Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Italy condemned for 'racism wave'

This is the title of an article published today on the BBC Online Newspaper.
The situation in Italy is really tense, since the victory of the right wing government last month. The immigration measures adopted in Italy these days have been criticized by all the European countries; they simply go againsts basic human rights! Especially the Roma communities in Italy are blamed by the locals for all sorts of crimes, and people have totally lost their mind, pursuing xenophobic reactions against immigrants.
Personally, I'm really worried about this situation. Italy, being also my country, has too easily forgotten the time when Italians were living and experiencing exactly the same discriminations that immigrants are experiencing today in Italy.
Migration, in fact, has always been a central issue of Italian history. Italy has witnessed different kinds of diaspora due to different economical crisis. There have been overseas emigrations of Italians to North America and Australia since at least the second half of the 19th century, in a special way after the unification; internal migrations in particular of Southern Italians to the more promising North and migration to European countries, especially after the Second World War, indeed a very active phenomenon still today.
Despite this experience, Italy has today great difficulties in dealing with the reverse phenomenon of immigration. The way Italians and the Italian government are dealing with immigration today is, in fact, a symptom of a intolerant attitude towards people coming from beyond Italian borders, who are especially identified with illegal and criminal individuals. The legislative discourse, and not only that, is usually informed by a rhetoric that associates the immigrants with concepts of regression and political danger to be fought.
I like what Donna Gabaccia writes in her book, "Italy's many Diaspora": «For a country with a long history of sending emigrants abroad, Italy experienced considerable distress in welcoming migrants onto its national territory…a nation accustomed to thinking of its migrants as subject to racist and capitalist oppression abroad suddenly looked into the mirror to see itself as the oppressor» (p. 172).
Italian cultural memory is too short! It is easy to condemn from the perspective of an "host" country,  people arriving "illegallly", and generally label all of them as criminals and dangerous people. It is easy and completely wrong!
Italians, I beleive, need a huge mirror to question their cultural memory.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Migration, Reception and Return

Next week I'll be in Sicily to present a paper at the AAIS♥AATI Convention in Taormina (22-25 May), "Alla scoperta della Sicilia/Discovering Sicily".
The panel is very interesting and is chaired by my friend and colleague Dr Lanfranco Aceti (Birckbeck College). The topic is once again migration, but this time I'm more emotionally involved, since I'm goin to talk about the image of Sicilians as "Others", that is about the time when Southern Italians were mistreated and identified as "criminals" by the destination coutries of their migrations.
I'll make a comparison between the rhetorical xenophobic discourse used to identify Southern Italians and the similar discourse used today in Italy to define the new migrants coming to the "Bel paese", and mistreated in the same way.
Below a description of the panel by Lanfranco, and the abstracts of teh two papers it includes:
Migration, Reception and Return: Sicily Between Provincialism and Globalization

What is the portrayed image of Sicily beyond the borders of its insularity? Is there a tradition of constant internationalization through the process of migration and change or is the process of perceived change, as in the words of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, nothing other than a disguise to hide a visual and poetic aesthetic of eternal return?
This panel, through interdisciplinary cinematic, literary and curatorial analyses, will discuss the tensions that characterize the cultural representations of Sicily both at home and abroad. Suspended between internationalized artistic practices and the representations of a land of provincialisms, the authors’ journeys migrate between personalized aesthetics, diverse audiences’ receptions and globalized regional stereotypes.
The papers will discuss these issues in a comparative interdisciplinary framework and will propose case studies that have characterized aesthetic processes of globalized migrations and returns to insularity.

Dr Federica Mazzara UCL Mellon Research Fellow
Sicilians as Other: Cinematic and Literary Represenations of Migration

This paper aims at analysing the cinematic and literary representation of important migratory periods of Italian history focusing on Sicily and its regional and international representations of cultural conflicts in the portrait of identities.
The migratory streams that have marked Sicilian culture starting from the Nineteenth Century, and still continuing today, have been objects of aesthetical transpositions that this paper will analyze. The paper will discuss the cultural practices of migration in a regional and globalized context. As Gian Antonio Stella documents in the novel “L’Orda. Quando gli albanesi eravamo noi” [“The Horde. When we were like the Albanians”] (2002), there was a time when Southern Italians, and Sicilians especially, were the ‘Others’. They were like all the immigrants that today seek a new life in the ‘host’ Italian country. Gianni Amelio’s film “Lamerica” (1994) represents this tragic tension through an historical comparison: the historical migration of the Sicilians to the United Stated and the present migration of the Albanians to Sicily. These are two different times, two different countries, but representative of the same destiny: that of being and remaining ‘Others’. The paper investigates the concept of alterity as part of Sicilian memory and oblivion.

