spagnoletti 2013, p. 150–151). This potentiality, as Vigilante (2012, p. 175) notes, is often something that goes unnoticed, ‘nowadays, humans, especially those who live in big cities without any direct contact with the natural world, end at the confines of their own bodies’. Poetry, therefore, is reaching out of those roots into the world, or rather the awakening of the awareness that those roots already exist, that we are connected to everyone and everything. Thanks also to his many visits abroad, Dolci acquired a ‘planetary vision’, ‘the sense of humanity everywhere having the same problems and of the fact that we can only be released from them by becoming aware of our essential unity’ (Ibid.). Dolci is uniquely aware of the sense of complexity that developed societies have today and already intuits the Capitalocene, the awareness that ‘nowadays every part of the world is manipulated, from city to countryside, and there is nowhere left on the face of the earth where we can take refuge, in the hopes of saving ourselves’ (Ibid.). Using poetry as a pedagogical tool serves, therefore, for Dolci, to empower students as citizens. Within the context of critical pedagogy, what Henry Giroux says about the role of the educators in Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed can be applied to Dolci too: ‘[one of the] fundamental tasks of educators is to make sure that the future points the way to a more socially just world, a world in which the discourses of critique and possibility in conjunction with the values of reason, freedom, and equality function to alter, as part of a broader democratic project, the grounds upon which life is lived’ (Giroux 2010, p. 717).


6 An Ecocritical Reading of Danilo Dolci’s Poetry

We can find the same sensibilities in Giroux’s own work too, which focused on creating learners who are socially responsible and citizens engaged with their social context (Giroux 2013). Critical of contemporary pedagogy in the United States, Giroux states that ‘every topic is taught in isolation and communicated by way of sterile pieces of information that have no shared meanings or context’ and defines it as a ‘pedagogy of repression’, which defines students ‘largely by their shortcomings rather than by their strengths, and in doing so convinces them that the only people who know anything are the experts’ (Ibid.). Dolci’s Maieutics likewise focuses on making students aware of and helping them to develop their strengths, leading them not only to take an active role in creating their own poetry but to become activists too. As Kayla Carrington points out—quoting Bragg (2014, p. 16) and identifying in artistic creativity ‘a necessary mediator between humans and the environment’— poetry as the means by which we ‘reconnect with nature, each other, and our deeper selves’ can help people to ‘become empowered to take action for a sustainable future’ (Carrington 2018, p. 6). According to Carrington (2018, p. 8), an environmental activist is a ‘catalyst for change’, ‘someone who believes that change is possible and convinces others of that possibility’. These definitions reflect how Dolci conceived the role of poetry and of the poet. Dolci realised that poetry, as a means of communication, can have a strong and immediate impact on people. His poetic style becomes so direct and incisive that we can affirm that writing poetry and being an activist, in the end, become one and the same for Dolci. Chemello (1988, p. 119) highlights how Dolci’s poetry was written with performance in mind and possesses particular qualities that enhance the impact on the listener when it is read out loud or performed. Andrea Zanzotto (1979) writes that poetry, action and nature all come back to the same thing in Dolci, and his poetry acquires a physicality and a widespread global impact, that detaches itself from the narrow confines of nature, history and society. It also becomes possible for poetry to exist in the here and now in a radical and immediate way, while always retaining its inherent autonomy. Returning to Carrington (2018, pp. 9–10), we can observe how the several avenues of action identified by Bragg (2015, p. 1) coincide with those taken by Dolci. They are • individual action, which comprises a lifestyle change, or ‘anything you can do personally to address the environmental issue’; • ‘communic-action’, which means efforts to ‘share information, ideas and stories about the environmental issue and sustainability solutions’; • community organising, or structural efforts to involve the community; • political organising, which addresses change by ‘putting pressure on political, legal and corporate systems’. But it is the incorporation of both art and nature into these avenues of action that is, according to Carrington, thus far under-examined, since the two of them together contain the power and potential for activists to move forward in a psychologically clear and fundamentally compassionate manner.

