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Young Sicilian People facing Covid-19: Experiences and Sensibilities in relation to their families in the context of isolation

Adrian Scribano, Alessandra Polidori et Lorenzo di Tomasso


Cet article fait référence à une recherche menée pendant le confinement italien de 2020 et la période suivante de mesures restrictives en 2021. L'objet de la recherche sont les jeunes siciliens qui vivaient chez eux avec leurs familles. La Sicile est représentative de la condition de la jeunesse italienne caractérisée par le chômage des jeunes et la difficulté de ceux-ci à rechercher un emploi stable pour accéder à l'indépendance économique mais aussi au logement. Il a été jugé intéressant d'analyser le vécu des jeunes à travers des entretiens qualitatifs via Skype pour comprendre leur vécu à la lumière de la sociologie du corps et des émotions. On s'est efforcé de comprendre et de caractériser les différentes manières de se rapporter aux familles d'origine et d'insérer son propre rythme personnel dans le rythme d'une famille. Les résultats mettent en évidence différents types de cohabitation qui restituent l'image d'une situation complexe de coexistence générationnelle caractérisée par la solidarité et l’individualisme.

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1The purpose of this paper is to present the results of research conducted about young Sicilians from April 2020 to February 2021.

2Sicily represents a particular site of research, especially when it comes to young people, because it typifies some of the characteristics of youth in Italy, such as the difficulty in finding a job, and the impossibility of acquiring autonomy from one's own family and planning a stable biographical trajectory. Therefore, we decided to investigate the Sicilian situation by analysing the context and conditions in which young people have passed the pandemic, conducting 23 online interviews to better understand the emotions during the lockdown that led many young people to return home to their families.

3The paper will be structured as follows:

  1. The basic starting points on individualization, the context of Sicilian youth, and a view from standpoint of bodies/emotions are synthesized.

  2. A second part is dedicated to recounting how young people describe their families regarding Covid-19, referring to the first lockdown in the first part of 2020 and the second lockdown in the first part of 2021 characterized by lighter restrictions.

  3. Thirdly, is presented the features of an emotional ecology of the place of the family during the lockdown in connection with the experience of autonomy amongst young people.

4Finally, conclusions will be drawn regarding the place of feelings of trust about and from the family. With this intervention, we want to highlight a context that needs in-depth analysis and open new avenues of study regarding the Sicilian territory and young people.

Young People

5The context of precariousness and uncertainty in which young people make their transitions to adulthood is now a fact in contemporary literature (Bynner et al., 1997; Bertolini, 2018). The economic crisis that has never really ended since 2008 has made it even more difficult to enter and remain in the world of work, condemning an entire generation to precariousness (Spanò, 2018, p. 7-8) and, furthermore, the accelerated social change makes difficult to find stable points of reference (Rosa, 2010).

6This context has contributed to the affirmation of that phenomenon defined as individualism which, however, cannot be reduced to a simple consequence of the neo-liberal market, but implies also the relationship with institutions (Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 2002) that are no longer able to provide security and support leaving the individual to himself, to build his own biography in solitude.

7Approaching the case of Italy analysed in this article, the welfare state, for example, is totally inadequate to the risks to which young people are subjected (Bertolini, 2018) as it is excessively biased in favour of the older generations (Ambrosi & Rosina, 2010). It is therefore clear that young people must try to create a path for themselves without relying on the institution of the state. (Rebughini, 2014).

8Danilo Martuccelli analyses the theme of individualism by changing point of view. Instead of institutions, he puts the focus on the single person (2010). The French sociologist changes the term by using singularism to highlights the search for uniqueness, originality, the way in which the individual responds to the relationship with himself and with the world. At this point, he analyses the role of institutions that are no longer guarantors of social integration, but are always referable to the individual as they guarantee his personal development. Their disappearance means not only social but also singular difficulties. The reflection on the social starts from the reflections on the reduction of the possibilities of the person.

9The importance of Martuccelli's concept of singularism for the redefinition of the concept of individualism is summarized by Carmen Leccardi (Leccardi in Cuzzocrea et al., 2020, p. 178). First, it does not clearly separate the individual from the social, but holds the two dimensions together by looking at the representation of the social. Individualism implies distrust of society, singularism instead means recognizing what is common (Martuccelli, 2017). Second, by focusing on the relationship of the individual with the institutions, he reaffirms the importance of the institution for the person, but also the importance of the person in making the institution that exists only thanks to people. Third, the ability of the individual to solve problems related to the social pathologies of uncertainty is taken into account.

10As Valentina Cuzzocrea also suggests (Cuzzocrea in Colombo & Rebughini, 2019) it is important to broaden the notion of individualism since it not only concerns the dimension of autonomy, but also directs self-reflexivity to the relationship with the other.

11The picture that emerges from this brief literature review is that of a context characterized by risk (Beck, 1999) and crisis (Benasayag & Schmit, 2007) which, declined in everyday life, mean difficulties in finding stable employment (Cairns et al., 2017) and a definitive independence. A generation that is aware of it fits into this context; to use the Mannheim's terms, a generation in itself (Mannheim, 1952) that knows how to respond to this context.

12However, the response of this generation must be investigated and deepened in its various forms to avoid trivialization. The theme of individualism, as we saw, cannot be limited to the simple description of the individual's closure in himself, or in the aspirations of self-realization born with neoliberalism. It is therefore necessary to break down the tensions between young people and society in order to understand the link between the two and the forms of action of young people. As will be seen, the Covid-19 pandemic was an opportunity to fulfil this task.

13The pandemic has in fact allowed us to observe a particular situation, especially for young people who have found themselves locked up at home "rebuilding" new ways of being alone and with others. In Italy, many young people in particular have spent confinement with the family, as a characteristic of Italy is the long residence of young people in the family home (Cavalli, 1993, 2000). Why did we choose to carry out this research within Italy focusing on Sicily?

Young Sicilians

14Sicily represents a particular site of research, especially when it comes to young people, because it exemplifies some of the characteristics of the condition of Italian youth, such as the difficulty in finding a job, and the impossibility of acquiring autonomy from one's own family and planning a stable biographical trajectory. This is why we decided to investigate the Sicilian situation by analysing the context and conditions in which young people have passed the pandemic, conducting 23 online interviews to better understand the emotions during the lockdown that led many young people to return home to their families.

15North and South Italy are two contrasting expressions of Italian culture. There has always been disagreement between the northern and southern regions; the former considered as the pilot of Italy and the latter often considered lazy and inefficient (Andrews, 2006). In the days of national emergency, the situation has reversed. If regions such as Lombardy have suffered the highest human costs of the pandemic, and have been accused of not being able to manage the situation, the southern regions have been partly spared even in the face of the large number of commuting workers and students who have returned at home. However, the whole of Italy pays the costs and there are fears that in Sicily these costs are not sustainable.

16Sicily has, in fact, the penultimate place in the ranking of the Italian regions at greatest risk of poverty, reaching 40.7% in a 2018 study. The problem of poverty is part of a broader framework characterized by political decline, an attitude of deference to religion and social hierarchies, poor efficiency of institutions, and less sense of public duty (Andrews, 2020, p. 167). The presence of mafia associations, and the lack of adequate infrastructure, make the economic development of the region difficult. Between 2008 and 2017, per capita GDP growth was -0.34% and in 2018 the unemployment rate recorded was 21.5%. These data mainly concern young people who are finding it increasingly difficult to enter the world of work (Eurostat, 2018). We talk here about the potential labour force formed by young people who are available to work but cannot find it. At the same time, there are young people who have stopped looking for work because they are discouraged by the negative results of their search, among them many graduates or students in specializations. This situation contrasts with that in Northern Italy, where instead those with a qualification manage to enter the job market.

17In Sicily the phase of the industrial society has not yet been fully reached. There has been talk of corporate dwarfism (nanismo aziendale) to outline a situation characterized by micro private enterprises, where an average of three employees work. In this regard, a historical perspective on the development of industry in Sicily is interesting. At the beginning of the twentieth century almost half of the population was engaged in artisan industrial activities. Over the years, these domestic and artisan activities have come into crisis because they have not been able to stand up to competition with the advanced modern industry of Northern Italy. The various sectors of the mainly textile and food industry do not compare with the efficient and standardized production of the North.

