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Italy in the Mediterranean

Issue cover
Cover Caption: Giorgio De Chirico, Il ritorno di Ulisse** © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, RomeReproduction, including downloading of De Chirico works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Introduction to Volume 5, Issue 1: The Sacred in Italy

A Critical Map of Italy in the Mediterranean - Defining the terms

L’Italia, è ancora un paese mediterraneo?

The title of this essay may seem provocative, but in light of recent developments in Italian history, it is a legitimate question to ask. Italy has changed. Italy’s own sense of mediterraneità – and other people’s understanding of this identity – as well as the representations of memory and politics of and in the Mediterranean, beg further discussion. In an Italy increasingly defined by mass culture and a mass media that focuses on “cultural conflicts” and the “culture of fear,” discourses hinging on economic competition, production, profit, and neo-liberal victories, have increasingly obfuscated real and profound problems. This essay discusses how recent socio-economic, cultural, political and racial discourses have pushed Italy towards a place in which the original idea of mediterraneità no longer seems to have any value. Therefore the question remains: can this term be redeemed?

Predrag Matvejević’s Mediterranean Breviary: Nostalgia for an “Ex-World” or Breviary for a New Community?

In recent years, the declining importance of the nation-state and an increase in globalization have encouraged scholars to move towards the borderless world of seas and oceans, giving special attention to their diasporic movements of people and goods. Lately, this “new thalassology” has witnessed an outburst of Mediterranean studies. Yet the resurgence of the Mediterranean in the postmodern, anti-nationalistic arena must be critically assessed. The risk in such studies is a reinforcing of old stereotypes, what the anthropologist Michael Herzfeld calls “Mediterraneism.” The present article highlights the work of two scholars and one writer who alert us to the manifold dangers of Mediterraneism and who offer standpoints for launching a serious interrogation of Mediterraneism. Roberto Dainotto points to the asymmetries couched in the alluring metaphors of liquidity and flows. Iain Chambers views the Mediterranean as a space of solid borders that entail the production and consumption of the immigrant as outcast. The writer Predrag Matvejević shows how Mediterranean identity cannot be understood as an all-encompassing unity, but as a satura, a discrete ensemble made up of differences and conflicts. By constructing a metonymical network of landscapes, things and crafts, and relying on the philological excavation of everyday words, his Mediterranean Breviary succeeds in asserting a humble communal identity against the clamor of wars and the retracing of borders.

Il pane del Mediterraneo: profano e sacro

In this exciting anticipation of his new research project on bread culture in the Mediterranean, Pedrag Matvejević, paints a vivid picture of this primordial “product of nature and culture.” Bread participated in the settlement of nomad populations and the transformation of hunters into pastors, and of both into peasant; later it was used to distinguish civilized people from barbarians. Soon a uniform ritual culture formed around bread and spread across the Mediterranean. In this spreading of bread culture Mediterranean islands came to play a key role, and they continue to preserve some of these most ancient traditions up to the present day.

Pensiero verticale: negazione della mediterraneità e radicamento terrestere in Vincenzo Cuoco

Rediscovered in fascist Italy, when Cuoco’s epistolary novel was read in a nationalist and anti-Jacobenean key, or even as the allegorical anticipation of Mussolini’s Italian imperialism, Plato in Italy is today regarded as a minor literary work to be quickly forgotten and archived as the pathological allegory of all the evils of Italian nationalism. By focusing on the figure of the Mediterranean, the reading proposed by this essay aims at re-reading Plato in Italy in a figural, rather than allegorical, way: its goal is to question canonical interpretations of the novel by restituting Cuoco’s nationalism to its radically anti-authoritarian logics.

Another Map, another History, another Modernity

In this article, the author criticizes the consensual cultural configuration of present-day Italy by displacing concerns of historical and intellectual identity onto a wider Mediterranean map. Elaborating an interdisciplinary and intercultural position that looks to languages and histories that Italian academic life and institutional culture tends to ignore, or repress, the disparaged sides of modernity – the South, the Mediterranean, the Muslim world – become the sites of a diverse critical understanding. Drawing upon the metaphorical powers of the sea itself, this “Mediterranean” view of modern Italy, of the formation of its cultural and critical languages, proposes a more unsettled and fluid cartography that renders inherited questions and “solutions” vulnerable to an inquiry that a national culture is unable to authorize. In particular, the desire for cultural and critical continuity, sustained in a diffuse historicist syntax and policed by moribund disciplinary protocols, is challenged via a “postcolonial” elaboration of Italy as both a Mediterranean and modern formation. This leads to a proposed rupture with the mold of a fundamentally patrician and provincial understanding of native culture. In particular, the contemporary figure of the so-called illegal migrant announces the hidden colonial histories that planetary process return to disturb the surfaces of everyday life. It is the unwelcome turbulence of migration, as one of the central chapters of modernity itself, which now cuts into the historical, political, and cultural body of Italy, exposing it in a global frame that can only be registered in “worldly thinking” (Antonio Gramsci). Precisely at this point, it becomes imperative to draw up another map, narrate another history, and seek another modernity.

La porta stretta. L'Italia e "l'altra riva" tra colonialismo e politiche migratorie

It is a known fact that Italians have not come to terms with their colonial past, and that xenophobic attitudes can be traced along the full political spectrum of Italian history and contemporary politics. In this essay, the author stresses the fact that Italians also turned colonialist when European colonialism was in decline, and racist when the rest of Europe put its racial tendencies under scrutiny. He further argues that the same attitudes of denial, delay, and blindness to the racial element in Italian society and politics can also be traced in the evolution of the social sciences from the end of the war to the early 1990s, when a sudden rise in immigration from the Mediterranean basin imposed the “racial other” to the center of both scholarly and political debates. As a consequence of this culpable delay, the author concludes that the principal attitudes towards Mediterranean migrants in Italian discourse, politics, and society still oscillate between criminalization on the right and a bland form of (multi)culturalism on the left, both oblivious to the profound oppression and “invisibility” of the “other” in Italian society.

Il pensiero meridiano oggi: Intervista e dialoghi con Franco Cassano

In this interview conducted by Claudio Fogu in July 2007, Franco Cassano answers questions on the evolution of his pensiero meridiano (southern thought) from the publication of the homonymous volume in 1996 to the present. The interview is conducted in Italian, and is available in video, edited in ten separate segments, and in a written transcription. The segments cover topics ranging from the relationship of pensiero meridiano and the Mediterranean basin today, to the impact of “9/11” on the evolution of southern thought, to recent criticisms of Cassano’s perspective by fellow theorists such as Iain Chambers. Cassano defends his pensiero meridiano from accusations of Eurocentrism, while also joining his critics in calling for an opening up of the newly formed intellectual koynè of philo-Mediterraneist to a more active engagement with politics and the larger public.

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Il "Sud" come frontiera geosimbolica

Over the past decade a new form of pensiero meridiano (southern thought) has emerged affirming an image of Mediterranean-ness as a “different,” rather than “incomplete” or “opposite” form of modern identity. This article clarifies that southern thought should not be understood as an instance of localism or ethnic nationalism, but as a response to the pressures of globalization by means of a renewed connection to the characteristics of Mediterranean territoriality. If Occidentalization can be identified primarily as a critical process of uprooted-ness and de-territorialization, the experience and concept of confine (border, contact-zone) peculiar to the Mediterranean entails the impossibility of a single encompassing identity and the idea of a space of contamination. This is why –the author argues— Mediterranean-ness does not refer exclusively to a place of birth or belonging, but can be found wherever one opens herself to a plural and welcoming form of identity.

Braudel’s Mediterranean and Italy

This article reviews the Italian reception of the French historian Fernand Braudel (1902-1985) and his scholarly work. Beginning with the effusive encomia published in Italian newspapers on his death, it examines the reality behind these hyperbolic claims by asking three questions: 1) What were Braudel’s contributions to the study of history in general and Italian history in particular? 2) How did Braudel’s relationship with Italian scholars and Italian history create such a reputation that an academic historian had become a legend in his own time? 3) What remains of Braudel’s work and method over the past twenty-five years in Italy and beyond? A summary of Braudel’s theses and evaluations by leading historians suggest that while Braudel’s book La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II may have as many errors as insights, it remains alive as a source of inspiration for the history of early modern Italy, prior to the establishment of the nation state. By subordinating political history to all aspects of life through the investigative methodology of the social sciences and by changing the way we think about time, space, and subject matter in history, Braudel’s vision provides a point of departure both to look back at the historiographical tradition before the volume was first published in 1949 and again at its second edition in 1966, as well as to scan forward to the historiography it has spawned.

The Embarrassment of Libya. History, Memory, and Politics in Contemporary Italy

The past weighs on the present. This same past, however, can also constitute an opportunity for the future. If adequately acknowledged, the past can inspire positive action. This is the maxim that we can draw from the history of Italy in the Mediterranean and, in particular, the history of Italy's relationship with Libya. Even the most recent “friendship and cooperation agreement” between Italy and Libya, signed August 30, 2008 by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and Libyan leader Mohamar Gadhafi, affirms this. Italy’s colonial past in Libya has remained a source of political tensions between the two nations for the past forty years. Now, the question arises: will the acknowledgment of this past finally help to reconcile the two countries?

Italy in the Medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean

The Italian Renaissance in the Mediterranean, or, Between East and West. A Review Article

This essay considers trends in recent scholarship on the medieval and early modern Mediterranean, assessing how individual monographs and essays relate to the field as a whole. Recent works with an Italian focus have engaged with the major themes of Mediterranean encounter: merchant culture and commercial exchange, crusade, pilgrimage, and shared sacred geographies. This tendency is particularly prominent in the “high culture” fields — art and architectural history, literary history, the intellectual culture of humanism, political and diplomatic endeavors — that have traditionally been framed in the context of the Italian Renaissance. The idea emerging from the integration of the high culture of the Italian Renaissance into a larger history of cultural exchange is that the Renaissance owed a great deal to the exchanges between East and West. Furthermore, the impact of this exchange cannot simply be measured by finding the products and ideas that the West took from the East, or vice versa, but is found in the deliberate and creative assimilation of diverse traditions that led to the cultural dynamism of late medieval and early modern Italy.

Mapping Metageographies: The Cartographic Invention of Italy and the Mediterranean

This article discusses the emergence of Italy as a discrete object in the Mediterranean in the history of Western cartography. In particular, it focuses on different coexisting Renaissance mapping traditions that rested on two opposed spatial understandings and experiences of the basin: on the one hand, as a functional region and a sequence of interconnected places grounded in an older Ancient and Medieval tradition of itineraries, mappae mundi and portolan charts; on the other, as a compact geographical area defined by forms and dimensions (through Ptolemaic chorographic mapping). These two different spatial understandings persist in contemporary debates about the nature of the Mediterranean region. The latter can be likened to the “great Mediterranean body,” or formal organic unit conceived by Braudel. The former is a vision “from the sea” in line with the “functional” approach recently proposed by Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell, who portray the Mediterranean as a space made of coastal flows and connectivities between “microregions.”

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Penelopi in viaggio ‘fuori rotta’ nel Decameron e altrove. ‘Metamorfosi’ e scambi nel Mediterraneo medievale

Travel literature is abundant in the 14th century, and several literary works narrate a journey into the Mediterranean Sea: many are the stories of men traveling into those waters, but a few feature female protagonists. The intervention of this essay is twofold. First, on the basis of Fernand Braudel’s definition of the Mediterranean as a “sea-movement” it explores the role of the Mediterranean in The Decameron by Boccaccio and “elsewhere,” especially Boccaccio’s own Filocolo, Piero da Siena’s Bella Camilla, Le Roman de Floriant et de Florete and other stories featuring women navigating in the Mediterranean in 14th century literary works. Second, it establishes who the women traveling in those waters are by asking why they travel and whether or not they themselves chose to travel. Above all, it examines the consequences of their travels on their lives. From here we arrive at the ironic title of this essay: “Mediterranean Metamorphosis.” When we wonder to what extent women have or have not been modified by their travels in the Mediterranean (the same body of water that men were constantly crossing), that sea changes from a “sea-in-movement” to a “sea-crystallized.” Women travel, leave home and return exactly as they were when they left, possibly because theirs was mostly a journey they had not chosen to make. Thus we arrive at the second part of the title, “Traveling Penelopes”: the situation of women traveling in the Mediterranean in The Decameron and “elsewhere” encompasses an illumination of a French manuscript of Boccaccio’s De Casibus, where Penelope is seen calm and smiling, working her spindle while her suitors are behind her killing each other. Therefore, most women travel in the Mediterranean paradoxically in a dimension of total immobility; no modification from who they are at their departure is foreseen. For the Mediterranean to be a “social space” or “a place of exchange and sharing”, a woman must be disguised as a man, like Zinevra and Camilla, or, like the Christian Gostanza from Lipari (Decameron V, 4). The Mediterranean in the 14th century is a dangerous place for women who have not chosen to travel in those waters, and remains a “social space” for men only.

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From Egypt to Umbria: Jewish Women and Property in the Medieval Mediterranean

This article compares the financial activities of medieval Jewish women in Italy and the Mediterranean. Contrary to Jewish legal tradition, which curtailed women’s financial autonomy, by the later Middle Ages communities across the region increasingly allowed women to manage their own dotal property, inherit property from a variety of sources, and engage in loan banking. An examination of the historical developments of some Jewish communities in Egypt, Spain, and central Italy suggests that this only occurred in times of communal crisis. Because all Jewish communities in the Middle Ages owed their respective governments a fiscal contribution or faced expulsion, money needed to be controlled by competent managers. In times of crisis, this could include women. Thus, in times of Mediterranean convivencia, Jewish communities flourished and followed their own laws, including prohibitions against female financial autonomy. This article argues that in times of disintegrating Mediterranean convivencia, however, Jewish women were able to actively contribute to the welfare of their community via their financial autonomy.