6.4 Poetry as a Pedagogical Tool and Form of Activism


Human wellbeing, Carrington (2018: p. 12) observes, is reliant on a connection between humans and nature and explains why spoken word poetry is the best way to communicate this practice since science falls short in communicating emotions. Poetry is absolutely critical to understanding life and reality. Reason and rational thinking is, of course, an important aspect of knowing, underlines Carrington, and Dolci’s treatises, essays and surveys demonstrate this too, but we also need artistic, spiritual, mystical and poetic thinking. She refers to the French idealist philosopher and Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin, who said ‘poetry and the arts awaken us to the essence of reality and there is a deep wisdom that is more powerful than rational thought’ (Ibid.). Starting with ‘individual action’, Dolci saw that the new future, the utopian world on our horizon must be moulded by every individual, so that humanity, while maintaining a sense of history, acquires a sense of what is necessary to be able to make new choices; to learn how to imagine and bring into being new dreams. His Reciprocal Maieutic Approach sessions as well as his poetry contributed to this aim, becoming essential tools for getting to the root of problems, identifying objectives and finding the strength to effect change. As far as communic-action is concerned, for Dolci, writing poetry is never seen as an isolated action, as a collection of expressive elements to be offered up for the enjoyment of elites, but rather a demonstrative act to be thrown open to group discussion. When poetic writing comes into being, it becomes the opportunity for renewed attention and invention given that poetry awakens poetic sensibility and generates new poetry around it, including in—and this leads us to his community organising—simple environments like those of peasants, workers and children. Finally, as far as his political organising is concerned, Dolci’s call for us to rethink our relationship with nature invokes the importance of a global relationship with nature and with the universe itself and for the need to act together. He feels or rather dreams change but the dream is a utopia that he fully believes can be achieved, and thus he challenges us all to bring about this change, going beyond mere protest towards well-thought out, detailed and decisive action. As we have observed, Dolci’s maieutic poetry aims to give voice to the poor, those he used to call poveri cristi (‘poor sods’) and it was to these poveri cristi that he in fact dedicated The Moon Lemon, the poems from which were to be read out on his radio station, the first independent radio station in Italy. Launched by Dolci and his associates on 25 March 1970, the radio station was sequestered after twenty six hours of broadcasting. Dolci commenced his broadcast with an SOS about the desperate conditions in which people were still living after the 1968 earthquake in the Belice area and concluded with Dolci’s reading of his poems from The Moon Lemon. This emerges from what could perhaps be considered Dolci’s poem manifesto, ‘You scare off at the word’ (‘Chi si spaventa quando sente dire’), in which what ‘revolution’ means, for Dolci, is also explained. The poem is an exhortation to people to educate themselves, to believe in themselves and to be creative, because so often our own self-image is not the same as others see. So often people underestimate their own talents and hide them out of fear of having to invest all their energies in themselves, fear of failure, of some awful blunder. The only way to educate ourselves


6 An Ecocritical Reading of Danilo Dolci’s Poetry

is to overcome the presumption that we must teach others the truth and instead to start, while remaining rooted in reality, to build our dreams. Dolci teaches us that in order to grow, each of us must listen to others, seeing in others the external projection of our own personal potential (Dolci 2012, p. 32). Vigilante (2012, p. 177) concludes that in Dolci, the collective voice is that of a community seeking to redeem itself and to grow. In order to do this, it must first put itself under the spotlight, but also claim, through struggle and dialogue, its own position in society. The Ego that is receptive to the Other, will come into contact with the creature of creatures; but not before first becoming a member of a community and, having experienced all its suffering at the deepest level, offering hope and a way forward. With reference in particular to ‘You scare off at the word’, Vigilante (Ibid., p. 179) remarks on the unique way that in Dolci, political and social denunciation seamlessly intertwine with the assertion of the Self, the travails of history and the serenity of nature. A false world is being built, something artificial and divorced from reality, Dolci warns, and he pressed the urgent need for an authentic revolution, not one, referring here to the riots and protests of 1968, which expends itself in ‘brick-throwing and spitting on police officers’, nor in seeking political power: You scare off at the word revolution you havent understood. It’s not revolution throwing rocks at a cop spitting on a poor guy who slips on a uniform not knowing how else to eat. It’s not firebombing City Hall (or Internal Revenue) so you give the enemy an excuse and go to jail like a jerk (Dolci 1980, p. 14, translated by J. Vitiello).7