18In this scenario, private work is scarce and can often be traced back to what are called "lavoretti", which can be interpreted as ‘little job’ (Farinella, 2013) or daily work, without any permanent employment. Fundamental to the search for these daily jobs are the family or social circles that through word of mouth bring together supply and demand. It is these jobs that allow a relative stability which is limited to day-to-day life. The long-term horizon is an achievement that is only reached through public sector employment. In fact, the demand for skilled work is concentrated in the public sector, which, in turn, is unable to absorb the number of job-seekers following the Italian policy of cuts in spending on public services.

19Those paying the cost are the young Sicilians who see disappointed their expectations of finding a job appropriate to their level of education.

20In Sicily, the level of education is still one of the main tools for entering in the world of work, but it is a war between the poor that translates into a great waste of human capital.

21The young people who instead choose not to be subject to this "specter of uselessness" (Sennet, 2006) decide to leave the island. In fact, emigration outside Sicily primarily concerns educated young people and is a one-way emigration - there is no going back. Behind this there is the denunciation of a political-economic system that does not work, and the consequences of a country that will retreat more and more if it cannot retain its most competent young people (D’Amico et al., 2010).

22Interesting in recent years is the NEET phenomenon (Not in Education, Employment or Training): young people who are in a phase where they do not work or study. The NEET percentage in Italy for young people between 18 and 29 years of age is among the highest in Europe according to an OECD study where Italy is in penultimate place. Again, according to the same study, Sicily is the Italian region with the highest percentage of NEETs at 38%, which means that one out of three Sicilian young people is NEET.

23In this panorama of despair, however, young people can also find the strengthening of a feeling of belonging to their region. In this regard, we note participation in anti-mafia movements such as the Libera association founded in 1995 by Luigi Ciotti or the I Siciliani Giovani movement. The latter is an interesting example of how young people have decided through the medium of independent journalism to fight the mafia. Therefore, it is not a completely negative panorama that emerges when approaching the study of young people in Sicily, but it can be an example of how, in a land where young people are used to hoping for nothing, they can be ready for anything.

Sociology of Bodies/Emotions

24Emotions are practices that transform the world that, based on a biography of sensations, challenge the person, producing recognition of bodily and affective states that involve them in all the modalities of their geometry. Emotions are affective cognitive tendencies that: a) imply a movement, an activity and a modification of time/space; b) serve as maps to recognize the interaction situations; and c) allow the management of the effects of said interactions.

25Consequently, the politic of bodies (i.e., the strategies that society accepts to offer a response to the social availability of individuals) is a chapter –and not the least important chapter– in the instruction manual of power. These strategies are tied and “strengthened” by the politics of emotions that tend to regulate the construction of social sensibility. Politics of emotions require regulating and making bearable the conditions under which social order is produced and reproduced. In this context, we understand that social bearability mechanisms are structured around a set of practices that have become embodied, and that are oriented towards a systematic avoidance of social conflict.

26The forms of sociability and experience are strained and twisted as if they were inside a Möbius strip, along with the sensibilities that arise from regulatory devices and the aforementioned mechanisms. The need to distinguish and link the possible relations between sociability, experience and social sensibilities becomes crucial at this point. Sociability is a way of expressing how agents live and coexist interactively. Experience is a way of expressing the meaning gained while being in physical proximity with others, as a result of experiencing the dialogue between the individual body, the social body, and the subjective body, on one hand; and the natural appropriation of bodily and social energies on the other.

27For the body to be able to reproduce experience and sociability, its energy must be an object of production and consumption. Such energy can be understood as the force necessary to preserve the state of “natural” affairs in systemic functioning. At the same time, the social energy shown through the social body is based on the bodily energy, and refers to the allocation processes of such energy as the basis of the conditions of movement and action.

28Thus, sensations are distributed according to the specific forms of bodily capital; and the body's impact on sociability and experience shows a distinction between the body of appearance, the body of flesh, and the body of movement. The forms of sociability and experience are intertwined and twisted as if in a Möbius strip with the sensibilities that arise as a result of mechanisms of regulating sensation.

29Social sensibilities are continually updating the emotional schemes that arise from the accepted and acceptable norms of sensations. They are just long or short of the interrelationships between sociability and experience. Sensibilities are shaped and reshaped by contingent and structural overlaps of diverse forms of connection/disconnection among various ways of producing and reproducing the politics of the body and the emotions.

30The politics of sensibilities are understood as the set of cognitive-affective social practices tending to the production, management and reproduction of horizons of action, disposition and cognition. These horizons refer to: 1) the organization of daily life (day-to-day, vigil/sleep, food/abstinence, etc.); 2) information to sort preferences and values (adequate/inadequate, acceptable/unacceptable, bearable/unbearable); and 3) parameters for time/space management (displacement/location, walls/bridges; enjoyment).
Interstitial practices nest in the inadvertent folds of the naturalized surface of the politics of the bodies and the emotions of neo-colonial religion. They are disruptions in the context of normativity.

31In this context, three concepts become relevant: “practices of wanting”, “practices of feeling” and “interstitial practices”. Practices of feeling are those practices that involves heterogeneous sets of relationships between sensations and emotions. Interstitial practices are those social bondages that proceed to break the political economy of the moral –which structures sensibilities. Practices of wanting involve the possible connections between hope, love and enjoyment, and are social relations that link us to “doing with” the other. Associations between the aforementioned practices, social bearability mechanisms, and devices to regulate sensations might allow us to better understand the state of social sensibilities.

32It is in this framework that the recognition and critical analysis of the emotional ecologies acquire importance, which can in some way help to relocate the pieces of the game, which will be beyond whether or not we accept their presence.

33An emotional ecology can be characterized by three factors: first, in each politics of sensibilities, a set of emotions are constituted and connected by aspects of family, the kinship of practices, proximity and emotional amplitudes. Second, this set of emotions constitutes a reference system for each of these emotions in a particular geopolitical and geocultural context that gives them a specific valence. Third, they are groups of feeling practices whose particular experience regarding an element of life can only be understood in its collective context. In the first sense, an emotional ecology is being constituted by those emotions that are in a similar chromatic field.

34With sadness, melancholy and anguish, for example, we are forming a surface of emotional inscription that allows us to understand the content of each one by the relationship of proximity and distance that each one acquires in the field/space that is formed on this surface. Joy, happiness and joyfulness offer another example of how, in a given society, they can be understood through the proximity and distance in which practices acquire their experienceability and sociability. These aspects of the family allow emotion to occupy a place in the field, given a certain value of attraction and rejection with another that inhabits that same ecology: immediate enjoyment through consumption means that happiness and joy are experienced differently, but they still are in mutual reference. They are kinship to practices that, to be captured, must be put into play in the identification and assessment of each one and the whole. Enjoyment can only be explained by accepting the differences and similarities with joy, happiness and joyfulness about consumption.

35On the other hand, emotional ecology refers to the weight of where and for whom this set of practices taken as a whole is lived. Thus, there are the political and cultural valences of what can and should be felt in association with each of these references.

36The scenario constituted by the politics of sensibilities is conditioned by the spatial distribution of power, its territorial organization, and the borders and “bridges” that unite/separate the practices of feeling. It is in this sense that an emotional ecology must be understood within a geopolitics that provides the parameters for experiencing emotions in particular. In a similar direction, an emotional ecology is structured based on the cultural identities and particular ways of life of those who experience those ecologies. The unequal distribution of nutrients, the differential access to sources of bodily energy, and the inequality of possibilities of “eating healthily” are the manifestation of how the geopolitics of food conditions the experience of the anguish of scarcity, social suffering in the face of not eating, and the “heaviness” of full bellies. In this case, it is also palpable how an ecology of fear is detectable in war zones, in migrant and refugee camps, in the daily life of women in the face of femicides; regions, countries and continents that are geopolitical structures of an emotional ecology.

37Third, an emotional ecology implies the collective imputation of the experience of a set of emotions concerning processes, people and objects, that is, emotion is performed from the collective socially learned experiences, its valences and chromaticity in connection with a specific element.

38Sadness, anguish and pain in the face of death are constructed differently, sieved and socially organized. What to feel, how to feel it, in what way to express it nests in pre-existing societal experiences that are apprehended and learned as a member of a collective. In the face of death, births, love unions, birthdays, the connections between happiness, joyfulness and joy are different. A life lived, everyday life, is marked by a politics of sensibilities where words and things acquire volumes, densities and values. It is where things and words are inscribed in one or another emotional ecology; from the insult to praise, from the photo to the TikTok video, from the political slogan to the religious interpellation. Planetary emotionalization is the “glocal” result of a political economy of morality that brings politics of sensibilities in which the diverse political ecologies nest.