Legal Status of Jewish Converts to Christianity in Southern Italy and Provence

The presence of large numbers of unassimilated Jewish converts to Christianity in southern Italy and southern France in the later Middle Ages led to the creation of a legal anomaly as the neofiti (the New Christians) came to be regarded as a legal entity. At first, there was no special designation for this group, but in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries some official documents from southern Italy mention the term universitas neophitorum. Universitas, in the terminology of medieval legists from the twelfth century onwards, usually designated a group of people having juridical existence, and it was also used to denote “collectivity.” Universitas neophitorum can therefore be understood to refer to a group of converts forming a legal body. The present article supposes a causal link between mass-conversions, the ensuing doubts as to the sincerity of conversion, and the relegation of new converts and their descendants to the status of an unassimilated minority group regarded as a legal entity. Another common factor to be considered is the Angevin dynasty, who ruled Naples from the second half of the thirteenth century until the early fifteenth century as well as Provence in this period of time. Possibly, a tradition of adherence to Roman law played a role in the adoption of a legal concept to be acted upon instead of the exercise of other forms of discrimination against former Jews (such as was the case in the Iberian peninsula).

Battaglie navali, scorrerie corsare e politica dello spettacolo: Le Naumachie medicee del 1589

Many studies have recognized the political importance of Medici’s festivals during the age of the Grand Duchy. Starting from this assumption, this contribution intends to analyze certain 1589 wedding events from the perspective of Medici’s politics towards the Ottoman Empire and naval warfare against the Turkish corsairs. In particular, it focuses attention on the “Battle of Galleon,” which took place on April 25th, in Pisa along the Arno River, and the “Sea Battle” of May 11th, in Florence that was waged in the Palazzo Pitti’s Courtyard. From the comparison of official descriptions of these events with contemporary war chronicles, it is evident that scripts of both shows present a strict parallelism with real war practice. Besides, people who took part in them were effectively galley-slaves and seamen of Tuscan fleet. The similarity of these performances and their position in the Festival calendar (the first one right at the beginning, the second one at the ending) indicate an accurate strategy of communication from the organizers. They wanted to communicate an eminently political message, which was distinct from actions performed by Ferdinando I during his government: the increase of the fleet and the strengthening of the Santo Stefano Knights Rule, the improvement of Livorno’s seaport, and the intensification of the struggle against the Turkish corsairs at their strongholds.

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Mediterranean Pathways: Exotic Flora, Fauna and Food in Renaissance Ferrara

Noble courts in Renaissance Italy demonstrated their status, in part, through the collection of exotic foods and animals. The greater the distance and expense of such items, the higher the status of the princely court. The Este rulers of sixteenth-century Ferrara mounted costly banquets in which luxury spices enlivened the dishes and confirmed the family’s high status among Italian principalities. Water buffaloes and rice both arrived at court via Mediterranean waters in the late fifteenth century, the former as a producer of cheese for the two most famous duchesses, Eleonora d’Aragona and Lucrezia Borgia, while the latter soon lost its status as a rarity unless garnished with rare and expensive spices brought through the port of Venice. The very evanescence of such displays only enhanced their value as indices of princely status.

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Bodies of Water: The Mediterranean in Italian Baroque Theater

In three seventeenth-century comedies by the Italian playwright, poet, actor and capocomico Giovan Battista Andreini (1576-1654), the Mediterranean Sea plays an ambiguous role, simultaneously separating and connecting families, peoples, cultures, and empires that are scattered around its shores. In these plays the Mediterranean cannot be thought of in geographical terms—i.e. as an ensemble of bodies of water—but rather as a scene of interaction, a stage upon which distance and difference are affirmed or overcome through dialogue, sometimes with surprising results. Embodied above all in the themes of piracy and slavery, on the one hand, and in the figure of the renegade, on the other, the function of the Mediterranean in La turca (1611), Lo schiavetto (1612), and La sultana (1622) is the subject of this essay.

Italy in the Modern and Contemporary Mediterranean

From Mare Nostrum to Mare Aliorum: Mediterranean Theory and Mediterraneism in Contemporary Italian Thought

This article surveys both the place of 'modern' Italy in the resurgence of Mediterranean Studies in the last decade and a half, and the contributions by Italian Studies and culture at large to the contemporary discourse on Mediterranean-ness. The author frames the discussion of recent scholarship by and about Italian Mediterranean-ness in a paradox: notwithstanding the role that 'Mare Nostrum' played in Italian identity construction and foreign policy (before, during and after Fascism), modern Italy is given very short shrift in current Mediterranean Studies. By contrast, over the past two to three decades 'Italy' has both confronted an unprecedented wave of immigration from the Mediterranean basin, and become almost synonymous with Mediterranen-ness in the global market of images. Responding to this paradox, the author argues, Italian scholars and intellectuals have been progressively transfiguring the Mediterranean from 'Mare Nostrum' (our sea) to 'Mare Aliorum' (the sea of the other).

Routes to Modernity: Orientalism and Mediterraneanism in Italian Culture, 1810-1910

This essay examines the way in which the cultural areas of “the Mediterranean” and “the Orient” interacted as geographical tropes in Italian discourses of modernity between romanticism and futurism. It argues that this relationship dates back to the emergence of a northern European romantic “Oriental Renaissance,” critical of the Italian Renaissance. The Oriental Renaissance proposed to move beyond the Mediterranean and towards the Orient and India in search of the roots of European civilization. This article explores the Italian response, which involved at first a revival of classicism within Italian academic orientalism and then a rehabilitation of the Mediterranean as the source of European civilization within anthropological mediterraneanism. It then goes on to explore how some of the anti-classicist and romantic tenets of the Oriental Renaissance were finally embraced by futurism through yet new orientalist and mediterraneanist narratives. The essay concludes that the discourses of orientalism and mediterraneanism in Italy created multiple notions of “the Mediterranean” and “the Orient” which interacted with classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, and that produced “routes” to an Italian modernity.

I nostri Saracini: Writing the History of the Arabs of Sicily

During the nineteenth century, Sicilian Orientalists wrote the story of Sicily’s domination by the Arabs and the Arabic-language culture of the Normans – centuries of eventful history that had been lost to the West because European historians could not read Arabic documents. In their histories, Sicilians identified an alternate origin for European modernity: the vibrant Arab culture of the medieval Mediterranean transmitted to the continent through borderland states like the Kingdom of Sicily. This essay examines the lives and scholarship of three nineteenth-century Sicilian Orientalists – Pietro Lanza, Vincenzo Mortillaro, and Michele Amari – who worked to articulate a Mediterranean origin for European modernity.

