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Black Italy: Transnational Identities and Narratives in Afro-Italian Literature

ENGL 300.910
crosslisted as: ITAL 285, COML 284
instructor(s):
MW 3:30-7:20pm

This course focuses on how the migration movements to Italy, mainly from the Maghreb and the Horn of Africa in the ‘80s and ‘90s contributed to change Italy’s status and image. From a country of emigration to other parts of the world, Italy became—as many historians, geographers, and scholars have observed—an immigration site, playing a pivotal role in the African diaspora. In the shadow of Italy’s colonialist heritage (a past that Italy still has not fully confronted), these phenomena of mass migration challenge, complicate, and develop the notion of Italian-ness and undermine the fixity of an Italian identity in favor of multicultural and transnational identities. This course focuses on several Black Italian artists, writers, filmmakers, and activists of Somali, Eritrean, Tunisian, Ethiopian, and Egyptian origins (e.g. migrants or children of immigrants who were born or raised in Italy and children of mixed-race unions) who contribute to broaden the definition of Italian-ness and to challenge its racial, social, and cultural boundaries.

Students will analyze short stories, novels, documentaries, songs, blogs, journal articles by Igiaba Scego, Cristina Ali Farah, Gabriella Ghermandi, Medhin Paolos, Fred Kudjo Kuwornu, Amir Issaa, Amara Lakhous, Pap Khouma, and Kaha Mohamed Aden, among others. They describe their multicultural identities, their senses of belonging, their feelings for the place that is depriving them of foundational rights (such as citizenship or a legal status), their nostalgia for their homeland or the countries where their parents were born, their fights to find or create a social and literal space where being recognized not as foreigners or worse as “clandestini.” Their works offer an original, complex, and multilayered depiction of contemporary Italy and its social and cultural changes, where the African community is becoming larger and better represented.

Some questions this course will ask include: what are the historical and geographical components of blackness in Italy? How, if at all, have these phenomena of migration changed Italian identity? How do black Italians live within the context of anti-blackness? How do these Italian writers and artists relate to African American histories and experiences of diaspora? How can African Italian literature contribute to a deeper understanding of the Black diaspora in Europe and elsewhere? The course will pursue answers to these questions by exploring issues of race, color, gender, class, nationality, identity, citizenship, social justice in post- colonial Italy while drawing on related disciplines such as Geography, Mediterranean Studies, Diaspora Studies, Post-Colonialism, and Media and Cultural Studies.

Course taught in English. Course Material in English. There are no prerequisites for this course.