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L'Italia Meticcia: Being and Belonging in the Black Mediterranean

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In L’Italia Meticcia: Being and Belonging in the Black Mediterranean, I examine the oft marginalized corpus that includes migration, postcolonial East African and Black Italian writings to affirm ontologies of blackness in the wake of widespread dispossession of Black and migrant livelihood in Italy. I examine literary, historical, and geographical sites to generate multiple approaches useful to the broad mandate of Black Studies including grappling with the dialectical conceits of citizenship and nonbelonging. I respond critically to proliferating scholarship on postcolonial and Black Europe as well as concerns with the variegated movements of peoples, cultures, and ethnoracial categories. This dissertation is informed by the turn to creolization in Caribbean Studies, the turn towards mixed identities and hybridity in Queer and Postcolonial Studies, the incisive attention to history in Black Studies, and the postcolonial turn in Italian Studies. Throughout the dissertation, I offer close readings of texts within the categories of migration and postcolonial literature written in Italian by writers of African descent or origin. These readings focus on representations of blackness, femininity, and mobility in 20th and 21st century Italophone literature.

“Where Blackness Meets the Sea” introduces the terms and stakes of my intervention, which are further discussed in the following chapter, “Black Italianità.” Together, these chapters examine the legal, literary, and historiographical aporias in the common narration of Italy’s history in relation to its Mediterranean identity and its African colonies. In Chapter Two, I analyze a story by Igiaba Scego, an Italian writer of East African descent, with an analysis of how regimes of race and gender from the periods of Italian unification and colonialism are reflected in the present. I offer an analysis of the lived experience of belonging to or “feeling Italian” versus “feeling Somali” or Black. I contextualize this reading a discussion of current citizenship laws and the differing implications within Italian imperialism of discourses of “outsiderness” as they intersect with the phenomena of Italian migration.

In “Scenes of Meticciato,” I proffer a theory of meticciato, a term roughly translated as “mixed,” and one whose nuance and complexity I explore in relation to particular fascist and colonial configurations in the Italian legal and historical contexts. I analyze meticciato as a narrative framework, as a legally-codified historico-biological category, and as a contemporary cultural experience. Reading the works of Italian women writers of East African descent, I attend to discourses on mixed racial and religious identities and argue that the syncretic sphere of the Mediterranean undermines the construction of whiteness as the assumed requirement to citizenship and cultural belonging in Italy, and thus, in Europe.

“New Representation Regimes” discusses the potential for radical futurity in postcolonial and Black Italian literature. I discuss the collectively and often anonymously written literature known as “New Italian Epic” to consider the regulation of queerness, Blackness, and collective identity as constitutive components of the polyvalent meticciato that comprises and reconfigures the Mediterranean. By complicating an analysis of the literary production of marginalized writers in Italy with keen attention to the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, class, history, and geography, this dissertation contributes to a thriving and urgent conversation around postcolonial Italian literary criticism and concerns about Italian sociopolitics and citizenship taking places in different fields, ranging from Italian studies, comparative literature, migration studies, Mediterranean studies, queer and gender studies, cultural studies, and postcolonial studies.

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This item is under embargo until September 21, 2024.