John Francescutti, Curator Contemporary and Digital Art
Curatorial Stereotypes of Sicily: The Obligation to Be Civilized

The work of the curator is embroiled in something more than a cultural diatribe on representation of identity and can fluctuate between the total rejection or total acceptance of stereotypes.
MoMA’s exhibit of The Sopranos and the complex sentiment that stirred in the Italian community in the US gave relevance to the complexities of cultural representations. The process of integration and assimilation that was proposed and imposed on Italian migrants in the US and the UK, particularly Sicilians, is clearly vocalized in Mario Monicelli’s Girl with a Gun when Assunta Patanè, played by Monica Vitti, is accused of being a savage by an ‘Anglosaxon civilized educator’.
Trapped between a ‘savage cultural representation of identity’ and the ‘obligation to become civilized’ the cultural complexities of Sicilian identity seem to disappear. The paper will argue the necessity and the challenges of a curatorial experience able to provide an understanding of the complexities of Sicilian reality not limited to the representations of Mafia.

Monday, May 12, 2008

ROCCO E I SUOI FRATELLI. Saturday 31 May 2008, 2pm

Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli (Rocco and His Brothers: in Italian with English subtitles) closes the first part of the film series Migrations, Emigrations, Immigrations: Italy Between Past Memories and Contemporary Realitiesand. The film stars Alain Delon in this powerful portrayal of an Italian mother and her five sons that migrate from the South of Italy to the North in search of a better life.

Tickets (£3) available to purchase on-line (guarantees a seat) and at the door on the day. Reservations recommended!
For contact and info: Dr Lanfranco Aceti ( Even Curator: John Francescutti.
Venue: The Birkbeck Cinema, Birkbeck College, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD.

PANE E CIOCCOLATA. Saturday 17 May 2008, 2pm

Pane e Cioccolata (Bread and Chocolate: in Italian with English subtitles) is the tragicomic story of an Italian emigrant in Switzerland that lives in a chicken coop. This is the second screening of the new Film Series on Migration, titled Migrations, Emigrations, Immigrations: Italy Between Past Memories and Contemporary Realities organized by Dr Landranco Aceti with the participation of Dr Federica Mazzara (UCL Mellon Programme).

Tickets (£3) available to purchase on-line (guarantees a seat) and at the door on the day. Reservations recommended!
For contact and info: Dr Lanfranco Aceti ( Even Curator: John Francescutti.
Venue: The Birkbeck Cinema, Birkbeck College, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD.

NUOVOMONDO. Saturday 10 May 2008, 2pm

Nuovomondo, the story of an Italian family emigrating to the United States of America begins the new Italian film screenings on Italian migration titled Migrations, Emigrations, Immigrations: Italy Between Past Memories and Contemporary Realities.
Tickets (£3) available to purchase on-line (guarantees a seat) and at the door on the day.
Further information: Event curator John Francescutti.
Venue: The Birkbeck Cinema, Birkbeck College, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD.


Hi everybody,
I have been recently involved in a new Italian Film Screening Series organized by Dr Lanfranco Aceti (Birckbek College) and entitled Migration, Emigration, Immigration. Italy Between Past memories and Contemporary Realities.
My partecipation in that is related to my interest on the topic of Italian migration. The film series revolves in fact on the issues of Italian Migration, Emigration, Immigration.
The first three screenings have been planned: "Nuovomondo" (Saturday 10 May), "Pane e Cioccolata" (Saturday 17 May) and "Rocco e i suoi fratelli" (Saturday 31 May). English subtitles are provided. The screenings start at 2pm. and they take place at the beautiful Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD.
Tickets (£3) available to purchase on-line (guarantees a seat) and at the door on the day.
For contact and info: Dr Lanfranco Aceti ( Event curator: John Francescutti.

This programme is in collaboration with and supported by the ICI - Italian Cultural Institute and the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Enterprise.