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Americans in Tuscany

Americans in Tuscany: Charity, Compassion, and Belonging

Catherine Trundle
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 230
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  • Book Info
    Americans in Tuscany
    Book Description:

    Since the time of the Grand Tour, the Italian region of Tuscany has sustained a highly visible American and Anglo migrant community. Today American women continue to migrate there, many in order to marry Italian men. Confronted with experiences of social exclusion, unfamiliar family relations, and new cultural terrain, many women struggle to build local lives. In the first ethnographic monograph of Americans in Italy, Catherine Trundle argues that charity and philanthropy are the central means by which many American women negotiate a sense of migrant belonging in Italy. This book traces women's daily acts of charity as they gave food to the poor, fundraised among the wealthy, monitored untrustworthy recipients, assessed the needy, and reflected on the emotional work that charity required. In exploring the often-ignored role of charitable action in migrant community formation, Trundle contributes to anthropological theories of gift giving, compassion, and reflexivity.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-370-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    When the French brothers Edmond and Jules de Goncourt visited Florence in the mid-nineteenth century they observed that it was‘une ville toute anglaise’(a very English city) (de Goncourt 1894: 73). Florence’s reputation as a city that attracts English-speaking travellers and migrants has long been acknowledged. For centuries English and American visitors have noted its captivating allure. InPictures from Italy, Charles Dickens ([1846] 1946: 513) described Florence’s aesthetic impact on visitors thus: ‘how much beauty of another kind is here … See where it lies before us in a sun-lighted valley … shut in by swelling hills; its...

  5. PART I: Histories of Migration and Charity

    • Chapter 1 A Civilized Journey
      (pp. 25-40)

      Contemporary Anglo-American migrants to Florence and Italy tread a well-worn path and walk in the footsteps of well-heeled forebears. In this chapter I detail the motivations, travel styles, and wider socio-political reasons for such migration patterns from the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries. I begin when Grand Tours were the preserve of wealthy young Anglo-American men, and trace the democratization of travel during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries along class and gender lines. I then describe the rise of a settler population of artists and writers in Florence in the nineteenth century, and the effects of both world wars. I...

  6. PART II: Forging Charitable Communities

    • Chapter 2 Intimate Lives and the Art of Belonging
      (pp. 43-66)

      Moglie e buoi dei paesi tuoi.’ Francesca repeated it to me twice as I sat in her small studio legale (lawyer’s office) on the outskirts of Florence. ‘Wives and cattle from your own village.’ It was an Italian proverb I had not heard before. She explained, ‘people here think you have to get wives and cows from your country, your village, otherwise you don’t understand each other’. As an Italian family lawyer, Francesca had many American clients. She specialized in divorce. She slipped between Italian and English as she described matrimonial breakdown and acrimonious legal cases. Part of the problem,...

    • Chapter 3 Food, Community and Incorporation Work
      (pp. 67-84)

      Our senses of self are never simple or coherent. As Barbara Myerhoff ([1979] 1994: 183) argues, a ‘group’s ideology is never completely systematized or internally integrated. People mobilize one norm for one occasion and an opposing norm for another, unperturbed by their contradictory premises.’ In the previous chapter I illustrated how oppositional identity was created through narratives of settlement. In this chapter I show that the formation of an Anglo-American community in Florence depended on a second movement, often in tension with the first. Anglo-American women formed social networks and community bonds through what I term ‘incorporation work’. Studies of...

    • Chapter 4 Ethical Engagement: Crafting Charitable Relations
      (pp. 85-108)

      When carrying out charity work, volunteers often reflect upon the virtuous modes of relationality that best enable giving. For many voluntary organizations, the goal of improving charity recipients’ lives is the fruition of a prior moral project that seeks to foster what I term an ‘ethic of engagement’ between charity actors. If ethics is the ongoing project of working on the self’s mode of being in the world (Foucault 1988), then charity provides a potent means for givers to reflect upon their practices of social interaction and emplacement, and to make this reflective process a site within which charitableness can...

  7. PART III: The Moral Work of Charity

    • Chapter 5 ‘Getting the Work Done’, or an Ethos of Disinterested Equality
      (pp. 111-133)

      Social scientists have often sought to expose the unintended effects of charity and its relationship to systems of inequality (see, for example, Blau 1964; Simmel [1908] 1971; Heilman 1975; McCarthy 1990; Zelizer 1990; Bowie 1998; Caplan 1998; Mindry 2001). Like some of the ethnographic case studies in chapters 3 and 4 of this book, such an approach seeks to uncover, often with ironic effect, the friction of charity: the unequal power structures that result from practices that profess to address inequality and lessen human suffering. While this analytical approach serves the valuable purpose of exposing particular contradictions between ideology and...

    • Chapter 6 Compassion and Empathy without Understanding
      (pp. 134-152)

      ACG had attracted more women than normal to this monthly meeting, despite the spring chill. Around sixty women sat huddled in rows of seating, wearing tailored jackets, fur coats and cashmere cardigans. At the front of the meeting room two speakers were describing their international charity works. A willowy American woman in her fifties, Amelia, spoke of her aid work for a Christian charity in Afghanistan. She detailed how she had started a needlework project working with women who have ‘psychological needs’: ‘One woman was sixteen and was married to a sixty-year-old heroin addict, and when we asked what she...

    • Chapter 7 Accountability, Cynicism and Hope
      (pp. 153-171)

      To enable giving, charity actors can rely upon institutional legitimization, humanitarian ideals, and testimonial witnessing. These techniques commonly aim to bolster trust and foster intense compassionate affect, as the previous chapter explored. But what if trust cannot be established between giver and receiver? In this chapter I consider situations of charitable giving in which efforts to gain information, build legitimacy and enact witness were circumscribed and indeed often failed. In such contexts compassion was muted; cynicism, realism and hope became the underlying responses to requests for support. Here, emotions of compassion and sympathy were not trusted as an internal cue...

  8. Epilogue: Charity, Reflexivity, Belonging
    (pp. 172-178)

    Early in my fieldwork a Swiss member of ACG, Ina, organized a club community service event. Drawing upon her training as a dance therapist, she arranged an event at a local ‘old folks home’. She explained to the volunteers that ‘Most of the residents there are just parked in front of the TV and then left there for the whole day. They have forgotten about joy and really being in the moment. What we’re there to do is reawaken their sense of having a body and being able to move … There’s a real need for what we’re going to...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 179-192)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-214)
  11. Index
    (pp. 215-222)