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Memory, Identity and Migrant Generations: Articulating Italianità in Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Northern England through the Case of Kingston upon Hull


Owing to its geographical location and the collapse of its fishing and shipping industries, the UK city of Kingston upon Hull post-WWII rapidly acquired a reputation as a declining outpost of the British nation with no real links to the rest of the world. Yet, historically, Hull has always been a multicultural city that welcomed different migrant communities. Links with Italy, for instance, date back to the 1500s, as the recent ‘Italian Connections’ exhibition, held in one of the local museums, has shown. This exhibition was then also the opportunity to rediscover and reaffirm the existence of an Italian community in the city. This article presents a selection of stories from members of this community, which emerged during and immediately after the exhibition, as a means of exploring the nature of Hull’s historic Italian community and to analyse the extent to which an ‘Anglo-Italian’ identity emerges in this case. It focuses in particular on two case studies: the Coletta and Bottery families. Hirsh’s notion of post-memory and Bedingfield’s idea of trans-memory are used to investigate how members of these families view their Italian background and construct their identities, how memories are transmitted and “translated” across generations, which external factors impacted on their identity construction, and which image of Italy emerges from their recollections. Being able to discuss their family history matters to this group of people: they see this opportunity both as a mechanism by which to reaffirm their personal histories and heritage and as a way to uncover a hidden aspect of Hull’s past which can impact positively on the city’s future.

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