Postcolonial Italy: The Colonial Past in Contemporary Italy - abstract Dec 15,2009

full name / name of organization: 
Cristina Lombardi-Diop; Caterina Romeo
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Cristina Lombardi-Diop (Associate Professor, Italian Studies, The American
University of Rome),
Caterina Romeo (Assistant Professor, Gender Studies and
American Studies, Sapienza, Università di Roma)


In the last twenty years, the arrival of African, Asian, Latin American
and Eastern European immigrants has turned Italy from a country of emigration
into a nation that now hosts one of the most diverse immigrant populations in
Europe. This remarkable social change has given impetus to a consistent body of
emergent theoretical, scholarly, and cultural production that is contributing to
re-define Italy's contemporary culture. The often silenced experience of Italy's
colonial enterprise is also slowly surfacing through academic research projects
and path-breaking cultural works. At the same time, the attempt at contrasting
illegal immigration has resulted in increasingly repressive measures and the
alarming decline of human rights in the peninsula and at its borders. The
colonial past returns to haunt postcolonial Italy.

This new reality deserves attention and analysis. There exists a growing
literature on the new immigration in Italy and on colonial history, but up until
today there is no available volume in English or in Italian that systematically
combines the literature on immigration and multiculturalism, the colonial
experience, and the development of Italy’s cultural, political, and social
history in light of that experience. In the Anglophone world, the term
“postcolonial” – born out of the British social theory school – is now generally
used to define both a critical debate and a historical period that begins with
decolonization and includes the contemporary migrations from Asia, Africa and
Latin America to Europe and North America. In the Italian context, such term is
rarely employed to explore the historical continuum and cultural genealogy that
link the colonial past to contemporary Italy. Even less often is a theoretical
understanding of postcolonial studies encouraged which analyzes the specificity
of the Italian context away from the more traditional Anglophone paradigm.


The present volume intends to be a critical tool that can help address the
reasons why the term “postcolonial” is particularly problematic for Italy. In
the period between 1890 and 1943, Italy claimed colonial rights over Eritrea,
Somalia, parts of Libya, Ethiopia, the Dodecanese Islands, and Albania. Its
colonial military campaigns and settlement involved land expropriations, forced
removal of masses of people, the creation of confinement camps, ruthless and
inhuman military retaliations against resistance movements, the use of gas
against civilians, and institutionalized forms of apartheid and racism. Although
historians and cultural critics have been documenting the colonial experience
and its possible repercussions on contemporary Italy since the 1980s, no public
or academic debate has developed which openly and critically confronts the
colonial past, its removal from Italy’s public memory, and its lingering legacy.
Italy is far from being a postcolonial country that has reckoned with its past
and contemporary postcolonial Italy is still mainly understood in total
isolation from colonial history. 

Following critics (Shohat, McClintock, Loomba, Young) who have argued that
the prefix “post” followed by “colonialism” evokes the end of a phase, thus
erasing the existing continuity in postcolonial times between colonialism and
its effects into the present, we are aware of the important consequences that
this erasure implies. We advocate for an approach to postcolonial Italy that
reveals what has been silenced or is only marginally present in Italy’s cultural
history, as well as what is still unspoken in its postcolonial predicament. Our
notion of the “postcolonial” is grounded in the assumption that the economic and
cultural effects of colonialism are still present in many countries, including
Italy, predominantly in the way by which the imbalance of colonial power is
re-instated in today’s global world by the unjust treatment and exclusion of
migrants from developing countries whom are often denied access to human rights
and the privilege of global citizenship. Starting with the awareness that the
“post” in “postcolonial” signals continuity more than it does fracture, with
this volume we intend to develop a postcolonial analysis of contemporary Italy
that stems from the necessity of constructing a critical discourse rooted in the
specificity of Italian social, cultural and colonial history and


The editors wish to collect articles on colonial history, cultural
history, colonial and postcolonial discourse analysis, contemporary migrations
and the cultures they produce, postcolonial theory and practices, all in the
context of contemporary Italy. Although we welcome papers across a wide range of
subject disciplines such as the arts, the humanities and the social sciences,
the focus of this collection intends to be on Italian postcolonial
contemporaneity. For this reason, all articles should include a perspective that
enlightens the Italian present. A comparative dimension is desirable as long as
the primary focus is on postcolonial Italy.

We particularly welcome contributions that focus on one or more of the
following issues and categories:
• Colonial historiography
• Articulations
of Italian postcolonial theory
• Multiculturalism, Ethnicity,
• Meticciato, Hybridity: Historical and contemporary racism
• Italian
modernity and its colonial genealogies
• Exoticism, orientalism, and the
colonies in the collective imaginary
• Explorations/Travels from and to
• Re-readings of the literary canon in light of the colonial
• Inclusionary/Exclusionary colonial and postcolonial
• Contemporary cinema and colonial films
• Re-mapping of
spaces: Rethinking the idea of periphery/metropole
• Memory and quotidian
• Colonial and postcolonial practices
• Decentering the grand
narratives of Italian nationhood/cultural canon
• Colonial and postcolonial
• Anti-colonialism and resistance strategies in contemporary
• Subaltern Others of Italy
• New Perspectives on Italian
Anthropology and Colonial Sciences
• Colonial violence and its

Editorial process and deadlines

Papers will be selected on the basis of relevance and originality and can
have both a theoretical and an empirical focus. The editors will use a selection
of proposed papers to put forward a book proposal to a British or American
publisher. Although articles already published in other venues will be
considered, priority will be given to original contributions. In this case,
contributors must clearly state whether where, when, and in what language their
contribution has been published. All articles must be 6,000- 8,000 words in
length and they must be written in English.

Deadline for submitting an
Abstract (300-600 words) and a brief CV is Dec 15, 2009.
The author should
indicate the status of the paper (work in progress or near-completed work).

If a full draft version exists, please attach it. A tentative deadline for
submission of first drafts is June 30, 2010. Once articles are selected the
editors will circulate a complete draft of the manuscript to all contributors in
order to encourage cross-references and collective dialogue.

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