Verdi’s Aida across the Mediterranean (and beyond)

This essay considers Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aida and the context of its production and reception on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea. It starts from Edward Said’s insightful discussion in Culture and Imperialism describing Verdi’s work as pivotal to an understanding of both cultural and economic relationships between Europe and Egypt. Yet, this essay also counterpoints Said’s reading, taking into consideration Aida’s role in the construction of both an Italian and “European” cultural identity inside and outside Europe, as opera was “exported” to the colonies, allowing colonial elites to recreate a “European” atmosphere at the heart of such burgeoning metropolises as Cairo or New York. In this context, the multifarious incarnations of Aida featured in the essay open operatic representation to the contested space of the Mediterranean and, more widely, to voices from the margins of European modernity. First, accounts of the reception of Aida show an osmosis between European and Egyptian cultural productions; second, Aida’s representation of Italy’s future colony, Ethiopia, conflicts with the opera’s own endorsement of the Ethiopians’ fight for freedom; and third, the heroine’s black skin troubles the representation of the racial Other in an opera that is not ostensibly about the protagonist’s race. Following these apparently diverging aural routes, this essay identifies Aida as one of the master narratives for the elaboration of racial issues both in Italy and beyond and explores its potential to subvert given representations of ethnicity and gender through performance.

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D’Annunzio, la latinità del Mediterraneo e il mito della riconquista

Several studies have already highlighted the importance of D’Annunzio’s biography and work in the context of Italian colonialism and military interventionism. This article seeks to relate D’Annunzio’s interventionist thought to the national and international debate on latinità and Mediterranean-ness, demonstrating its dependence on the collapsed duality life / art, which permeates the entire opus of the poet. Departing from the analysis of Merope, and analyzing the articles published by D’Annunzio in the French press in favor of Italy’s intervention in the Great War all the way to the pasquinate against the “barbarian” Hitler, the author argues that notwithstanding the influence of elements derived from both the French and Italian cultural milieux, D’Annunzio’s approach was fundamentally “personal” and based on the original combination of hagiography and mythography typical of his poetics. The poet utilized the poetic figures of Latinità and Italian Mediterranean destiny to re-elaborate and actualize Myth in a poetic-cultural perspective.

Tunisia, Contested: Italian Nationalism, French Imperial Rule, and Migration in the Mediterranean Basin.

This article explores the contradictions in Italy’s relationship with the Mediterranean basin, taking Tunisia as a focal point. Tunisia was a paradoxical case at the intersection of Italy’s foreign policy: it was a former Roman imperial colony with a strategic location, but it also possessed a large and vibrant Italian emigrant settlement, like the Italian “colonies” of Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo, New York, and San Francisco. This situation caused much confusion in debates over how Italy should develop its international influence. Faced with a choice of priorities, the Italians of Tunisia called for Italy to concentrate on establishing territorial colonies in the Mediterranean, rather than cultivating Italian emigration worldwide. In 1881, France surprised Italy by seizing control of Tunisia, skewing Italian policy and fomenting a sense of weakness and insecurity. Italy’s “loss” of Tunisia encouraged the belief that Italian imperial motives were more deserving and more sincere, and Nationalists used the wealthy and successful Italian community of Tunisia as a model of what Italians would be able to achieve in neighboring Libya. Fascist representations of Italians in Tunisia, however, finally discredited the Italian expatriates’ claims to rights and representation under French colonial rule. This case study thus illustrates how Mediterranean Europe and North Africa became enmeshed in multiple layers of competition and integration through trends in colonialism, migration, and the formation of transnational communities.

Italians and the Invention of Race: The Poetics and Politics of Difference in the Struggle over Libya, 1890-1913

This essay is part of a book in progress about Italy and Africa in the modern and modernist Italian literary imagination and cultural identity, from Gabriele d’Annunzio to Ennio Flaiano’s Tempo di uccidere (1947). It argues that racism, colonialism, and imperialism are not an incidental, minor (and thus, understandably largely forgotten) component of Italian identity and Italian history, but that in the final years of “Liberal Italy,” they became increasingly a defining trait of the imaginary Italian national identity. As in the Risorgimento, literature and the literary imagination played a crucial role in this unifying process. In a nation whose wealth and growth after unification were effectively based on the exploitation of voiceless women and peasants and where parliamentary politics was soon reduced to cynical maneuvers, bargains, and intrigues, intellectuals, writers, and idealists had sought in vain a principle around which a strong sense of national identity and community could, however belatedly, take form. An imaginary construction of racial difference and the fashioning of an imaginary “Italian” ethnic national identity, contributed more than any other element to unify Italians and give them the sense of being “one nation.” The word and concept razza in this period, are not used just as another way of saying patria, but rather to forge the sense of an imaginary yet essential identity. This imaginary sense of identity could entice and include even those who, like women, Catholics, Jews, peasants, and Southerners, were (or felt) excluded or alienated from the humanist discourse and the paternalistic yet secular rhetoric of Italian Risorgimental patriotism. This new imaginary identity was constructed and reinforced increasingly by applying the debasing colonial logic of otherness outside rather than inside the nation’s borders. The creation of an imaginary racially different and inferior “other” on the other side of the Mediterranean finally allowed for an Italian identity to come together as never before. The Libyan war was construed largely as a literary fantasy and a utopian wish-fulfillment. It represents the culmination of a racial process of self-definition by Italians, through which the profoundly disintegrating internal differences of race, gender, class, and religious belief that threatened the very notion of a united Italy were at once repressed, forgotten, and surpassed. Through the racialization of literary discourse, poets and prose writers took, for the first time in the history of united Italy, an active political role that in some ways was even more influential than that of professional politicians.

‘Il faut méditerraniser la peinture’: Giorgio de Chirico’s Metaphysical Painting, Nietzsche, and the Obscurity of Light

From their first unveiling in Parisian salons in the early 1910s, Giorgio de Chirico’s Metaphysical paintings (1909-1919) set off a discursive pursuit of their putative geographic origins. On the occasion of a 1927 exhibition, the prominent Parisian critic, Waldemar George, suggested a new rubric under which to file de Chirico’s images – a way, perhaps, to reconcile their irreducible incongruities into one fold: “réalisme méditerrané.” In the wake of widespread confirmation of his supposed Mediterraneanness, however, the artist himself insisted otherwise. What, then, prompted his umbrage at the notion of his art as quintessentially Mediterranean? It was, it seems, a particular kind of Mediterraneanism at which de Chirico took offense, and from which he sought – even in his earliest writings – to distinguish his own work. It was the work of Friedrich Nietzsche that arbitrated for de Chirico an authentic Mediterranean vision, one corrupted – or rather, uncorrupted – through its popularization as a benign cultural commonplace. By de Chirico’s consistent admission, it was Nietzsche’s work that led him to paint of certain architectural spaces a particular, Mediterranean “Stimmung.” In seeking to flesh out the precise origins and resonances of that ineffable category, I address how Nietzsche’s insistence upon the Mediterranean as a philosophical model – rather than a mere subject or site – influenced the development of de Chirico’s Metaphysical paintings, and his pursuit of a certain pre-Socratic primitivism.