For Dolci, revolution signified a profound transformation of our relationships with each other and with the planet we inhabit. Our society seems to have followed a trajectory in the exact opposite direction to that advocated by Dolci. Our human relationships, notes Vigilante (2012, pp. 179–180), have become ever more tenuous and insecure. Society is fragmented and siloed, and families, too often broken apart, are closed in on themselves, and socialising for young people increasingly happens in environments geared towards consumption. ‘There is perhaps no word more foreign 7 Chi

si spaventa quando sente dire/ rivoluzione/ forse non ha capito.// Non è rivoluzione/ tirare una sassata in testa a uno sbirro,/ sputare addosso a un poveraccio/ che ha messo una divisa non sapendo/ come mangiare;/ non è incendiare il municipio/ o le carte in catasto/ per andare da stupidi in galera/ riforzando il nemico di pretesti.

6.4 Poetry as a Pedagogical Tool and Form of Activism


to young people nowadays than “revolution”’ (Ibid.). Besides, any kind of change, however small, the solution to any problem, however limited, seems impossible to them. And so the media reigns supreme and the ease with which it enters the collective consciousness and builds consensus is unstoppable. To conclude, poetry is still a popular and powerful art form used at protests and rallies. It is compelling enough to gather crowds in the streets and concise enough to capture attention on social media. Speaking truth to power remains a critical role of the poet, stripping away the obfuscating rhetoric from political and media discourse. The poetic model, however, that emerges from Dolci’s Maieutics still has an educational relevance today. Dolci’s poetry explores people’s needs ‘polyphonically’ and, using Dolci’s terminology, ‘inseminates’ the planet Earth, educating people to fully exist and express their creativity, with the ability to engage in critical dialogue with the other inhabitants of the Earth, in a dialectic relationship in which difference is recognised as a virtue. It leads to us all sharing a common purpose so that all peoples can live together in peace and harmony. The extent to which this was achieved by Dolci will be discussed in the next chapter as we look at Dolci’s legacy.

References Amato, J. A. (1973). Danilo Dolci, a poetic modernizer. Worldview, 28–34. Bragg, E. (2014). Activist ecopsychology. Ecopsychology, 6(1), 16–18. https://doi.org/10.1089/eco. 2013.009. Accessed 15 April 2020. Bragg, E. (2015). Avenues of action. SIT Study Abroad, 1–2. Camboni, M. (2016). Le foglie d’erba di Walt Whitman e la ricezione italiana fra papini, i futuristi e Dino Campana: ovvero sangue sulla scena della translatio. Nuova Antologia, Vol. 616, April-June. Florence: Le Monnier, 357–370. Carrington, K. (2018). Activist Poetics: Intersecting Ecopsychology and Poetry to Inspire Environmental Action. Community, Environment, & Planning (CEP), Spring. Seattle: University of Washington, 1–24. Chemello, A. (1988). La parola maieutica–Impegno civile e ricerca poetica nell’opera di Danilo Dolci. Florence: Vallecchi Editore. CliffsNotes (2020). Notes on Leaves of Grass. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. https://www.cli ffsnotes.com/literature/l/leaves-of-grass/critical-essays/themes-in-leaves-of-grass. Accessed 15 April 2020. Dolci, D. (1963). Waste (R. Munroe, Trans.). London: McGibbon & Kee. Dolci, D. (1966). Chi gioca solo. Torino: Einaudi. Dolci, D. (1968). Inventare il futuro. Bari: Laterza. Dolci, D. (1970). Il limone lunare. Bari: Laterza. Dolci, D. (1976). Il Dio delle zecche. Milan: Mondadori. Dolci, D. (1980). Creature of creatures. (J. Vitiello, Trans.). Saratoga: Anma Libri. Dolci, D. (1986). Creatura di creature. Rome: Armando. Dolci, D. (1993). Nessi fra esperienza etica e politica. Manduria: Lacaita. Dolci, D. (2012). Palpitare di nessi. Messina: Mesogea. Dolci, D. (2016). Poema umano. Messina: Mesogea. EASLCE (n.d.) What is Ecocriticism?. European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture and Environment. https://www.easlce.eu/about-us/what-is-ecocriticism/. Accessed 15 April 2020.


