Clarissa Clo – Second Generations in Italy: Culture, Identity, and the Challenge of Citizenship
Please listen (above) to the Research Seminar given by Clarissa Clo on April 27, 2010. We also encourage you to subscribe to our CCIS Podcast and listen to all of our research seminars for free!
Begins at 2:00 in the Eleanor Roosevelt Administration Building Conference Room
Recent cultural productions by second generations in Italy offer an alternative and multifaceted representation of contemporary society while illuminating the impact and flaws of the current immigration and citizenship legislation. This multifarious body of work illustrates the range of creative resources adopted by young authors born and/or raised in Italy by immigrant parents. While migrant groups in Italy may be politically disenfranchised, culture, and popular culture in particular, is a site where many second generation youth explore and imagine new ways of identity and relation. The analysis of Italian culture and society provided by these authors is particularly insightful because they access it from the vantage point of a “diasporic sensitivity,” one that is simultaneously local and transnational. In particular, second generations have much to contribute to an understanding of how policies work to limit, instead of improving, individual lives and collective interests. This is especially interesting in the case of Italy where, given the substantial emigrant history of the country, citizenship is based on jus sanguinis. “Blood” (thus race) remains a determining factor towards naturalization and the current legislation not only continues to uphold a “familist” approach to citizenship, but it also allows for an ethnocentric prejudice in its application which favors descent or EU membership over birth on national soil, discriminating against those from other regions of the world lacking Italian or European pedigree.
I argue that second generations in Italy have important insights to offer to the discussion over citizenship at large. Their cultural productions place them at the center, and not on the margin, of debates over Italian nationality, culture, and identity in the age of globalization. Second generations are perhaps the best suited to critique the legal system on immigration and citizenship in Italy, not just because, unlike Italian (white) citizens, they are forced to deal with it frequently, but also because they are quite knowledgeable of the workings of these laws and their material ramifications. They are “experts” who transfigure their legal “street” knowledge into literature, music and art while at the same time playing an important role as cultural activists. Their creative contribution shows the complex ways in which current immigration and citizenship laws in Italy do not (want to) account for Black or hyphenated Italians, i.e. people of African, Asian, Latin American, and Eastern European origin. It is through reading and listening to these voices that it becomes possible to bridge the distance between the text of the law and its abstractions and the material – racialized and gendered – effects on those who are subjected to it.
Clarissa Clò is Assistant Professor of Italian and European Studies and Director of the Italian Program at San Diego State University where she specializes in Italian Cultural Studies. She received a Ph.D. in Literature from UCSD in 2003 and taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before coming to SDSU. Her research interests include feminist, migration, and postcolonial studies, film, music, and popular culture. She has published in Annali d’Italianistica, Diacritics, Diaspora, Forum Italicum, Italian Culture, Italica, Il lettore di provincia and Transformations. She has written on The Battle of Algiers, regional documentary filmmaking, music subcultures, circum-Atlantic performances, Italian American women writers, Mediterranean Studies, and contemporary and postcolonial literature in Italy.