The Light and the Line: Florestano Di Fausto and the Politics of 'Mediterraneità'

The prodigious works of Roman architect Florestano Di Fausto have long been overlooked by historians of modern architecture. As a technical consultant to the Ministero degli Affari Esteri, Di Fausto designed and constructed numerous Italian diplomatic offices throughout Eastern and Western Europe, South America, and the Near East. But he is most recognized for his colonial urban planning schemes and government buildings from 1923 until 1940 in North Africa and the Aegean. His works in these divergent locales conferred an eclectic sensibility to an already complex negotiation of ancient and “modern” architectural forms present in Italy’s colony of Libya as well as in the Dodecanese Islands. Furthermore, the range of projects Di Fausto completed in both settings attests to Italian modernism’s engagement with arabisances in the reworking of colonial architecture and urbanism. His designs must be seen as a counterpoint to other European modernists of the period who sought to remove any lingering symbols of the past from their plans, façades, and interiors. This article situates Florestano Di Fausto’s output within the aesthetic and socio-political discussions among Italian architects of the period, especially concerning an inherent italianità among Mediterranean vernacular architectures. In this regard, the Mediterranean is understood not as a space of resistance but as a filter through which architects like Di Fausto and others generated a new Italian architecture, free from the often restrictive tendencies found on the peninsula.

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Italian Women Writers and the Fascist 'Politica Islamica' in Colonial Libya

This article considers the ways in which Fascist Italy imagined itself in relation to the southern Mediterranean, and specifically its perceptions of Muslim culture in Italian colonial Libya. Examining Augusta Perricone Violà’s 1932 novel Il rogo tra le palme, it shows how Italian women writers appropriated the 'politica islamica' that characterized various Italian visions of Muslim-Italian relations in the 1930s. Just as the 'politica islamica' imagined Italian relationships to Islam as a form of collaboration based upon shared values and the common goal of a highly idealized Muslim-Italian society, women writers at this time also imagined new relations of Muslim-Italian cultural kinship. This sense of cultural commonality, which typified Italian discourses of the late 1920s and 1930s, can be seen in the way that Perricone Violà’s novel turns to Islam as an important allegorical source of Italian women’s self-fashioning. While past scholarship has focused on the way Italian fascist women emulated Muslim women as exemplary mothers, here it is argued that this novel offers a more dynamic cultural imaginary.

Latter-day Levantinism, or ‘Polypolis’ in the Libretti of Bernard de Zogheb

This article analyzes the articulations of “Levantinism” as a cultural formation through a discussion of the libretti by the Alexandrian Syro-Lebanese writer and artist Bernard de Zogheb (b. 1924-d. 1999). While Levantinism, like the cultural formation Mediterraneanism, exceeds any geographical delimitations, it began its adjectival life as a derogatory colonial term applied by Europeans to the Eastern Mediterranean. Positing that the discourse of Alexandrian cosmopolitanism was largely Eurocentric in its multi-pronged appeal to Greek elements, the article suggests that “Levantine” was deployed to designate a colonial ambivalence towards that mimicry. An artist and librettist whose ethnic background firmly affiliates him with the Levant and whose diaries and letters attest to the tensions of coming to grips with that specific cosmopolitan formation, de Zogheb wrote his libretti towards the end of the colonial period and after. This article argues that these libretti, most of which remain unpublished, project a parodic Camp celebration of verbal mongrelization and gilded mores. Set to popular tunes and written in a lingua franca-like pidgin Italian that enmeshes French, English, Greek, and Arabic, the libretti’s labor is doubly self-legitimizing of homoeroticism and an elite Alexandrian-Levantinism. Attending to the various ways in which this is instantiated in Le Sorelle Brontë, Le Vacanze a Parigi, Malumulla ou Il Canale, and La Vita Alessandrina, the article also broaches the limitations of that aesthetic. Skirting close to auto-Orientalism, the libretti can only acknowledge but not fully engage the persistence of colonial tropes of Levantinism in what is now the North and the South of the Mediterranean.

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Migrant Identities from the Mediterranean: A Southern Italian vista

This article is based on “Communicating Migration,” a collective research project that is part of a wider program seeking to promote the economic and cultural revitalization of five townships in the Matese, a mountainous area northeast of Naples. The project has explored the phenomenon of migration in two of the localities involved, Gallo Matese and Letino, from a historical, geographical, and cultural point of view. Since the 1950s, these two villages have experienced substantial flows of emigration, leading to a subsequent crisis in the local, traditional economy and the abandonment of their town centers. The article traces the key concepts elaborated in the research, such as that of the archive, the relation between migration and memory, and the articulations of tradition and transformation generated by modernity and technology. The methodological background is drawn from an interdisciplinary formation, uniting anthropology, architecture, and philosophy, alongside artistic and literary expressions, all coming together in a critical cluster. The “southern question” and the centrality of emigration to the question is observed in some literary and dramatic texts, together with reference to Gramsci’s work on subalternity. As a site of emigration, and in more recent times also of immigration, the South of Italy, the south of the modern world, becomes part of a series of mobile landscapes interweaving with the Mediterranean. The shifting meanings of migration that make existing archival material problematic (Foucault, Bauman) become a pivotal part of my narration of migration in videos, music, guided and unguided interviews, territorial analyses, and digital interaction.

Il non detto, l'indicibile e l'esplosione: lettura incrociata di due scrittrici mediterranee

Silvana Grasso and Fadhila Chebbi are two “Mediterranean” writers. The visions of these women of the Mediterranean, represented both experientially and vis a vis their own writing highlight points of view that are unique and that actively and forcefully confront their status in their respective cultures. They write with great conviction, free from the notion that they may still be prisoners to ancestral chains that would bind them to their ‘heritage’ or places of ‘origin’. Their writings tend to oscillate between the realms of the personal, political and social, revealing a complex and cosmopolitan commonality in their approach to thinking and writing about issues of identity as they pertain to their shared cultural status as representatives of the Mediterranean basin. By reading and representing these two writers together, this article brings to light and puts at a crossroads two representations of Mediterranean-ness and the Mediterranean woman, by women—one a Sicilian novelist (Grasso) whose semi-autobiographical text Disìo (2005) features a tormented protagonist, the other a Tunisian poet (Chebbi) and recluse who is often misunderstood.

Tonnare in Italy: Science, History and Culture of Sardinian Tuna Fishing

Through a case study of a Sardinian tonnara, this article provides an interdisciplinary look at the science, culture, and history of fishing in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean Sea and the crystalline waters of Sardinia, in particular, are currently confronting a paradox of marine preservation. On the one hand, Italian coastal resources are prized nationally and internationally for their natural beauty as well as economic and recreational uses. On the other hand, deep-seated Italian cultural values and traditions, such as the desire for high-quality fresh fish in local cuisines and the continuity of ancient fishing communities, as well as the demands of tourist and real-estate industries, are contributing to the destruction of marine ecosystems. The synthesis presented here offers a unique perspective combining historical, scientific, and cultural factors important to one Sardinian tonnara in the context of a larger global debate about Atlantic bluefin tuna conservation.

Waste Growth Challenges Local Democracy. The Politics of Waste between Europe and the Mediterranean: a Focus on Italy

This article investigates the politics of waste from an Italian perspective as part of a European and Mediterranean space. Waste is a contested field where several ideas, interests and governance patterns have been producing different management models and, despite the European Union’s harmonization targets, “waste wars” continue. The division of North and South is often explained by the “Mediterranean Syndrome,” but the article challenges the view of South European countries as environmental laggards with weak environmentalist movements. Differences among countries are strong – Camorra’s waste traffic is an emblematic case – but the political spacing is more complex and requires a trans-scalar view. Historical legacies and geographical sets must be taken into account too. The modernization process however is dynamic, and three shifts have been detected as groups articulate more participatory governance of waste management.

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Italian Cinema About and Across the Mediterranean

The Corrupting Sea, Technology and Devalued Life in Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns

In much that is written about Sergio Leone’s “spaghetti westerns” – that genre of Italian cinema characterized by hyper-violence or cartoon-like formal properties or both – most critics invoke an Italian cultural rubric for deciding the films’ ultimate meaning. From the earliest critical readings of the “spaghetti western” that focused on Leone’s films as derived, cut-out copies of the mythic American westerns of Ford, Hawks, and Anthony Mann to the more recent attempts to locate Leone’s cinema within a more encompassing framework of native Italian visual tropes, Italian culture remains the final arbiter of acceptable interpretations. In the following essay, I take issue with that view by arguing for another perspective on Leone’s cinema, especially with regard to his first two westerns, Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. I do so by associating the conflict and violent acquisition of power depicted in the films with a semantic chain that needs to be thought through a notion of the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean functions as a kind of unconscious in Leone’s cinema, one that operates both visually and diegetically. The visual impact is made most clear in the barren mise-en-scene of these films, shot in southern Spain, which offers a dramatic counterpoint to the monumentality of the American Western. Diegetically, the Mediterranean figures in the ultimate dénouement of these films: the destruction of towns and the lives that inhabit them. This destruction is linked to the centrality of technology in Leone’s oeuvre, which, when inserted into a depoliticized setting such as the Mediterranean, leads to a radical discounting of life. Thus the Mediterranean appears in my reading of Leone not simply as hybridity or as “common inheritance” of all mankind as some would have it, but rather as fundamentally destabilizing for all political order.

A Cinematic Grand Tour of Sicily: Irony, Memory and Metamorphic Desire from Goethe to Tornatore

A palimpsest of multiple Mediterranean cultures, Sicily is a crossroads of civilizations and a provincial backwater, traditional and yet, from time to time and in particular milieus, modernist. This essay undertakes a journey into Sicilian cultural spaces, places, and traditions beginning with the enlightened travelers of the Grand Tour and ending with postmodernist wanderings along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. My approach weaves film and literature together in order to map the multifaceted Sicilian identities. The island becomes an image for a magnificent past and for a present of missed opportunities, both individual and collective. Among the works and artists discussed, Goethe’s Italian Journey, Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’avventura, Nanni Moretti’s Caro Diario, Giuseppe Tornatore’s Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, Roberto Andò’s ,em>Il manoscritto del Principe, and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s Il Gattopardo.

"ISTAMBUL KM. 4,253": attraverso il Mediterraneo di Pier Paolo Pasolini

Pier Paolo Pasolini's work transcends the boundaries of the Italian peninsula. His analysis on Italian folk and subproletariat culture extends as far as considering similar situations in the so-called Third World, which Pasolini identifies with the Mediterranean area. This article provides a detailed mapping of Pasolini's peculiar Mediterranean geography, a mobile, unstable geography, defined in this article through a careful reading of his films, novels, essays, and letters. Beginning with a comparison between Uccellacci e uccellini (1966) and its original screenplay, the author shows that the boundaries of Pasolini's Mediterranean - a space conceived as irrational, barbarian and primitive - are constantly de-territorialized and re-territorialized. The article focuses in particular on Pasolini's movies dedicated to ancient Greece, Edipus Rex (1967) and Medea (1969), both shot in Mediterranean countries like Morocco and Turkey and yet visually contaminated and re-invented through the use of Italian, African and Far Eastern elements. Pasolini's uniquely idealized Mediterranean becomes a multi-layered laboratory for his critique of the model of capitalistic development, which Pasolini believed was destroying all particular cultures, and a mental space to elaborate his own form of anticolonialist thought.

Lamento, ordine e subalternità in Salvatore Giuliano

In an interview with Sebastiano Gesù in 1991, Francesco Rosi claimed that, “the discourse on power includes in itself the sense of death.” By focusing on the cinematic representation of mourning rituals, I investigate the relationship between power and death in Salvatore Giuliano. Rosi’s mise en scène of mourning entails a complex intertextual play among a variety of cultural materials drawn from the history of art, literature, and Mediterranean popular traditions. Employing a theoretical framework based on the theorizations of Ernesto de Martino and Antonio Gramsci about mourning rituals and folklore, I argue that in Salvatore Giuliano the representation of women’s lament becomes an expression of “the subaltern.” To substantiate my argument, I examine two scenes from Rosi’s film, in which mourning plays two different functions. In the first scene, mourning rituals are performed by Giuliano’s mother on the corpse of her son, restoring a sense of sacredness to his dead body. In the second scene, mourning gestures give expression to the resistance of the Montelepre women against the abuses of power perpetrated by military forces against their community.

The Return of the Battle of Algiers in Mediterranean Shadows: Race, Resistance and Victimization

In late summer 2003, when resistance to the American occupation in Iraq acquired the profile of a war of guerilla insurgency through increased bombings and acts of sabotage, the office of Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict at the Pentagon designed and distributed e-mail flyers for those involved in “wot,” or the war on terror. The email with the cautionary heading, “How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas,” was an invitation to a special screening of the 1966 masterpiece film, The Battle of Algiers, by the Italian Marxist director, Gillo Pontecorvo. The U.S. government was not the only party interested in Pontecorvo’s classic, although it undoubtedly contributed in great measure to popular interest. The understandable paradox of such identifications remains that the film is largely known as a leftist film, particularly as a new-leftist film of the 1960s and that decade of anti-colonial struggle. Associated with Algeria’s independence, the Cuban revolution, Vietnam, the Black Panthers’ resistance movement, and, more recently, with the training of troops in Northern Ireland in their struggle with the British, Pontecorvo’s film has become the emblem of anti-colonial struggle and leftist leaning politics. Viewed as a pedagogical tool for understanding analogous conflicts in Iraq after September 11th, the film broadened its earlier spectator base to include those political groups not readily identified with either leftist or anti-colonial sentiment. This article explores the nature of those cinematic identifications. It examines how, specifically, in reportage surrounding the new release of the film, the turn to discourses of racial identification as a tactic of recognizance and surveillance was popular. Many of the critical commentaries published after September 11th in the wake of the film’s newfound popularity, even when critical of the Pentagon’s use of the film in its war on Iraq, evoked discourses rooted in an Orientalist tradition, referencing notions of a history of pan-Arab terrorism in opposition to the West and conjuring “Arabness” as a quasi racial category.

Mediterranean Passages: Abjection and Belonging in Contemporary Italian Cinema

Due to the confluence of economic and geopolitical circumstances, in the early 1990s Italy became a destination or transit point for large numbers of asylum seekers, refugees, and other aspiring immigrants who found their way to Italian shores aboard fishing trawlers, rafts, speedboats, or rusty cargo ships. Reversing the country's status as an emigrant nation, this phenomenon rapidly changed the demographic face of Italy and drew attention to the porousness of its maritime boundary. Although most immigrants no longer arrive by sea, images of Italy's "boat people" have attained iconic status in the national imaginary, lending to the ongoing representation of Italian immigration a distinctly "Mediterranean" valence. This essay explores a cluster of films made in Italy over the past eighteen years, films that feature images of illicit maritime migration and clandestine disembarkation. In contrast to the xenophobic tone that has often characterized the representation of immigrants in Italy's mass media, most of these films adopt an ostensibly sympathetic perspective on migration. Yet, at the same time, they resonate obliquely with older patterns of prejudice, including the traditionally negative attitudes expressed toward Italians of the South. Though conjuring up narratives of survival or redemption, emphasizing the humanity of the foreigner/immigrant, and allowing the protagonists to be heard in unfamiliar languages, the films that constitute Italy’s emerging cinema of migration reveal unresolved anxieties about the boundaries of the Italian body politic in relation to its internal and external others.

From the Other Side of the Mediterranean: Hospitality in Italian Migration Cinema

In the last twenty years, Italy has experienced an unprecedented influx of immigrants from non-European countries, which has posed challenges to its social, political, and cultural structures. In the tradition of Neorealist political engagement, Italian film directors have been among the first intellectuals to explore the issues that the increasing diversity of the Italian nation poses to Italians and foreign-born immigrants alike, beginning with Michele Placido’s Pummarò (1990) and Gianni Amelio’s Lamerica (1994). This article focuses on three more recent examples of Italian migration cinema: Marco Tullio Giordana’s Quando sei nato non puoi più nasconderti (2005), Vittorio De Seta’s Lettere dal Sahara (2004), and Mohsen Melliti’s Io, l’altro (2007). In each of these films, the Mediterranean is constructed as a transitional space of personal transformation, where identities are defined, alliances formed and conflicts played out. It is a privileged space of dialogue and encounter with the other, reasserting the relevance of “il suo statuto di confine, di interfaccia, di mediazione tra i popoli.” Through an analysis especially informed by Franco Cassano’s Pensiero meridiano, as well as Jacques Derrida’s notion of hospitality, and Slavoj Zizek’s understanding of liberal multiculturalism, the article shows how these films offer a critique of Italian societal practices and individual cultural attitudes towards otherness. The representation of the Mediterranean in these films, in particular, offers an opportunity to contemplate Europe’s own contingency, to experience and recognize the limits of its practices of hospitality toward immigrants. It is precisely this tension that which, according to Derrida, makes the perfectibility of laws and social practices, if not a political reality, at least a possibility.

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Strade, Muri, Terra, Città, Mare. Sud Italia e mediterraneità postmoderna nel cinema inizio secolo

The spaces of the city and its periphery have always been central themes in cinema. From its origins, throughout the silent era (Lumière, Ruttman, Vertov, Murnau, Vidor, etc.), and with the advent of sound, and the establishment of cinematic genres, the city remained a central subject, which the spectator followed throughout the course of the 20th century. In a certain sense, audiences watched cities grow and transform before them on the film screen. Italian cinema was no different. It had chosen the city as its semantic and iconic space, explicitly, at least, from Roma città aperta (1945). The question now, in the 3rd millennium becomes: How are the neometropoli and neoperipheries of Southern Italy, poised between Mediterranean modernity and post modernity, reflected in contemporary Italian cinema? This article focuses on three cities (and their provinces and peripheries) of this new South: Napoli, Bari and Palermo, examining the poetics of directors that straddle two generations of Italian filmmaking (Beppe Cino, Sergio Rubini), alongside members of the new wave (Matteo Garrone, Alessandro Piva, Andrea and Antonio Frazzi, Franco Capuano). The films that are examined at length are: Mio cognato (A. Piva); Certi Bambini (A. and A. Frazzi), La terra (S. Rubini), La guerra di Mario (A. Capuano), Gomorra (M. Garrone). This critical interdisciplinary work (between sociology and cinema) follows the development of a general theme, that of the new mediterraneità or meridianità (F. Cassano). At the connotative level, throughout the new Italian cinema of “the South” there is also an internal aesthetic of a new, neorealism. This article traces certain recurring themes— streets, walls, land and sea— that are often represented as complementary to, or in opposition to the city. And despite whether these films propose, at the level of conspiracy or plot, two opposing endings (happy and sad), between faith (Miracolo a Palermo, La terra) and resignation (Mio cognato, Certi Bambini, Gomorra), it seems that the search for a new mediternaneità underscores every narrative, demonstrating the need to weave a sense of meridianità (indigenous or foreign) that is open to mediation and negotiation.

Imagining the Mediterranean 1 - Texts and Translations

Italian Baroque Music in Malta: A Madrigal from the Music Archives at the Cathedral Museum in Mdina

The Mdina Cathedral Museum in Malta owns the most important collection of Italian baroque music south of Naples. The collection consists mostly of sacred music since it originated in the archives of the music chapel in St. Paul’s Cathedral, but there are also secular compositions reflecting the tastes of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who made their home on the island from 1530 to 1798. The museum’s musical holdings consists of 159 printed works by Italian seventeenth-century composers and over 600 manuscripts, some anonymous, of Italian and Maltese music. The number (33) of unique works, editions, or partbooks adds interest to the fund and makes it relevant to the history of Italian music with regard to the activity of music publishers – Roman, Venetian and Sicilian, in particular – who found in Malta a profitable market for their exports. The edition of a manuscript madrigal for tenor, bass and harpsichord continuo by a lesser Sicilian composer, Filippo Muscari, evidences the widespread, early baroque fashion for madrigalian duets started by Northern Italian composers such as Monteverdi and Grandi whose works are present in the Maltese collection.

