Italy Must Confront Its Past to Stave Off the Far-Right

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2016-05-13 01:47Z by Steven

Italy Must Confront Its Past to Stave Off the Far-Right

Diplomatic Courier: A Global Affairs Media Network

Fasil Amdetsion, Senior Policy and International Legal Adviser
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia

This year’s seasonal springtime rise in temperatures is expected to deepen Europe’s refugee crisis by bringing about a significant rise in the number of harried migrants approaching its shores. Italy, with its long and porous coastline, remains among the most severely affected countries; 15,000 people have sought refuge in the country in the past three months— a year-upon-year increase of 43%.

As is the case throughout Europe, increased migration has spurred a resurgence of anti-migrant and racist sentiment. In northern Italy, militant right-wingers have torched Muslim prayer rooms in refugee camps and frequently agitate against foreigners…

…Despite their best efforts, amorous liaisons between Ethiopians and Italians did not cease. By some estimates, between 1936 and 1940, 10,000 mixed children were born in Italian East Africa. This befuddled Fascist lawmakers who were unclear about how to treat such “illegitimate” offspring— were they to be considered locals or Italians? The solution to the legal limbo in which mixed race children found themselves was found towards the end of the Italian occupation. A law passed in 1940 definitively categorized mixed race children as “black.”…

Read the entire article here.

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New Generation Thinkers: The Moor of Florence – A Medici Mystery

Posted in Audio, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2016-04-23 20:50Z by Steven

New Generation Thinkers: The Moor of Florence – A Medici Mystery

Free Thinking
BBC Radio 3

2015 Festival, The Free Thinking Essay

For over 400 years it’s been claimed that the first Medici Duke of Florence was mixed race, his mother a slave of African descent. Catherine Fletcher of Swansea University asks if this extraordinary story about the 16th-century Italian political dynasty could be true. Or do the tales of Alessandro de’ Medici tell us more about the history of racism and anti-racism than about the man himself?

The New Generation Thinkers are the winners of an annual scheme run by the BBC and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to find academics at the start of their careers who can turn their research into fascinating broadcasts.

The Essay was recorded in front of an audience at the Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead. If you want to hear Catherine Fletcher discussing her research you can download the Essay and conversation as an Arts and Ideas podcast.

Producer: Jacqueline Smith.

Listen to the lecture (00:14:40) here.

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Fear of Small Numbers: «Brown Babies» in Postwar Italy

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Media Archive, Women on 2016-04-01 03:06Z by Steven

Fear of Small Numbers: «Brown Babies» in Postwar Italy

Volume XVIII, Number 4, October-December 2015
pages 537-568
DOI: 10.1409/81438

Silvana Patriarca, Professor of History
Fordham University: The Jesuit University of New York

By drawing in an interdisciplinary fashion on a variety of different sources (some of them archives only recently made available to the public), the essay examines the way children of Italian women and non-white Allied soldiers born in Italy during WWII and in its immediate aftermath were racialized and treated in the postwar years. It shows significant continuities between pre- and postwar ideas about race and «racial hybrids» in various segments of the Italian population and argues that these children were considered a «problem» in spite of their small numbers (rather as happened in Germany and Great Britain in the same years). Because of their origin in «illegitimate» relations, either consensual or forced, and because of the color of their skin, they often encountered hostility and contempt and were seen as not really belonging in the national community even though they were almost always Italian citizens in virtue of ius soli. The Italian case, however, has its own specificity, namely the extent to which prominent figures of the Catholic world, at times former supporters of fascism, were involved in trying to «solve» this socalled «problem». The vicissitudes of these children show the need to further investigate the history of racism in the Italian democratic Republic.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Professor Silvana Patriarca’s Research on Race and Nation in Post World War II Italy

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Media Archive, United States on 2016-04-01 02:52Z by Steven

Professor Silvana Patriarca’s Research on Race and Nation in Post World War II Italy

History at Fordham University
Fordham University: The Jesuit University of New York

Aurora Pfefferkorn

Dr. Silvana Patriarca

Professor Silvana Patriarca is a faculty member in the Fordham University History department and specializes in modern Italian history. She is currently exploring the interaction between ideas of nation and “race” and working on a book about the history of racism in post-World War II Italy. Her new book will focus on “mixed-race” children born in Italy during the Allied occupation. These children were born to Italian mothers and non-white Allied soldiers, and were highly racialized in the post-war period.

