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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Another Map, another History, another Modernity

  • Author(s): Chambers, Iain Michael
  • et al.

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.

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