Public history

Biographies of Struggle - the 2014 steelworkers strike at AST in Terni (Central Italy)

21 May 2024

Biographies of Struggle - the 2014 steelworkers strike at AST in Terni (Central Italy)
Film screening and lecture by Matteo Saltalippi and Greca Campus in the series "Confronting decline: Challenges of deindustrialisation in Western societies since the 1970s".

'Biographies of Struggle' is a documentary on a drawn-out unrest that took place at the ThyssenKrupp-AST-Terni steelworks in Central Italy in 2014, one of the longest steelworkers’ strike in Italy since the last wave of labour unrest in the ‘80s. Threatened by 550 job cuts and a partial closure, the Terni factory is the framework in which 11 participants express their discordant thoughts and opinions about the ongoing 7-months-long dispute, and 45-days-long strike. Drawing on their biographies and work experiences, the protagonists depict a fragmented portrait of one of the oldest Italian working class communities, while fighting mass layoffs.

This documentary is inscribed in an ethnographic research which addresses the ways in which labour activism contributes to the articulation of working-class’ self-identification and consciousness, drawing on anthropological approaches to class in a context of historical change that requires the Terni workers to engage in multiple and contradictory relations with local and global capital and political entities. The research shows how contemporary labour struggles incorporate coercion and solidarity, and demonstrate that the strike is re-assessed as the main instrument of protest, while the steelworkers’ political agency fails to resonate with traditional repertoires of class struggle transmitted through memories and narratives about a glorious past. It considers how new configurations and geographies of power undermine the pivotal role of local trade-unionists and shape the demands of workers, and the innovative forms of struggle they adopt to ensure media visibility. This leads to a proliferation of new forms of struggle that reflect the fragmentation of the Terni labour force, while pursuing the shared aim of safeguarding the future of the plant and the town.

By analysing workers while they overstep the boundary of the protected production sphere and stream into the public space transforming the economic struggle into a political one, the research demonstrates that the working-class has not disappeared and highlights its relevance in present socioeconomic landscape.


Matteo Saltalippi is an anthropologist and filmmaker; he holds an MA and PHD in Visual Anthropology from Goldsmiths University of London. He has conducted extensive ethnographic research around labour unrest in an industrial context in Italy. His visual production includes documentaries on contemporary art, labour struggle, environmental activism and migration, and have been screened at international film festivals. His research experience spans across academia and the private sector and worked as research associate at Lancaster University on waste management and sustainability.

Greca Campus, born in 1983 in Terni, is a freelance director and camera operator. She holds a master's degree in Contemporary History with a thesis on the crisis of the working-class identity of her hometown. Since 2006, she is focusing in projects dedicated to his two favourites “genres”: live music and social documentary.


Tuesday, 21 May 2024
17.00 - 18.30
Black Box
, Maison des Sciences humaines, Belval Campus

and online