Dr. Patriarca had initially started her research with a different topic in mind, but became interested in the post-war period when she discovered a lack of scholarship about race and racism in Italy after 1945. She began to focus on the experiences of mix-raced Italian children when she came across a 1961 Italian anthropometric study of a group of mixed-race children born during and right after WWII. The children had been measured in all sorts of invasive way to determine the physical, intellectual, and psychological traits that distinguished them, as if they were a group apart from a racial standpoint. “I found the book offensive and asked myself what do we know about the experiences of these children? I wondered what happened to them at that time and after [these studies were finished]?” Dr. Patriarca said. She saw these racial studies as linked to the large issue of Italian identity, the war experience, and the trauma of defeat. Fascist and racist ideas still circulated throughout Italy after World War II and permeated the scientific community especially. “Of course mentalities are slow to change,” Dr. Patriarca explained “It was troubling that many historians could still not see the intersection of nation and race in the postwar period and the lingering effects of fascism and racism on national identity.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Race and Narrative in Italian Women’s Writing Since Unification

Posted in Books, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Women on 2013-09-04 21:29Z by Steven

Race and Narrative in Italian Women’s Writing Since Unification

Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
July 2013
127 pages
ISBN: 9781611475999

Melissa Coburn, Assistant Professor of Italian and Italian Program Director
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Race and Narrative in Italian Women’s Writing Since Unification explores racist ideas and critiques of racism in four long narratives by female authors Grazia Deledda, Matilde Serao, Natalia Ginzburg, and Gabriella Ghermandi, who wrote in Italy after national unification. Starting from the premise that race is a political and sociohistorical construction, Melissa Coburn makes the argument that race is also a narrative construction. This is true in that many narratives have contributed to the historical construction of the idea of race; it is also true in that the concept of race metaphorically reflects certain formal qualities of narration. Coburn demonstrates that at least four sets of qualities are common among narratives and also central to the development of race discourse: intertextuality; the processes of characterization, plot, and tropes; the tension between the projections of individual, group, and universal identities; and the processes of identification and otherness. These four sets of qualities become the organizing principles of the four sequential chapters, paralleling a sequential focus on the four different narrative authors. The juxtaposition of these close, contextualized readings demonstrates salient continuities and discontinuities within race discourse over the period examined, revealing subtleties in the historical record overlooked by previous studies.

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Ethnic Identity Problems and Prospects for the Twenty-first Century – Fourth Edition

Posted in Africa, Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa, United States on 2013-07-13 22:27Z by Steven

Ethnic Identity Problems and Prospects for the Twenty-first Century – Fourth Edition

AltaMira Press
June 2006
436 pages
7 x 9 1/4
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-7591-0972-8
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-7591-0973-5

Edited by:

Lola Romanucci-Ross, Professor Emerita of Family and Preventive Medicine
University of California, San Diego

De George A. Vos (1922-2010), Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
University of California, Berkeley

Takeyuki Tsuda, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Arizona State University

In this thoroughly revised fourth edition, with ten new chapters, the editors provide thought-provoking discussions on the importance of ethnicity in different cultural and social contexts. The authors focus especially on changing ethnic and national identities, on migration and ethnic minorities, on ethnic ascription versus self-definitions, and on shifting ethnic identities and political control. The international group of scholars examines ethnic identities, conflicts and accommodations around the globe, in Africa (including Zaire and South Africa), Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, the United States, Thailand, and the former Yugoslavia. It will serve as an excellent text for courses in race & ethnic relations, and anthropology and ethnic studies.

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Who Was the 1st Black Duke?

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2013-05-28 20:20Z by Steven

Who Was the 1st Black Duke?

The Root

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor of History
Harvard University

Porträt des Alessandro de Medici by Pontormo, 1534-1535

100 Amazing Facts About the Negro: Meet the scion of a legendary Italian dynasty.

Editor’s note: For those who are wondering about the retro title of this black-history series, please take a moment to learn about historian Joel A. Rogers, author of the 1934 book 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof, to whom these “amazing facts” are an homage.

I discovered the answer to the question above while visiting the Walker Art Museum’s exhibition “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe,” now at Princeton University. I was astonished when I encountered Bronzino’s “Portrait of Duke Alessandro de’ Medici,” a mulatto by the sight of him who, the exhibit claimed, also happened to be a member of one of the most powerful families in history and the first Duke of Florence almost 500 years ago! 

Fascinated, I hurried home to see if Joel A. Rogers had included him in his various compilations of famous black people, many of whom were mixed race, liked this man appeared to be. Sure enough, Rogers listed him both in his 100 Amazing Facts and in Volume II of his The World’s Great Men of Color. His conclusion startled me: “That Alessandro was a tyrant there is no doubt whatever,” a remarkably frank assessment from Rogers, who had a tendency to romanticize the achievements of just about every person of even the proverbial “one drop” whom he discovered hidden in the shadows of world history. I wanted to know more about this man. Here are the highlights of what I learned.

A Pivotal Potentate

Like the first black president of Mexico, Vicente Guerrero, and our first black president, Barack Obama, Alessandro de’ Medici (1511-1537)—the first black head of state in the history of the modern Western world—was a mulatto. He was the son of an African slave and one of two Medici males, either a duke or a future pope. With the latter’s blessing, Alessandro served as duke himself—of Florence—from the age of 19 to his assassination at age 26 at the hands of his cousin. The reason the cousin gave: Alessandro was a tyrant out of step with his times, a military ruler in a republican age…

Read the entire article here.