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Edmundson, M. (2019). Walt Whitman’s Guide to a Thriving Democracy. The Atlantic, May Issue. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/05/walt-whitman-leaves-ofgrass-american-democracy/586045/. Accessed 15 April 2020. Giroux, H. A. (2010). Rethinking education as the practice of freedom: Paulo Freire and the promise of critical pedagogy. Policy Futures in Education, 8(6). www.wwwords.co.uk/PFIE 715, http:// dx.doi.org/10.2304/pfie.2010.8.6.715. Accessed 15 April 2020. Giroux, H. A. (2013). When schools become dead zones of the imagination: A critical pedagogy manifesto. https://truthout.org/articles/when-schools-become-dead-zones-of-the-imagination-acritical-pedagogy-manifesto/. Accessed 15 April 2020. Iovino, S. (2016). Ecocriticism and Italy. Ecology, resistance, and liberation. London, New York: Bloomsbury. Killingsworth, J. (2004). Walt Whitman and the earth: A study in ecopoetics. Iowa: University of Iowa Press. Moore, J. W. (2014). The Capitalocene, part I: On the nature and origins of our ecological crisis. www.jasonwmoore.com/uploads/The_Capitalocene__Part_I__June_2014.pdf. Accessed 15 April 2020. Mumford, L. (1984). City in history: Its origins, its transformations, and its prospects. London: Pelican Books. Parini, J. (2008). Why poetry matters. New Haven and London: Caravan. Rohdie, S. (1995). The passion of Pier Paolo Pasolini. London: BFI. Seger, M. (2015). Landscapes in between. environmental change in modern Italian literature and film. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Spagnoletti, G. (2013). Conversazioni con Danilo Dolci. Messina: Mesogea. Stauffer, D. B. (1998). Opera and opera singers. Walt whitman Archive. Available at https://whitma narchive.org/criticism/current/encyclopedia/entry_42.html. Accessed 15 April 2020. Tattoni, I. (2008). Whitman Foglie d’erba. Rome: Newton. Vigilante, A. (2012). Ecologia del potere. Studio su Danilo Dolci. Foggia: Edizioni del Rosone. Zanzotto, A. (1979). Back cover of D. Dolci, Creatura di creature. Milan: Feltrinelli.

Chapter 7

Danilo Dolci’s Legacy

Can we truly have any hope for the future survival and flourishing of our planet without an ‘Ecological Maieutics, which spans from the local to the national level, towards an active awareness of the dynamic planetary system; respect for and strengthening of the potential of the species and all varieties, respect of environmental identities, for their beauty and their historical and artistic integrity?’ (Dolci 1993, p. 188).

Answering this question, which sits at the heart of Danilo Dolci’s life’s work, allows us to reflect on his legacy, focusing on what it means for us today. Dolci’s work gained most recognition during what many consider his first phase, spanning the period from the early 1950s to the early 1970s, and was mostly characterised by his commitment to community education and intense activism. The second phase, which lasted until his death in 1997—when Dolci was more involved in education per se, especially children’s education, and more concerned in the writing and dissemination of his Reciprocal Maieutic Approach—had, overall, less impact. After his death, his work became largely forgotten, even in Italy, where many had not always felt at ease with his activist anti-establishment approach. As early as the 1960s, Dolci foresaw and denounced the threats to the environment that are now part of everyday discourse. He believed education for all was a determining factor in reaching full employment, mobilising social movements against the oppressive economic practices of capitalism and the Mafia. He realised the importance of organic planning as the vehicle for bringing change to local areas, aiming to create the conditions for people to govern rather than be governed (Sect. 5.4). Encouraging communities to gain an awareness of the state of things and organising themselves to take action were the essence of Dolci’s RMA, which has numerous aspects in common with Paulo Freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed (Sect. 3.1). Both focused on striving towards ‘conscientisation’ and liberation from various forms of domination and stressed the importance of creating solidarity and mutual aid so as to be part of an organic whole with the world and with nature. Both in Dolci and in Freire, political consciousness and intellectual rigour went hand in hand with an open-hearted spirit, bringing the curiosity of the lifelong learner and student to their