Narration of Young People Regarding their Families

Typology of Practices of Feeling in Relation to the Family

39In what we have just reviewed, the "place" of the family appears as a possibility of proximity/distance with the self-centred experience of life of the young people interviewed. Three practices of feeling can be identified that, in one way or another, "type" the experience of their families narrated by young people. One is the feeling of obstacle, of impediment, of proximity that suffocates: young people feel that lockdown with their families deepens the character of "confinement". Another is the feeling of ambivalence in terms that the company was gratifying, but at the same time coexistence is "heavy", it is an indecision that goes between the mandate to be well because it is the family and the need to "not be so close". Finally, there are those practices that are narrated from the joy of the encounter and the possibility of sharing.

40Let's see each one of these practices of feeling as constitutive components of an emotional ecology focused on the lives of the young people interviewed. Three practices of feeling can be identified that, in one way or another, "type" the experience of their families narrated by young people.




Coexistence is difficult to sustain given the habits of living "alone" which generates the need to go out, to seek an experience from the individual.

The family as a "double-edged sword" in terms of ambivalence and ambiguity being as company and enhanced confinement.

The joy or enthusiasm of being together again after a long time and contrast with life alone.

The family as an enhancer of sensations and emotions, "the family situation" as a mechanism for regulating sensations.

Family of persons who are essential pandemic personnel, that if they went out and worked in the lockdown, the increase in fear and precariousness was a central feature.

The family as support for managing anxiety, beyond ambivalence, managing moments of crisis together… doing together.

Coexistence is difficult to sustain given the habits of living "alone" which generates the need to go out, to seek an experience from the individual.

The family is a space for dialogue and exchange of anxieties and doubts.


"Emh that is certainly the way I experienced it, personally. In fact here at home every time they make fun of me because I also have a younger sister who goes to high school, but she has lived it way better than me. For me it was really a trauma, but perhaps it’s because she lived here at home. So in the sense that she didn’t change much and then also the fact that when we were in the orange zone or in the red zone where two people could go to each other's house, no? However, she had all of her friends here… yes I have my life in Augusta but in reality, half of my life is in Catania. So there certainly was… I certainly lived it badly there, that is… yes, it was certainly also a lot like I experienced it but also because, I repeat, for me it was very influential to stay at home because maybe I was more used to… it’s a ... something I don't know, also because… living in Catania could eat… even banal things like to eat when I want, to prepare what I want, organize myself as I want. Instead, here you must always, obviously being a family dimension, obviously you have to stay behind the rhythms of others. It is this, after five years that I was no longer used to do this thing, because basically everyone, I don't know about you, but in Catania rightly I do what I want, after five years of absolute freedom, to go home… Although it is my parents did not impose on me who knows what, but also the basic things, really general, for me they were, they weighed me down a lot” [E., 2020]

41Navigating the idea of Bessie2022-09-22T09:23:00B​​obstacle and looking for its etymology, it is possible to find the following:

  • 1 [].

"a hindrance, obstruction, impediment, or barrier; that which opposes or stands in the way," mid-14c., from Old French obstacle, ostacle "opposition, obstruction, hindrance" (13c.) and directly from Latin obstaculum "a hindrance, obstacle," with instrumental suffix *-tlom + obstare "stand before, stand opposite to, block, hinder, thwart," from ob "in front of, against” + stare "to stand”,"to stand, make or be firm."1

42It is an obstruction, an impediment, a state of affairs that opposes and resists something or someone moving forward. It is this feeling of stagnation in the face of circumstances that many young people interviewed experience when they “return home”.

43One of the most recurrent experiences in the narratives of the young people interviewed is that of perceiving the family as an obstacle, as something that stands in the way as an experience of interruption, of progress. These young people who return home had their autonomous life, and the pandemic forces them to return to a space where they are forced to live again with several people, with people who have more authority than them, and they don’t like that. The pandemic reveals that beyond affection, living in one space with another can involve both liking and disliking, all of this added to the very obstacle that the pandemic implies. For most of these young people, the pandemic has meant the interruption of their studies, the loss of their job or the cancellation of some plans. The narrations of the young people are very interesting testimonies that show through their relationship with the family how they demand in the geometry of the person to be more and more authors of their own ways of occupying time and space.

