Cristina Lombardi-Diop and Caterina Romeo, eds.: Postcolonial Italy: Challenging National Homogeneity.
Postcolonial Italy: Challenging National Homogeneity analyzes how Italy's construction as nation has been shaped directly and indirectly by colonial practices and discourses. The editors' attentiveness to Italy's "uneven formation" (5) as a postcolonial nation informs the volume's main themes: the interrogation of racial constructions, connections between colonialism and the historical "Southern Question," contemporary transnational migration, and how these issues play out in cultural practices and artistic productions. The volume convincingly argues that Italy's postcolonial condition is a determining factor in shaping contemporary culture.
The volume includes eighteen chapters plus an introduction. Chapter one, "The Italian Postcolonial" by Robert Young, serves as a preface, connecting Italy's condition as an atypical postcolonial country (e.g. its current international population is not predominantly from former colonies) to the legacy of Gramsci and the history of Leftist parties' influence, including their support for anticolonial stuggles.
The remaining seventeen chapters are divided into four Parts, organized thematically. The chapters in Part I make connections between Italy and other postcolonial contexts with the intent of "deprovincializing" Italy. These chapters underscore how Italy does and does not differ from other European colonizers. Sandro Mezzadra's chapter, an excerpt from his volume La condizione postcoloniale, examines how contemporary racism is reinforced by legal patterns of inclusion and exclusion. Sandra Ponzanesi compares Italy's postcolonial situation to that of other European countries, positing that European identity is formed partially through silencing past colonialisms. Teresa Fiore expands the definition of postcolonial to include descendents of Italians who migrated to other countries. Between 1876 and 1976 approximately 27 million Italians emigrated to all five continents (73). Fiore's examination of the Italian diaspora suggests the possibility of an "emigrant postcoloniality" (71). Miguel Meliino outlines four "enunciations" according to which Italy qualifies as a postcolonial nation, concentrating on the ambivalent position of race and racism in current Italian politics.
The five chapters in Part II concentrate on the legacy of Italian colonial and orientalist discourses in written and cinematic texts, and particularly on the intersections between Italy's colonial past and contemporary constructions of otherness. Alessandro Triulzi considers the representation of Africa in one novel, one documentary film and one graphic novel, and shows how the interplay between silences and voices in these texts "testifies to the unending reshuffling of the colonial/ national question within Italian society" (110). Derek Duncan focuses on how the colonial past is recalled and represented in five films. He submits that the patterns of indirection and unresolved temporality in these films deterritorialize Italy's uncomfortable colonial memory. Barbara Spackman reveals the orientalist underpinnings of national identity formation by juxtaposing Amara Lakhous' novel Divorzio all'islamica a Viale Marconi (2010), in which an Italian impersonates an Arab Muslim, with the 19th century travel narratives of Giovanni Finati who impersonates a Muslim in order to enter Mecca. Giovanna Trento interprets Pasolini's controversial, problematic representations of Africa and Eritreans in the Eritrean texts (1968 to mid-1970s) as allusions to both the author's self-construction and Italy's self-representation. Roberto Derobertis reads Carlo Levi's Cristo si e fermato a Eboli from a postcolonial perspective, comparing Southern Italy to the African colonies, and examining the racialization of Southern Italians and the foreign migrants who have replaced them as exploited workers.
Part III concentrates on intersections between race, class, and gender, and how Italy's national identity has been traditionally formulated as exclusively white. Cristina Lombardi-Diop posits Italy as a "postracial society, where widespread racism permeates the political discourse, the societal behavior, and popular culture, yet where race is often unnamed and ultimately silenced" (175). Highly attentive to gendered resonances and constructions of race as construction of class, the author examines how national identity was "whitened" by advertising campaigns post-World War II. Rosetta Giuliani Caponetto considers the portrayal of women and the colonial imagery in the black Venus films of the 1970s (which offered reassuring images of submissive women) as a reaction to the burgeoning feminist movement. Aine O'Healy's analysis of interracial intimacy in seven films demonstrates how the stereotypical portrayal of black men (seen as sexual predators) with white women, and black women (shown as highly eroticized) with white men reflect long-standing social anxieties about race. Caterina Romeo analyzes constructions of race in nine texts by migrant and postcolonial authors, arguing that over the past two decades migrant and post-colonial writers have worked to decry the systemic racism in Italian society and create new cultural spaces.
Part IV deals with transcultural artistic production in music, film, and pop culture, by both migrants and their offspring. Alessandro Jedlowski contrasts the work of two Nigerian film companies working in Italy, IGB Film, which uses Italian settings mainly as a backdrop in its Nollywood-style films intended mainly for a migrant audience, and GVK, which imbeds its political message about migration issues into stereotypical Nollywood stories, and is aimed at a wider audience. Shelleen Greene contrasts the films Adwa: An African Victory with Western Union: Small Boats and shows how they "write new histories of migration and African diasporic identity" (254). Alessandro Portelli explicates the project "Roma Forestiera" which was launched in 2010 to collect, study, and encourage the musical production of migrants in both public and private spaces. Clarissa Cio contextualizes the literature of second-generation post-colonial writers and the productions of "Rete G2" (an organization founded by the children of migrants to promote social inclusion) in terms of Italy's restrictive citizenship laws.
One of the volume's greatest strengths is its diversity of topics and approaches that still remain thematically cohesive. Scholars in postcolonial studies, particularly in other national contexts, as well as scholars of colonialism and fascism, migration, migration literature, popular culture, and film will find the volume extremely useful. Those seeking a feminist interpretation will find it diffused across many chapters rather than in one specific section. The varied approaches in the volume provide differing interpretations, thus dealing astutely with the complexities of postcolonialism while interrogating Italy's self-concept as a homogeneous nation.
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2014|
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