curated by Viviana Gravano and Giulia Grechi
“Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness,
but by the style in which they are imagined.”
Can we identify some distinctive characters, somehow resistant in time and space, defining, even partially, the identity of peoples cultures, nations? Collective identities are the result of a continuous negotiation, of a constant mutation and a tireless and complex imagination. As Anderson wrote, Nations historically defined themselves as imagined political communities, sovereign and limited within certain boundaries. However, often the construction of a collective “national” identity has gone beyond geographical boundaries of the nation, to engage other territories, whether cultural or material, other communities, becoming diasporic and disseminated. Often, in this process, many essentialized elements are drawn: stereotypes as fixed and immutable characteristic not only from an outside view to the community, but sometimes taken as significant in the same self- narratives, in a kind of self-exoticism, or voluntary and in some ways reassuring simplification.
Italian identity has been crossed by these issues since the political constitution of the Nation, through different historical periods, with important consequences in people’s life and daily practices. The definition of “Italianità” passed through dynamics of dispersion, inclusion/exclusion and integration, attempting to find a “public space” (both physical and imaginative), in which an extremely diverse community could recognize their belonging. The liberal state first, with its institutions and its bureaucracies; than Fascism with its ideology of a “new man”; the colonial period going through both of these periods of our history, helping to shape that external Other, from which better identify the self; then after the war, mass parties and the first republic, arriving to our contemporaneity, globalized and at the same way full of regionalisms and new brutal forms of racism, trying to deny with violence the intercultural dimension in which we are – inevitably and fortunately – surrounded. And at a popular level, how these political efforts of integration and imagination have been translated? It seems like the process of construction and recognition of a sort of “Italianità” have never ended its conflictual course.
Migrations have been a crucial element to constitute the complexity of this discursive construction. Immediately after the establishment of the Italian Nation, millions of Italians emigrated, beginning to outline an Italian diasporic identity both from a cultural and a linguistic point of view. During the Fifties-Sixties, the internal migration from South to North and then, during the Seventies, migrations to Italy from other areas of the Mediterranean and of the world confirmed how the idea of “Italianità” has always exceeded the geographical and cultural boundaries of the Nation. Not only relations with an external otherness, but also other issues make extremely complex the operation of identifying an easily definable concept of “Italianità”: the strong (and somehow still unresolved) internal otherness constituted by the “questione meridionale”, and today migrants and the “new Italians” (second, third generations) who are not yet considered citizens; the strong relationship with the Mediterranean cultures; language, gender, class issues; the pervasiveness and the peculiarity of religious matters; the strong regionalism resisting to national integration; the imaginary and the perception of Mafia in Italy and abroad. This fragmented and out of focus picture seems to make a synthesis attempt or ordered recomposition impossible and not desirable, and nevertheless all these facets give back the complexity of power relations at work in public and intimate representations of our culture. And from here, from this rough framework, we want to move our eyes on “Italianità”, in a partial and non-ordered way: not tracing its history but the stories, not identifying the species but the rituals and imaginaries, not drawing its borders, but following its trajectories, not thinking at Italy, but thinking at a wordly-Italy.
1 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities.