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Revisioning Italy: National Identity and Global Culture

Beverly Allen
Mary Russo
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 423
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttswcm
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  • Book Info
    Revisioning Italy
    Book Description:

    This volume covers a range of subjects drawn from Italy and abroad to study the historical and contemporary formations of Italian national identity. In doing so, the work illuminates Italy past and present as well as the local and global dimensions of national identity in general. Contributors: Mohamed Aden, John Agnew, Ayele Bekerie, Elaine K. Chang, Antonio Marazzi, Francesca Miller, Antonio Negri, Graziella Parati, Karen Pinkus, Paul Robinson, Pasquale Verdicchio, Marguerite R. Waller, and David Ward.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8705-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    From 1993 to 1995, while we were planning this book and were considering the status of narrative and metaphor in relation to national identity, many allegories and images of Italianicity came our way via newspaper, telephone, television, radio, fax machines, E-mail, conversation, travel, and other modes of personal experience. In 1993, a monument that Italy symbolically and economically trades on, the Uffizi Museum in Florence, was ripped apart by a bomb. In this bombing, just off the famous Piazza della Signoria, five people were killed. The bombing, later designated by the press as a Mafia-driven event intended to hinder the...

  5. Part I: Culture and Place:: Italy as a European Country

    • The Myth of Backward Italy in Modern Europe
      (pp. 23-42)
      John Agnew

      Italy now has by most accounts the third- or fourth-largest economy in Europe and is one of the world’s most “developed” societies in terms of levels of consumption, life expectancy, and possibilities for individual expression. But it is not unusual to read in the Italian press with respect to some feature or another of Italian life that Italy is “Lontana dal continente” or “Fuori dall’Europa” (both inL’Espresso,December 15, 1991, 20). With the advent of the bribery and corruption scandals in 1991–92 enveloping many of the politicians and the political parties that ruled post-World War II, the sense...

    • Italy, Exile Country
      (pp. 43-51)
      Antonio Negri

      You’ve asked me to speak about Italy, its identity, and the way an exile relates to it. This is a very abstract problem, touching on some nostalgic repetitions and run-of-the mill feelings an exile might have for his native country. But the problem for an exiled Italian is compounded; it involves an attempt to think of his country, in its entirety, as, in fact, a country made up entirely of exiles. A possible title for my paper, therefore, might be, “Italy, Exile Country.” By that I mean that exile is the normal condition of intelligent Italians, and always has been....

    • They’re Not Children Anymore: The Novelization of “Italians” and “Terrorism”
      (pp. 52-80)
      Beverly Allen

      Few events since World War II have conjured for the rest of the world the image of Italy as a nation more than the era of “terrorism.”¹ From within literal Italy, however, theanni di piombo,or “years of lead,” as inhabitants of the peninsula called the period from Milan’s Piazza Fontana bombing in 1969 to 1983 or so,² were a kind of workshop in cultural constitutions of identity in general and mark a stage in the undoing of fixed national identity in particular. By looking from the inside out, by hearkening to the peninsular representations of Italy during that...

    • “Italy” in Italy: Old Metaphors and New Racisms in the 1990s
      (pp. 81-98)
      David Ward

      The title of a recent book,Milano-Palermo: La nuova Resistenza(Milan-Palermo, the new resistance), by Nando Dalla Chiesa, a leading exponent of one of Italy’s youngest and fastest-growing political movements, La Rete (the network), illustrates succinctly the main argument of the present essay: namely, that fascism and resistance, in the form of tropes, remain crucial events in the Italian collective memory even for members of Dalla Chiesa’s generation, who were born well after the end of World War II and received their political education in the 1960s and 1970s.¹ The essay will explore how fascism and resistance, along with the...

  6. Part II: Impositions, Race, and Colonization

    • Italy: Cultural Identity and Spatial Opportunism from a Postcolonial Perspective
      (pp. 101-115)
      Mohamed Aden

      I have always envied writers who can condense in an elegant, offhand sketch the character, profile, values—in fact the entire identity—of a given people. Yet even the very term “people” implies an intrinsic variety and reality so complex that, as a term, it is in itself reductive. I view a people as I view a floral arrangement: magnificent in its ensemble, stunning and seductive to look at. But as soon as you turn a critical eye on it, the different species that make it up, the veins of the foliage, the wilted parts of the petals, the dying...

    • African Americans and the Italo-Ethiopian War
      (pp. 116-133)
      Ayele Bekerie

      The 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia is an example of the praxis of hegemonic Eurocentrism, which is designed to shape the world in the image of Europe. Italy, like her European counterparts, rushed belatedly to impose its hegemonic will against a people who were solidly centered in their own culture and history. This aggression was indeed contrary to the cultural coexistence and exchanges that prevailed among the Ethiopian people and the people of Rome at the time of the Aksumite period, particularly from the fourth to the seventh centuries of the common era. Moreover, the Ethiopian sense of identity and...

    • Shades of Black in Advertising and Popular Culture
      (pp. 134-155)
      Karen Pinkus

      During the course of research into the iconography of blackness from fascist Italy, it became apparent to me that many of the representational issues I was confronting remained both unresolved and troubling.¹ What had begun as a particular historical and taxonomic investigation inevitably spilled into the present, and into sociological, political thought beyond my own defined area of expertise. I felt then that although I could not write an account of race relations in postcolonial, postmodern Italy, I could still reflect on questions of blackness based on the images I had seen and had attempted to contextualize from the 1930s....

    • Is Aida an Orientalist Opera?
      (pp. 156-166)
      Paul Robinson

      Among the more remarkable events of recent intellectual history is that Edward Said, famous avant-garde literary critic and passionate advocate for the Palestinian cause, has begun to write about music. Moreover, not just about any kind of music, but about classical music in the elite (and canonical) European tradition—the symphonies of Beethoven, the operas of Wagner, the chamber music of Schubert and Brahms. Several years ago, Said took over the music column in theNationmagazine, and more recently he has published a book,Musical Elaborations,based on a series of invited lectures at the University of California at...

  7. Part III: Immigrations

    • Strangers in Paradise: Foreigners and Shadows in Italian Literature
      (pp. 169-190)
      Graziella Parati

      Since the early eighties, Italy has lost its status as a monocultural and monoracial country and has become a place of immigration from Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia.¹ The new multicultural Italy is far from being a peaceful cultural melting pot of the nineties: Italians have often responded with racism and violence to the changes taking place in their country. Such a response suddenly became visible in the summer of 1989 with the murder of Jerry Masslo in Villa Literno. In his native South Africa, Jerry Masslo had been a political activist and had lost his father and one of...

    • The Preclusion of Postcolonial Discourse in Southern Italy
      (pp. 191-212)
      Pasquale Verdicchio

      The field that has come to be known as postcolonial studies challenges historical fictions that value certain cultural expressions over others. However, it sometimes falls short in its representation of postcolonial groups due to its characterization of postcoloniality almost purely in terms of problematic designations such as white versus nonwhite, or First versus Third World. If postcolonial discourse is to effectively unmask the workings of imperialism, it must be opened up to study colonial possibilities that exist(ed) in less clear-cut situations. First and Third World are not always separable in geographic space and granted racism’s unambiguous influence and effects, race...

    • Anarquistas, Graças a Deus!: “Italy” in South America
      (pp. 213-232)
      Francesca Miller

      Between 1876 and 1925, nine million Italians emigrated to the Western Hemisphere. The majority—51 percent—emigrated to the United States; 25 percent, or more than two million, went to Argentina, and one million three hundred thousand entered Brazil, settling primarily in the southern states of São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Caterina, and Rio Grande do Sul. Although the absolute number of immigrants to South America was less than to the United States, the impact of the Italian migrants on Brazil and Argentina was disproportionately greater because of the much smaller total populations of the two Latin American countries.¹

      The proportionate...

  8. Part IV: Postmodernity and Global Italy

    • Venice, Venice, and L.A.: Cultural Repetition and Bodily Difference
      (pp. 235-252)
      Mary Russo

      The quincentenary commemoration of Christopher Columbus’s expedition to the New World might appear in hindsight as the last feeble hurrah for “Italy” as a consolidating term in Italian American cultural relations.¹ The long-awaited celebration of what has sometimes seemed a felicitous intercultural “discovery” became, instead, an occasion of fierce, if bloodless, skirmishes in what lately have been called the “culture wars” in the United States. Contending forces gathered around the issues of cultural influence and identity and around the very definitions of intercultural encounter.²

      Culture may be seen as enclosed or as flowing, with very different models of cultural identity...

    • Decolonizing the Screen: From Ladri di bidclette to Ladri di saponette
      (pp. 253-274)
      Marguerite R. Waller

      I want to begin by discussing temporality and spatiality, the stuff out of which subjects and their realities are visually figured on film. My film texts are “Italian,” whatever we decide this signifier means, and I am interested in the resistance they offer to the effects of an encounter between the “Old World” and the“New World” that reverses the direction, if not the intention, of the colonization process we associate with Columbus. Both Vittorio De Sica’s neorealistLadri di bidcletteand Maurizio Nichetti’s postmodernLadri di saponetteinvestigate how it feels to be “discovered” as a potential source of superprofits...

    • If the Japanese Are Samurai, the Italians Are Baka: The Multiple Play of Stereotypes
      (pp. 275-291)
      Antonio Marazzi

      Stereotypes, as a kind of negative discourse on the Other, can illuminate the complex elaboration of cultural identity through the construction of difference as the distorted, often reversed, projection of values on outsiders, be they individuals or groups. Each culture has its own internal processes for creating the exotic, the barbarian, and the savage, and an awareness of these processes can stimulate a critique of one’s own reactions to the encounter with a real or imagined outsider.

      Sometimes, however, the Other sends us back a mirror image of Us in which we fail to recognize ourselves. So great is the...

    • Spaghetti Eastern: Mutating Mass Culture, Transforming Ethnicity
      (pp. 292-314)
      Elaine K. Chang

      To borrow one ofSesame Street’strademark devices, this essay is brought to you by several pasta products made in the USA, and by the color green. Chef Boyardee, Spaghetti-o’s, and the “heroes on the half shell” after whom a turtle-shaped macaroni and cheese dish has been named reveal much about the processes of mass culture—particularly those by which ethnicity is remade and merchandised as something millions of Americans might want to eat. Artificial flavors and colors play a critical role in these processes; and recent history offers green as the most recognized and serviceable multipurpose signifier for human(oid)...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 315-318)
  10. Index
    (pp. 319-333)