New World Italians: The Invention of a Brazilian Identity
Today São Paulo has the largest concentration of people descended from Italians outside of Italy, the result of an aggressive plan formulated by Brazilian elites in the 19th century to whiten the country through subsidized migration from Europe. New World Italians: The Invention of a Brazilian Identity focuses on the cultivation and exploitation of myths of Italian cultural, economic, and racial superiority in writings by Italian and Brazilian literary artists, politicians, and journalists in order to argue that Italians first became recognized as modern Europeans in the city of São Paulo. I trace the production of what I call “New World Italian” discourse in sources ranging from Italian travel accounts of Brazil to the works of São Paulo’s literary modernists, and from the autobiographies of Italo-Brazilian fascists to the pamphlets of Black Brazilian intellectuals. De-centering Italy altogether as the cynosure of Italian identity formation, my book project advances an innovative framework for understanding Italian cultural identity while expanding and challenging notions of nationality, modernity, and race.
Transnational Italian Studies Working Group
We are an interdisciplinary group of scholars collectively rethinking Italian language, literature, culture and history from a transnational perspective. We focus on multiple research areas – empire, diaspora, migration, travel, translation, multilingualism, colonial history, postcolonial culture and critical tourism studies – and on the many ways these intersect. Our interest in transnational research frameworks does not do away with the nation as an epistemological category. In fact, we are interested in the many ways in which the “transnational” traverses putatively “national” histories and cultures, giving meaning to them. In our conversations, the nation is not an unquestioned a-priori against which we define our field of study. Instead, we investigate “Italy” as a hybrid, dynamic and fluid signifier whose meaning takes shape at the crossroads of transnational phenomena like colonialism and migration. In our blog, we show what teaching and researching Transnational Italian Studies may look like, and why it matters.