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Africa in Europe: Studies in Transnational Practice in the Long Twentieth Century

Posted in Africa, Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, Europe, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2013-03-06 17:02Z by Steven

Africa in Europe: Studies in Transnational Practice in the Long Twentieth Century

Liverpool University Press
January 2013
304 pages
Illustrations: 8 colour plates, 12 black and white illustrations
234 x 156 mm
Hardback ISBN: 9781846318474

Edited by:

Eve Rosenhaft, Professor of German Historical Studies
University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

Robbie Aitken, Senior Lecturer in History
Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom

This volume explores the lives and activities of people of African descent in Europe between the 1880s and the beginning of the twenty-first century. It goes beyond the still-dominant Anglo-American or transatlantic focus of diaspora studies to examine the experiences of black and white Africans, Afro-Caribbeans and African Americans who settled or travelled in Germany, France, Portugal, Italy and the Soviet Union, as well as in Britain. At the same time, while studies of Africans in Europe have tended to focus on the relationship between colonial (or former colonial) subjects and their respective metropolitan nation states, the essays in this volume widen the lens to consider the skills, practices and negotiations called for by other kinds of border-crossing: The subjects of these essays include people moving between European states and state jurisdictions or from the former colony of one state to another place in Europe, African-born colonial settlers returning to the metropolis, migrants conversing across ethnic and cultural boundaries among ‘Africans’, and visitors for whom the face-to-face encounter with European society involves working across the ‘colour line’ and testing the limits of solidarity. Case studies of family life, community-building and politics and cultural production, drawing on original research, illuminate the transformative impact of those journeys and encounters and the forms of ‘transnational practice’ that they have generated. The contributors include specialist scholars in social history, art history, anthropology, cultural studies and literature, as well as a novelist and a filmmaker who reflect on their own experiences of these complex histories and the challenges of narrating them.


  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Illustrations
  • List of Abbreviations
  • List of Contributors
  • 1. Introduction / Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken
  • I. Enacting Identity: Individuals, Families and Communities
    • 2. Prince Dido of Didotown and ‘Human Zoos’ in Wilhelmine Germany: Strategies for Self-Representation under the Othering Gaze / Albert Gouaffo
    • 3. Schwarze Schmach and métissages contemporains: The Politics and Poetics of Mixed Marriage in a Refugee Family / Eve Rosenhaft
    • 4. ‘Among them Complicit’? Life and Politics in France’s Black Communities, 1919–1939 / Jennifer Anne Boittin
    • 5. ‘In this Metropolis of the World We Must Have a Building Worthy of Our Great People’: Race, Empire and Hospitality in Imperial London, 1931–1948 / Daniel Whittall
  • II. Authenticity and Influence: Contexts for Black Cultural Production
    • 6. Féral Benga’s Body / James Smalls
    • 7. ‘Like Another Planet to the Darker Americans’: Black Cultural Work in 1930s Moscow / S. Ani Mukherji
    • 8. ‘Coulibaly’ Cosmopolitanism in Moscow: Mamadou Somé Coulibaly and the Surikov Academy Paintings, 1960s–1970s / Paul R. Davis
    • 9. Afro-Italian Literature: From Productive Collaborations to Individual Affirmations / Christopher Hogarth
  • III. Post-colonial Belonging
    • 10. Of Homecomings and Homesickness: The Question of White Angolans in Post-Colonial Portugal / Cecilie Øien
    • 11. Blackness over Europe: Meditations on Culture and Belonging / Donald Martin Carter
  • IV. Narratives/Histories
    • 12. Middle Passage Blackness and its Diasporic Discontents: The Case for a Post-War Epistemology / Michelle M. Wright
    • 13. Black and German: Filming Black History and Experience / John Sealey
    • 14. Excavating Diaspora: An Interview Discussing Elleke Boehmer’s Novel Nile Baby / John Masterson with Elleke Boehmer
    • 15. Afterword / Susan Dabney Pennybacker
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Equivocal Subjects: Between Italy and Africa—Constructions of Racial and National Identity in the Italian Cinema

Posted in Books, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2013-02-09 15:58Z by Steven

Equivocal Subjects: Between Italy and Africa—Constructions of Racial and National Identity in the Italian Cinema

Bloomsbury Continuum
328 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9781441190437

Shelleen Greene, Assistant Professor of Digital Studio Practice and Theory
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

A thorough study of the portrayal of race in Italian cinema, from the silent era to the present, illuminating issues in contemporary Italian society.