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 A. Longo, Danilo Dolci, SpringerBriefs on Key Thinkers in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51853-0_7



7 Danilo Dolci’s Legacy

role as educators. They both possessed that precious ability to make everyone they met feel valued and important. Central to Dolci’s Ecological Maieutics is empowerment, based on helping people to value and believe in their knowledge and culture in order to learn how to find in themselves the means and resources for their own development; creating new expertise and opening them up to new ideas and finally providing them with the necessary tools to overcome any kind of conflict, making them realise how change is possible without resorting to violence—which represents a step change in a land where violence had too often been seen as the only route to justice. This process of social transformation inherent in nonviolent action places emphasis on the individual as the primary agent for change, in contrast to classical ideological theories that attribute the role and duty of taking political action to political parties rather than to individuals and community groups. For Dolci, empowerment also meant nurturing one’s own creativity, finding one’s own originality and expressing it in a variety of ways, including in different forms of protest. Close to the concept of creativity in Dolci is love (Sect. 3.3), which for Dolci is a most intimate creative communication, and in its many and varied forms can be regarded as intrinsic to his Ecological Maieutics. Whether he was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi or not, their closeness of spirit is striking, sharing for instance the belief that purity must exist between ends and means in all actions and that all social action must have its beginning and end in a positive estimate of the human heart. Fromm’s The Art of Loving is another point of reference here. In this work, Fromm described love not as a resting place, but as moving, growing, working together, which chimes exactly with Dolci’s own views expressed most powerfully in Palpitare di nessi. Dolci and Fromm both believed that whether there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness, is secondary to the fundamental fact that two people experience themselves from the essence of their existence, that they are one with each other by knowing themselves. Dolci expressed his RMA through his poetry too (Chap. 6). He saw poetry as a form of protest in itself and as a means of ‘achieving a sincere and close relationship in which each interlocutor is aware of the need to express the truth’, which was seen by Dolci as one of the most difficult aspects of his work (Dolci 1960, p. 19). For Dolci, poetry is the ideal instrument through which to open up to the Other. When it is authentic, poetry is the product of a profound attention towards the world. The poet is someone who lends himself/herself to the world and all its beings, who in each moment resists the impulse to close in on himself/herself. For Dolci, poetry can only be authentic if it has a collective voice, encompassing communion and one-ness and, recalling Walt Whitman’s poetry, which celebrates the human self as an all-consuming state that interacts with all of creation. In Whitman too, we find the concept that ‘we all arise from nature, and to nature, the grass, we return’, which is most evocatively expressed in his extended metaphor in which he characterises humanity as ‘leaves of grass’, a metaphor almost exactly mirrored by Dolci’s own ‘creature of creatures’. Reading the transcripts of Dolci’s RMA meetings and the interviews with or descriptions of the lives of the local people in his books, we become aware of how

