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.

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