44They do not recycle, making individuals or actors or merely individual actors who, on the one hand, reproduce what they have inherited or display a script where they have not had the opportunity to write what the behaviours will be like. In the statements of the interviewees, it can be easily observed how there is a combination between the habit of living with others, the imposition by the pandemic of sharing spaces, and the sense of the plans that each one has. It is possible to perceive how, in their relationship with their family, these young people experience the paradoxes and contradictions that the pandemic itself has imposed on everyone in general. But it is obvious that the most acute tension occurs between the persistence of the affective bond with family members and the claim by young people for some path that leads from agency to authorship. Therefore, young people express the need to get out of confinement, reduce the feeling of an obstacle, and thus redefine the regulation devices of sensations, which implies the feeling of being very close, being one on top of the other, causing the spaces of experiences to conflagrate. The preponderant emotions in this practice of feeling coexistence as an obstacle are frustration and sadness that were covered with different intensities and densities.


"(...) being outside, maybe you always have your room, your private space where you can have your intimacy… maybe even go back home to your family is a double-edged sword because, of course, you have all the comforts and company too, you have someone during the lockdown but at the same time you are always a recluse… that is perhaps too bad as a term, you don’t have your spaces. Maybe in any case the family is not like being with the roommates that if you lock yourself in the room there is a certain respect of private spaces. I don't know this, I think it may be something that has had a greater influence on the psychological sphere, I don't know how to say, if I try to think of something else that may have influenced my mood and my feelings during this period". [G., 2021]

45If we carried out also an etymological search for the word "ambivalence", we found out that this word means the experience of simultaneously experiencing two sides of a feeling, being with the same "value" in both places beyond the apparent impossibility.

Ambivalence (n.)

  • 2 [].

"simultaneous conflicting feelings," 1924 (1912 as ambivalency), from German Ambivalenz, coined 1910 by Swiss psychologist Eugen Bleuler on model of German Equivalenz "equivalence," etc., from Latin ambi- "both, on both sides" + valentia "strength," abstract noun from present participle of valere "be strong". A psychological term that by 1929 had taken on a broader literary and general sense.2

46The paradoxical structure of wanting to be, but not knowing how to be with others, is deepened in the narration of a practice of ambivalent feeling where the desire to be is differentiated and distanced from the need to separate. In this case, feeling good about the reunion was manifested, but also the nonconformity of the set of norms, values Bessie2022-09-22T09:24:00B​​and practices that, clearly, they no longer shared. For these young people, the pandemic and returning home, being reunited with their parents, implies the opportunity to feel cared for and understood and, on the other hand, to once again perceive overprotection and dependence. The practices of feeling were crossed by multiple valences that were also connected as the "moments" of the pandemic, the intensity of the confinement and the family modalities of organization of daily life. In this direction, the tranquillity of feeling accompanied was experienced at the same time as the "heaviness" of an unsought proximity.

47But there was also another source of ambivalence, both in the face of the pandemic and regarding living with the family where someone was enrolled in indispensable professions or trades, called essential. And this involved at least 3 situations that gave a particular tonality to coexistence: firstly, the fear for the person who "went out"; secondly, because of the type of conversations regarding the seriousness of the way health policies were conducted, like what was happening outside the house; and third, what referred to potential value differences regarding what to do in a pandemic. This implied that young people often wonder about the possibility of other types of answers in terms of the convenience of living with someone essential, both because of the fear it generates and because of the potential difficulty of coexistence.
The emotions that are most associated with the ambivalence of living together are joy and fear.


"Then a bit, I must admit that it was not like that, how to say? In some people for example I noticed a bit of depression and, the fact of being alone in the house, and this actually I did not perceive so much because having returned down to Sicily, after years of living alone, I returned to live with my parents, this year I actually had to find a house to rent, but luckily I delayed the decision and I found myself at this stage at home with my parents and therefore this helped anyway because living completely alone in this situation is perhaps not that simple. And then the thing that also helped me is that, I don't know if it was a coincidence or a fortune, I don't know how to define it but, I found a dog, just a week before the lockdown, so I took her home, and she keeps me very busy. Consequently, I did not perceive this thing of… however, I had to get her out in some way, she have to go out during the day, so I did not perceive this thing, this lockdown perhaps as strong as someone who has stayed home all the time. In fact, I actually found myself taking many more walks outside, certainly always in front of the house, but somehow being more outdoors in this period than in other periods of my life”. [El., 2020]

48For her part, living the relationship with the family is a possibility to discover potencies, powers, and positivities; to experience the re-encounter as something that opens paths.

