Italy and the Diaspora in Word and/or Image


Italian / American/Diaspora

Paola Sica (Connecticut College)

Examination of the diaspora prompts a rethinking of what citizenship, nation and nationalism are in a world deeply affected by homogenizing global forces. It favors the discernment of numerous dislocated sites of contestation within hegemonic cultures. In addition, it invites speculation on the political impact and aesthetic choices of the literary and artistic production representing it. Originally the word diaspora was employed to refer to major historical migrations, for example the dispersion of Jewish population, or that of people from Africa during the transatlantic slave trades. Of recent, the term has been used in a broader sense. It often alludes to ethnic or religious communities spread around the world that tend to establish connections through shared cultural memories. Questions related to the diaspora have creatively been tackled by authors, artists and filmmakers. From a critical perspective, the diaspora has been examined by various scholars in different disciplines, including anthropologists, sociologists, cultural historians and art and literary critics, whose major field of inquiry is mass migration and displacements across the globe. In referring to diasporic subjects, many scholars have pointed out their cultural, linguistic, ethnic and national hybridity—traits that, according to Kobena Mercer for example, challenge “the monologic exclusivity on which dominant versions of national identity and collective belonging are based.” In a well-known study focused on modern Italian diasporas, Donna Gabaccia has highlighted the distinctive and multifaceted traits of the phenomenon. In her opinion, those who emigrated from Italy as cosmopolitans, exiles, and labor migrants transformed their homeland and the countries in which they moved. Many of them maintained a close identification with the communities of family, neighborhood and native town, rather than with a nation.

This panel explores facets of the diaspora as connected to 20th- and 21st-century Italy. Italy may be considered as a country of transit, destination or departure. Topics may include but are not limited to representations of diasporic subjects in literature, film, or art, and the political impact of the diaspora on the contestation of hegemonic cultures and revision of existing canons.