Synopses & Reviews
Belmonte describes Fontana del Re, an impoverished Neapolitan neighborhood, documenting the struggles of Neapolitans surrounded by crumbling buildings and economic insecurity. Resisting standard depictions of the social and moral lives of the poor, Belmonte presents nuanced portraits of his subjects. He was also one of the first anthropologists to reflect on his own reactions and emotions. He describes the traumatic experience of living alone in a strange urban environment and his social interactions with the residents of Fontana del Re.
As Ida Susser writes in reference to Belmonte's Broken Fountain, good ethnographies have long lives. This classic of urban anthropology, one of the most acclaimed ethnographies of recent years, offers vivid, literary descriptions of Fontana del Re, an impoverished Neapolitan neighborhood. Belmonte documents the struggles of Neapolitans surrounded by crumbling buildings and economic insecurity. He details family dynamics as well as the workings of Naples's informal economy, the day-to-day struggle for economic subsistence, and the intermittent begging and thieving of the young. Taking us from the bustling, vibrant, and gritty streets and alleyways of Naples to the kitchen tables of poor Neapolitan homes, Belmonte resists simplistic depictions of the poor. Instead, he presents subtle, compelling portraits and analyses that capture the emotional, social, and economic lives of his subjects.
In addition to the continuing relevance of his insights into the effects of poverty, Belmonte's willingness to reflect on his own reactions and emotions while in the field has influenced a generation of scholars. In The Broken Fountain, he poignantly describes the experience of living alone in a strange urban environment and his interactions with the residents of Fontana del Re.