7 Danilo Dolci’s Legacy


much he actually achieved. These texts are also proof of Dolci’s skills as a facilitator of these meetings, in which the facilitator should assist without imposition, without manipulation or dominating the discussion but as someone who helps and learns through dialogue along with the others. There is ample concrete evidence that the approach pioneered in Dolci’s RMA sessions is capable of producing impressive results, the most significant example being the building of the dam on the river Jato (Sect. 5.4). This RMA-originated project won State funding, overcoming many bureaucratic and administrative hurdles, and delivering ‘seventy five million cubic meters of water per year, irrigating twenty five thousand previously unproductive acres of land’ (Dolci 1984, p. viii), denying the Mafia its monopoly on one of the most vital and scarce natural resources in the area, revolutionising the lives of thousands of people and leading to the setting up of various cooperatives, driving economic growth. Another important achievement for Dolci was the creation of the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre (Sects. 4.2 and 5.4). The Centre grew out of the idea of creating a new approach to learning as a reaction against the coercive system of the Italian State school of the time, which was seen by Dolci as emblematic of the concept of domination, as an instrument of forging children rather than forming them to interact and live harmoniously with others and the environment, recalling A. S. Neill’s work at Summerhill School in Suffolk. At Mirto, children themselves decided how they wanted to learn, including planning of the school day and its content by consultation between tutors, children and parents. The Centre also became an opportunity to strengthen family relationships, in the sense of not only helping to form children but also to transform the mentality of their parents, working towards greater dialogue between children and parents. A key aspect of RMA was learning by doing, similar to the approaches in Montessori and Kodály (Sect. 4.2). The role of the teacher was revised too so that rather than asking questions to which there were set answers, the teacher invited the children to ask questions both of the teacher and of each other, driven by their own curiosity and desire to learn. En Dolci, the youngest of Danilo’s children, remembers, as part of his education as a child at home and in the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre, how as an assignment for the day his father would ask him to think about an issue that was of importance to him, which they would then discuss at end of the day. This maieutic approach had a profound effect on En’s life. He also chose to become an educator and to specialise in Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication, which has aspects in common with Dolci’s method (Sect. 4.4).1 Another important link established between Dolci and key education thinkers was to Rudolf Steiner (Sect. 4.2), whose pedagogical approach rested on the need to guide the child towards using his/her own intellect without imposition, strongly recalling Dolci’s own approach, especially at the Mirto Experimental Educational Centre. Steiner’s approach was based on preparing the child for that time in which

1 From

the talk given by En Dolci at VII edition of Festival per la legalità—Terlizzi, 28 May 2018, round table on ‘Antropocene and legalità, la lezione di Danilo Dolci’.


7 Danilo Dolci’s Legacy

s/he will arrive at that moment of liberation by coming to know herself/himself, which Dolci also saw as one of the core aims of his RMA. Dolci’s RMA aspired towards an even grander goal, a project of organic planning aimed at achieving authentic democracy, a democracy that for Dolci needed to take effect not only at a local and national level but on a global level too, which in turn implied the creation of a society in complete harmony with all living creatures and nature. For Dolci, this was an entirely achievable utopia based on Ecological Maieutics, which in its ultimate phase foresaw a planetary application with ‘millions of public RMA meetings’ aimed at ‘identifying the levers to trigger those most crucial changes, to establish new-found trust and to create a new force in the world’ (Dolci 2012, p. 200). ‘How exactly would a maieutic society be organised in practical terms? Will there still be a State, or something else? Will there be political parties? How will the economy work?’ To all these questions and others, Vigilante (2012, p. 475) notes, Dolci provided incomplete and inadequate answers. Dolci is not interested in political theory but in finding immediate and practical solutions to real problems, to transforming an inadequate society. His most pressing concern was to promote the idea of Reciprocal Maieutics, which implied creating a new sense of community and awakening creativity. A creative community would then naturally find the best administrative solutions to problems on an on-going basis (Ibid.). Dolci’s vision has much in common with that of Murray Bookchin (Sect. 3.2), who, however, unlike Dolci, did engage in political theory, offering us a detailed description of how the ideal society he had in mind would be organised. Bookchin too based his thoughts on an awareness, from the early 1960s, that the environment was and would increasingly come under threat from misuse of technology and that the very notion of the domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human (Bookchin 1982, p. 5). Like Dolci, Bookchin saw the ‘prospects of a harmonized world with an ecological sensibility based on a rich commitment to community and mutual aid’ as the only solution (Ibid., p. 17). Another feature that unites Dolci and Bookchin is that Bookchin too invoked a new consciousness founded on science and poetry, adding that it was nevertheless necessary to arrive at an artfulness that combines both of them, ‘imagination with logic, vision with technique’ (Ibid., p. 18). Bookchin, therefore, is also focused on Dolci’s core concern of how a truly free society, based on ecological principles, could mediate humanity’s relationship with nature. The proposed solution, again, is strikingly similar to Dolci’s, ‘the use of local “natural resources” worked by decentralized communities, […] the need for direct democracy, for urban decentralization, for a high measure of self-sufficiency, for self-empowerment based on communal forms of social life’ (Ibid., p. 6). Bookchin’s ideas inspired and became the basis of the establishment of the region of Rojava in northern Syria—a society based on women’s liberation, radical democracy and ecology. Dolci’s work, by contrast, seemed after his death to become almost forgotten. His Borgo di Dio in Trappeto—the place where famous educators like Paulo Freire and Johan Galtung had once come to engage with the local people in Dolci’s RMA meetings—fell into a sorry state of disrepair in the years following