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La collina delle vette gemelle. El-Alamein al-Alamain El’-Alamain al-Almin El-‘Alamên Tel-El-Alamein…: Un reportage

This text is comprised of twenty short prose segments that seek creatively to approach a historically overdetermined site, El Alamein, located about sixty-five miles from Alexandria, Egypt. What exactly do I mean by “approach”? I seek to grasp the sense of the physical reality of this desert site by the Mediterranean, and at the same time the multiplicity of stratified memories collected there as in a palimpsest. Rather than navigate the floods of ink spilled by historians, my text attempts to convey contemporary impressions of bygone days through the eyes of a visitor accompanied by a few of her friends. A visit to the monuments, and the events that may occur to anyone who sees these sites today with Egyptian drivers and guides, are also part of the picture. The text is meant to have a mobile structure, based on the technique of variation (most often employed in musical composition), so that the twenty segments may eventually assume for the reader a configuration different from the one momentarily assigned to them here. They try to tell the story of El Alamein as if El Alamein spoke for itself, through its sea and sand, and through the ghosts that still live in that strip of desert facing the Mediterranean. These are also prose pieces of “approach” in the sense that they try to get closer to the meaning of the story of those sites in the years of the Second World War, and to the meaning of going there in the summer of 2008. Therefore in a way they also constitute a kind of reportage.

Watery Graves

Written in the style of a seventeenth-century Jesuit sermon, “Watery Graves” (“Fluidi Feretri” in the original Italian) takes its title from a sonnet by Giacomo Lubrone, a distinguished Jesuit orator and poet of the period. The piece was inspired by the death of a group of young Senegalese who left Dakar or a nearby port for the Spanish Canary Islands on Christmas Eve in 2005. After drifting thousands of miles off course, the boat eventually ran aground off the Caribbean Island of Barbados. “Watery Graves” is an invective against the blindness of the wealthy and “developed” Western world that allows thousands to die in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the African deserts while claiming to safeguard the “European Fortress” against immigrants. As is typical of Baroque sermons, the text is also a pastiche, drawing on the Western literary tradition of maritime meditations from Coleridge to T.S. Eliot and Paul Valèry. The sermon was performed on stage at the Naples Theatre Festival in June 2008 with Massimo Popolizio in the role of narrator.

Imagining the Mediterranean 2 - Survey Articles and Work in Progress

From the Mediterranean to the World: A Note on the Italian “Book of Islands” (isolario)

The “book of islands” or isolario, a novel form of cartographic book combining maps and narrative-historical chorography that was first invented and initially developed in Italy during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, represents an engaging and not yet fully exploited resource for historians of literature and cartography. The genre’s importance derives in particular from the way in which its development reflects the shift from medieval or pre-modern place to early modern and modern space during the age of discovery. In fact, to trace the development and expansion of the isolario genre, “from the Mediterranean to the world,” is to witness a capital example in the history of cartography of what Edward Casey has described as “the remarkable elasticity of scope of the employment of cartographic images.” Masterworks in the genre produced during the High Renaissance, Antonio Pigafetta’s Primo viaggio intorno al mondo (ca. 1525), a first-person account of the Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation of the globe (1519-1522), and Benedetto Bordone’s Libro . . . nel qual si ragiona de tutte l’Isole del mondo (Venice: Zoppino, 1528), an encyclopedic print compilation of maps of “all the islands of the world,” together mark a watershed in the early modern history of space at the intersections of chorography and geography, of literature and cartography.

The Mediterranean Comes to Ellis Island: The Southern Question in the New World

Between 1890 and 1915, approximately four million Italians emigrated to the United States. The categories of the "Mediterranean" and the "South" played an important role in the way this immigrant population (the largest in the United States) was imagined, represented, and administered. These categories (among others) informed both scholarly discourse and public discussion of the "new" immigration and of the place of Italians and of other Southern European peoples in American society.

The Treaty of Friendship, Partnership and Cooperation between Libya and Italy: From an Awkward Past to a Promising Equal Partnership

Italian-Libyan international relations entered a new era when the two countries signed the Treaty on Friendship, Partnership, and Cooperation on August 30, 2008. The treaty allowed Italy to extend its interests into the southern basin of the Mediterranean in order to balance Atlanticism and Europeanism in the region. The treaty enabled Libya also to create a partnership with a northern ally that was until recently described as an adversary. In politics, however, there is no such thing as permanent enemies or absolute friends. This study focuses on Italian-Libyan international relations within the framework of the Treaty on Friendship, Partnership and Cooperation; and subsequently, a content analysis of the treaty's text reveals that political, economic, and cultural aspects represent new dimensions in the contemporary bilateral relationship. The convergence of national interests and the impact of globalization, among other elements, are among the crucial factors that prompted this new era of partnership between Italy and Libya. The treaty represents a new model of international relations between a northern ex-colonist country and a southern ex-colonized state. In time, from this example, relations between northern ex-colonists and southern ex-colonized states are expected to witness major changes that might lead to the establishment of equal partnerships and not just dependent relationships.

Mediterranean Transformations: The Frontier Apulia and its Filmmakers after 1989

The increased mobility in the Mediterranean area is strictly connected with the events of 1989. When Eastern Europe’s ideological borders were demolished, the Southern Italian region Apulia was relocated on the Mediterranean map, and from being on the periphery of the Adriatic, unexpectedly it came to occupy a new, centered place. This geographical repositioning inevitably turned Apulia into a free western frontier and an open shore for waves of migrants. This essay discusses the historical events, international political factors, and global economic interests that determined the new destiny of the region. Since the spirit of the frontier has always inspired writers and filmmakers, it was no accident that Italian directors have chosen Apulia as the set and setting for their new, human odysseys and modern heroes. In order to explain the reasons for the rich film production in Apulia, first, this essay presents the directors whose works contribute to the genre of films on migration and transit to and fro the different shores of the Mediterranean; and second, it analyzes a selection of films by Apulian directors portraying universal, human dramas through local, private stories.

Dall' Italian Manner alla modernità liquida. Relazioni artistiche fra alcuni paesi arabo-mediterranei e l'Italia

The relationship between modern Italian art and the development of easel painting and sculpture in the Mediterranean Arab world have hardly been explored by art historians; little is known about how much Italian artists and institutions have contributed to the formation of style, taste, and artistic consciousness, as well as specific techniques. The present study was started in order to trace the history and evolution of these artistic relations, and to delineate and evaluate their importance and significance specifically in the Mediterranean Mashrek (Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt). It was in this area in fact, that the interest for easel painting first emerged, exercising the deepest influence on the local cultures, and Arab painters of noteworthy talent and originality emerged who in turn trained a later generation of artists. After a preliminary discussion of the relationship between Italy and the Arab-Mediterranean world which addresses the perception of Italy by Arab intellectuals and artists and the very notion of “art” prevalent in the Arab world at the dawn of the modernist era, this study goes on to discuss the case of Lebanon. The initial contacts and exchanges occurred in fact with Lebanon, where Arab painters first emerged towards the end of the 19th century. After Daud Corm, who arrived in Rome in 1871 to study with Roberto Bompiani, as many as 82 artists are listed by the Association of Lebanese graduates as having graduated or studied extensively in Italy. Egyptian and Syrian modernism are then discussed, highlighting the many major artists who studied in Italy or, in Egypt’s case, were trained by Italian artists who had emigrated to Alexandria. The study concludes with a reflection on the complexity of the present situation, characterized by an unprecedented richness and diversity of styles and a “mixed,” updated artistic culture in constant evolution and transformation.

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