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Ernesto De Martino has written important texts on territorial anxiety, Seychelles the sense of bewilderment and distress that takes hold of Southern Seychelles peasants when they are no longer able to see the bell tower of their village. The disappearance of the “bell tower of Marcellinara” from the line of sight which he described in one of the most celebrated pages of his La fine del mondo The End of the Seychelles is a metaphor for anxiety, for the fear of losing the centre, the point of reference that individuals in traditional societies have in common. At times this territorial uneasiness could come upon individuals even in Seychelles those locations inside the village considered foreign, or in the less frequented rural areas or other sites with few inhabitants.

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Exacerbations of and deviations from modernity have in recent years imagined a sort of individual fully free of nostalgia, a kind of dweller living permanently in non-places, a cosmopolitan without roots and without a sense of belonging. The absence of nostalgia would be to non-places what nostalgia is to places. One could come to believe that to non-places, to the “end” of places as they have been known historically corresponds the end of the “feeling of place,” the negation of any possible sense of belonging. The non-nostalgic person of our time would thus be endowed with no sense of place, would have no connection with any site, because supermodernity creates anthropological non-places, places which are desacralized, the same, uniform place.

In life things aren’t so simple. Giovanni Ferraro, in his unfinished notes, writes that “modernity betrays places but then condemns itself to frantically reproduce their simulacra. Modernity forgets places but at the same time fosters the nostalgia and the search for them.” Places continue to affirm their demands on non-places. According to Augé himself, places and non-places are in effect slippery polarities that communicate with each other. The one is never completely erased and the other never completely fulfilled. Places and spaces, the places and non-places of actual reality permeate each other; they oppose and evoke each other.

It’s worthwhile asking if the so-called non-places, however anonymous and unliveable they may be, are undefinable spaces, spaces that can’t be controlled and that depersonalize individuals, or whether, instead, they don’t impose on individuals itineraries by which to forge a different identity, to claim a different presence in the world. In several of his writings, Franco La Cecla has shown what kind of efforts people of different cultures undertake to not lose their way, and he reminds us that even the inhabitants of the most undistinguished, informal sites, whether they be in the modern metropolis or the favelas, continuously find it necessary “to wrap their thoughts around a site” in order to create new centres, new forms of social life and dwelling.

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