7 Danilo Dolci’s Legacy


his death and this decline can be seen as a poignant testimony to the loss of interest in Dolci’s ideas. Dolci’s great battles and campaigns, his strikes, his Protest March for World Peace and the Development of Western Sicily, which rallied hundreds of people to the cause for change, all seemed to have vanished and been forgotten. However, in the last few years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Dolci; as if the ‘Fire under the Ashes’ (McNeish 1965), to quote the title of one of the first biographies on Dolci, has reignited. Symbolically, in 2013, 13 years after Dolci’s death, work on the restoration of the Borgo di Dio was commenced and completed the following year. A considerable number of Dolci’s books have finally been reprinted and new works on Dolci have been published and others reprinted in Italy.2 Central to this rediscovery has been the work of Dolci’s followers, some of whom now work at the Centre for Creative Development ‘Danilo Dolci’, headed by Danilo’s son Amico, which together with its sister centre CESIE, both based in Palermo, have kept Dolci’s legacy alive and continue to promulgate his ideas. The Centre for Creative Development Danilo Dolci is a ‘non-profit association involving young people and adults, which mainly acts through projects in the educational field carried out in cooperation with schools, universities, institutions, associations and social groups both at local and international level’ (Centro Sviluppo Creativo Danilo Dolci n.d.). Its main aim is to educate for peace and nonviolence promoting the RMA in schools and educational institutions and to train teachers and educators; promote active citizenship and participative democracy; take part in projects that involve youth from different countries. Most of these aims characterise the work of CESIE too, a European Centre of Studies and Initiatives with offices in India, Nepal and Senegal, which focuses on research on social needs and challenges and has undertaken projects in Italy and abroad in fields such as vocational education and training, mobility of youth workers, societal challenges, energy efficiency, human rights, equality and citizenship, child protection systems, sexual violence and harassment and asylum and migration (CESIE n.d.). This resurgence of interest in Dolci and consequent revaluation of his work is also due to the fact that concern for the environment has increasingly moved to centre stage in public discourse in the last few years and many have now realised how relevant Dolci’s work is to it. Environmental activism has gained considerable traction in Italy in the meantime. Whether directly inspired by Dolci or not, most environmental activists approach their protests in a similar spirit to that advocated by Dolci by adopting nonviolent and creative practices. One example with global impact is the work of a group of environmentalists lead by Marco Armiero, director of the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, whose ‘Toxic Bios’ project, born as a spin-off to a project on waste struggles in Campania, recalls the characteristics and aims of Dolci’s RMA and activism. In this project, Armiero and his group collected the stories of people living in contaminated communities, told by the people themselves. These stories were made available on the internet with the aim of exposing and combatting an official 2 Including:

Barone (2010), Benelli (2015), Cappello (2011), Morgante (2017), Mundi (2016), Ragone (2011), Severino (2015), Vigilante (2012).