Equivocal Subjects puts forth an innovative reading of the Italian national cinema. Shelleen Greene argues that from the silent era to the present, the cinematic representation of the “mixed-race” or interracial subject has served as a means by which Italian racial and national identity have been negotiated and re-defined. She examines Italy’s colonial legacy, histories of immigration and emigration, and contemporary politics of multiculturalism through its cultural production, providing new insights into its traditional film canon.

Analysing the depiction of mixed-race subjects from the historical epics of the Italian silent “golden” era to the contemporary period, this enlightening book engages the history of Italian nationalism and colonialism through theories of subject formation, ideologies of race, and postcolonial theory. Greene’s approach also provides a novel interpretation of recent developments surrounding Italy’s status as a major passage for immigrants seeking to enter the European Union. This book provides an original theoretical approach to the Italian cinema that speaks to the nation’s current political and social climate.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: From “Making Italians” to Envisioning Postcolonial Italy
  • Chapter 2: From Meticci and the “Challenging Realisms” of the Colonial Melodrama to a Postcolonial Consciousness
  • Chapter 3: The Negotiation of Interracial Identity, Citizenship and Belonging in the Post-War Narrative Film and Beyond
  • Chapter 4: Transatlantic Crossings: Re-encountering Blackness in the Cinema of the “Economic Miracle”
  • Chapter 5: Zummurud in her Camera: Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Global South in Contemporary Italian Film
  • Conclusion
  • Filmography
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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There are Italians with black skin

Posted in Articles, Europe, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, Social Work, Teaching Resources on 2011-10-28 21:13Z by Steven

There are Italians with black skin

Africa News

Stephen Ogongo

Interview with Sabrina Jacobucci, President of Association of Afro-Italian Children

To be black and Italian at the same time is a new reality the Italian society is still struggling to accept.  Adoption and increase in the number of mixed marriages between Italians and Africans are gradually leading to an increase in the number of Black Italian children, the so-called Afro-Italians.  But the Italian society seems unprepared to cater for the social and educational needs of these children.  In this exclusive interview with Africa News, Ms. Sabrina Jacobucci, aka Flora NW, President of the Association of Afro-Italian Children, reveals the reasons that led to the foundation of the Association, the problems mixed heritage children face in the country, and suggests what should be done to make the education system more responsive to the needs of mixed heritage children.

Sabrina, please share with us the story behind the formation of the Association of Afro-Italian Children.

The Association was initiated by an Italian mother of two mixed-race children born abroad, who, when returning to Italy, started to express the need of meeting other black children since they were the only black children in school, in their block, whenever they went to the park or to after school activities. They started to ask: why aren’t there children like us on TV or on advertisements?  The Italian mother started to look for a group where children could meet other black children, but could only find associations of various migrant communities, or churches which catered for the Nigerian, or the Congolese or the Ghanaian and so forth.  The children could not, though, identify with any ethnic or migrant community in particular, being black Italians. So to answer the children’s need to see themselves represented, this woman started to look for other parents of black or mixed-race children to set up a group where the kids could, at least once a month, meet and feel stronger, in a society where to be black is often neither appreciated nor valued.

When was it founded?

A couple of years ago.

Who was involved?

I, the white Italian mum of Black Italian daughters (who also share an English, Nigerian and Jamaican mixed parentage), had the idea of setting up a group where my children could meet other Afro-Italian children. I thought gathering other parents of black children willing to meet would be easy.

Unfortunately, the number of black and mixed-race children is very low in Rome, especially in my area. So I started to “advertise” on the web, first of all on, a site which has a rich forum where a number of mothers of children having a Senegalese father write. But most of them weren’t from Rome. So I wrote to other parents’ forum, but they were attended mostly by parents of white children. And then, on one of these forums, I met the adoptive mum of a girl of Nigerian parentage, who shared the same need as mine. We were then joined by other adoptive and biological parents of black and mixed-race children, thanks to the website I manage, where I announce our meetings and other activities…

…From your experience, in Italy, are mixed heritage children facing different problems from those of other children?

Mixed race children often face the same issues black mono-heritage children face. No matter their skin tone, they are seen as black and therefore it is healthier and more empowering for them to identify as such, without denying their dual heritage at the same time. A racist is not going to ask them whether they are mixed-race. And yes, black and mixed race children definitely face different problems from those of white children…

Do you think the education system in Italy fully caters for the needs of mixed heritage children?

I don’t think so. I don’t think the education system has even started to consider or understand the needs of mixed heritage children or of black children for that matter. They are invisible to the system because they are not even seen as a group. Also, mixed heritage is a concept that encompasses too broad a category. Our experience is that of parents of mixed-race children, black/white, and as such they face the same problems of institutional racism embedded in the education system black “mono-heritage” children face. I think that to separate mixed-race children from the black children amounts to “fractioning” the black community, and at this moment, when the community needs unity and strength, is not advisable…

Read the entire interview here.

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