Possible (adj.)

"that may be, capable of existing, occurring, or being done," mid-14c., from Old French possible and directly from Latin possibilis "that can be done," from posse "be able".

  • 3 [].

49The only kind of object which in strict propriety of language can be called possible is the truth of a proposition; and when a kind of thing is said to be possible, this is to be regarded as an elliptical expression, meaning that it is of such a general description that we do not know it does not exist. So an event or act is said to be possible, meaning that one would not know that it would not come to pass. But it is incorrect to use possible meaning practicable; possible is what may be, not what can be. [Century Dictionary].3

50The experience of coexistence as a possibility, as an opportunity for the reunion, as an opportunity to regain affection, defined for many the relationship with their family. As we have already said, the possibility of feeling cared for and loved returned in an unexpected way, but enabled different paths to achieve what was often longed for from a distance. Another important edge in the aforementioned connection with support for anxiety management is the management of uncertainty that made it possible to reunite with the family, and that would surely have been much more difficult to experience in solitude. There are the stories of young people, an outline of astonishment at the feeling of feeling good again with those who had distanced themselves. In the context of the experience of the obstacles and the experience of ambivalence, experiencing coexistence as an opportunity undoubtedly allowed a "better management" of the pandemic and the practice of feeling involved in it.
These practices of feeling have joy and tranquillity as their predominant emotion.

51These three - practices, feelings and the emotions that accompany them - clearly show how the experience of the family by the young people interviewed is complex and stratified, and of course it can never be "straightened" and "resolved" into just one of those types.

52In the context of what was analysed, a very interesting experience emerges from the young people interviewed, and it is how the connection with their families modifies the rhythm of life, as a features of the practices of feeling, a basic pillar of all sensitivity politics.

Rhythms as a Mark of the relationship with Others

“Yes, so I am a university student so in March I was in Catania, the city where I study and being part of a university college, having this closed precisely in order to the pandemic, we were forced to return to our home because precisely the college would have closed for all the following months until the pandemic would have stopped. Obviously this gave a strong negative shock initially to my personal situation, because in any case I am a fairly methodical and orderly person: I follow my daily routine, my days they are not so pre-set but surely the day before I will know what I will do the next day, so in Catania in my room, in my city, let's say I knew how to move, how to organize my time and my space. Returning home I re-entered a family environment that of my family, all of… schedules they were overturned, all the schedules that I had previously established, this is not the fault of my family of course, and is also right that they have their routine but it is also true for the months of March - April and so on until before the summer, that I my had schedules and my parents others. I had to adapt, I could not blame them for it and because I was rightly home, but I must say that after this first period, this first initial shock but also for the general situation that I was experiencing world-wide speaking, I adapted because in my case, let's say, I can then find my rhythm, my routine” [S., 2020]

53Rhythms of family relationships are a way of instantiating time in terms of speed/slowness, of the cadence of action and coordination of action "in-time" which implies yielding and accommodation.

54As Alberto Melucci reminded us, "as the spiral returns to itself on always different plans, it signals another fundamental dimension of temporal experience: the rhythm. We are natural beings within an ecosystem, and our biological lives are profoundly conditioned by the rhythms of day and night, the cycles of the moon and of the seasons, the circadian rhythms that mark the day-by-day cadences of our bodily functions, the vital rhythmic pulsations of our breathing and heartbeat which keep us alive. These rhythms of nature give manifest physical form to the pattern of the spiral, since they comprise circularity but also metamorphosis, cyclical regularity but also change and flux. Our time is not solely the time of the clock, but nor is it merely that of the soul: it is also the time which brings flowers into bloom, which regulates the great animal migrations, and which triggers the metamorphosis that gives birth to a butterfly. It is within these rhythms of nature weaving human time together that repetition and change are conjoined" (Melucci, 1996, p. 13).

55One of the characteristics of time management that emerge in these interviews, that basically makes up one of the central axes of space-time management, is the possibility that people have of speeding up or slowing down their movements and their actions, their identification of problems and the resolution of those problems, the identification of processes of pleasure and displeasure. In this sense, one of the features that characterizes the relationship of these young people with their parents is precisely the lack of action, how slow or fast the social interrelation comes.

56One way to operationalize the difference in rhythms is the management of hours; although for everyone in the pandemic this was a problem, for these young people when they returned to their parents' houses, the vast majority had lost three basic things from the previous situation: the autonomous management of entry and exit times, the management of time dedicated to networks and the virtual, and the management of face-to-face or co-face-to-face relationships with others. These three pre-pandemic factors are altered and especially for these young people interviewed, where either because they lost their job, because they moved away from their partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, or because they could not continue their university studies, there is evidence of a great loss of autonomy and a claim for individuation, precisely to the rhythm of life.

57Another way these young people experience instigating duty practically, is when they experience difficulties or differences with their parents in relation to the rhythm is the collective character that entertainment happens to have: watching TV, sharing games, that is, spending time at home. This leads to a very interesting facet of all contemporary youth cultures, which is regarding "how time is wasted", how the relationship between operative time and preoperative time is broken, that is to say work or not work, that is to say guided by the social organization or non-oriented to social organization. From the history of leisure to the current entertainment industry, to the logic of not being able to do anything, they are being questioned by the pandemic and the situation of these young people in their parents' homes.

58The family is an indicator of routines, of repetitions, of rituals; in confinement, from going out to buy, to watching television, I imply re-assembling these routines. As Henri Lefebvre maintained

" (…) Is there a general concept of rhythm? Answers: yes, and everyone possesses it; but nearly all those who use this word believe themselves to master and possess its content, its meaning. Yet the meanings of the term remain obscure. We easily confuse rhythm with movement [mouvement], speed, a sequence of movements [gestes] or objects (machines, for example). Following this we tend to attribute to rhythms a mechanical overtone, brushing aside the organic aspect of rhythmed movements" (Lefebvre, 1992 [2004], p. 5-6)

59One of the factors that structures the relationship between young people and their parents is the difference in rituals. We live in ritualized societies where precisely a key factor for characterizing an action as autonomous is being able to create some kind of personal modification to the routines that are offered as paths for action in the society that one lives in. With these we return again to the importance that is given to a very minor daily factor, but which figured as a structurer of life, and of the autonomy of cadence and coordination of action, giving the rhythm of life in a pandemic a central importance and pointing us to its futures.


60We have seen how Sicily is representative of the condition of Italian youth, and this enables and justifies the particular focus of this research. The pandemic represented a moment of fear for everyone, but even more for young people because they already struggle with the planning of their future. Young people experienced this moment of anxiety by getting closer to their families of origin, not always by choice, but because of economic impossibility or the necessity to save money.
Resizing one's freedom and independence has not been easy for everyone, and three particular ways have emerged in which young people have coped with this situation. In recent years, the inter-generational conflict has attenuated (Mørch and Andersen in Leccardi, 2008, p. 81) due to various causes, but also as an effect of the coexistence and prolonged dependence of young people in their families. The ways of relating between young people and families are much more fluid, and at the same time young people have developed increasingly individualistic traits. It is very important to understand the role that the near disappearance of inter-generational conflict plays in growth, in the transition to adult life. The confinement allowed a sort of social experiment which, as in the cases reported, gave way to an analysis of the dynamics between young people and adults who share the same space, but also who re-share it after an initial period of independence. We therefore believe that it is important not to miss this opportunity and to promote further analyses to understand the problems of Italian youth and subsequently stimulate political action that has ignored young people for too long.

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Adrian Scribano, Alessandra Polidori et Lorenzo di Tomasso, « Young Sicilian People facing Covid-19: Experiences and Sensibilities in relation to their families in the context of isolation »Sciences et actions sociales [En ligne], 18 | 2022, mis en ligne le 30 septembre 2022, consulté le 21 mai 2024. URL :

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Adrian Scribano

CONICET,Professor, Universidad de Buenos Aires

Alessandra Polidori

PhD candidate, Università di Perugia - EHESS

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Lorenzo di Tomasso

student, Università di Perugia

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