7 Danilo Dolci’s Legacy

‘narrative violence’, ‘consisting in the silencing and/or invisibilization’ of people’s stories (Armiero et al. 2019, p. 8). The key message is that the price these communities have paid for progress and economic growth has been erased from collective memory, and the purpose of this form of literary activism is to reclaim the narrative. This is what many of Dolci’s books have done, exposing the truth, told by the people themselves, and fighting dominant representations of reality. Making communities out of storytelling is not only a methodology to collect stories of contamination but also a foundational tool in community building. Bonds are created by sharing stories, and storytelling creates a narrative agora where nonmainstream forms of evidence and understanding are transformed into collective knowledge and action, becoming a project of grassroots resistance. Despite an extremely limited budget, the project has created various ‘Toxic Bios Hubs’,3 mostly formed by groups of scholars and activists, distributed at present in seven different countries (Brazil, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey). To conclude, the aim of this book has been to demonstrate how Dolci’s theories and practices still have relevance today, in the hopes of stimulating reflection on Dolci’s work and to inspire new insights among scholars, educators and students of education and environmental disciplines. The high profile that his fight against the Mafia and struggles against social injustice gained in the media has perhaps created the impression that his primary focus was political activism. However, more detailed analysis of his life and work reveals that these struggles were subsidiary to his overall goal, which was driven by his overarching concerns about the environment and the future of human beings and nature on the planet and to work towards building a new and peaceful world governed by love and mutual aid. As we enter a time in which the survival of our planet appears to be facing an ever-growing threat, the concerns to which Dolci dedicated his life seem to be more relevant than ever. The examples that he provided of the effectiveness of nonviolent protest specifically in the context of environmental activism as well as his practical suggestions for adopting a Reciprocal Maieutic Approach to find solutions and a way forward sound a positive note in what might otherwise seem to be a gloomy time in the history of our planet. It is for these very reasons that a greater awareness of his work could be of benefit and enlightenment to students, educators, environmentalists and activists today and it is hoped that this book may in some way contribute to promoting this greater awareness.

References Armiero, M. et al. (2019). Toxic Bios: Toxic autobiographies—a public environmental humanities project. Environmental Justice, 12(1), 7–11. Barone, G. (2010). Danilo Dolci, una rivoluzione non violenta. Milan: Altreconomia Edizioni. Benelli, C. (2015). Danilo Dolci tra maieutica ed emancipazione. Pisa: Edizioni ETS. 3 All


the stories are available on the Toxic Bios platform www.toxicbios.eu, with a geo-referenced



Bookchin, M. (1982). The ecology of freedom the emergence and dissolution of hierarchy. Cheshire Book. Cappello, F. (2011). Seminare domande—La sperimentazione della maieutica di Danilo Dolci nella scuola. Bologna: EMI. Centro Sviluppo Creativo Danilo Dolci. (n.d.). Homepage. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https:// danilodolci.org/. CESIE (n.d.). Homepage. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://cesie.org/. Dolci, D. (1960). Spreco. Documenti e inchieste su alcuni aspetti dello spreco nella Sicilia Occidentale. Turin: Einaudi. Dolci, D. (1984). The world is one creature (J. Vitiello & A. Molino, Trans.). New York: Amity House. Dolci, D. (1993). Nessi fra esperienza etica e politica. Manduria: Lacaita. Dolci, D. (2012). Palpitare di nessi. Messina: Mesogea. McNeish, J. (1965). Fire under the Ashes. The life of Danilo Dolci. London: Hodder and Stoughton. Morgante, T. R. (2017). Chiamami solo Danilo. Racconto per bambini e per chi non ha smesso di sognare. Rome: Armando Editore. Mundi, M. (2016). Mi chiamo Danilo e faccio domande: L’Attualità del progetto educativo di Dolci. Rome: Aracne. Ragone, M. (2011). Le parole di Danilo Dolci, anatomia lessicale-concettuale. Foggia: Edizioni del Rosone. Severino, S. (2015). Intervista impossibile a Danilo Dolci. Saggio sulle funzioni della radio per lo sviluppo dei fatti sociali. Rome: Aracne. Vigilante, A. (2012). Ecologia del potere. Studio su Danilo Dolci. Foggia: Edizioni del Rosone.