Italians and the invention of race (Lucia Re)


I liked this article very much (it seems like most of us did). The part on race studies  was the most interesting for me. A number of scientists helped shape the way race was represented. Lombroso’s “L’uomo bianco e l’uomo di colore was probably one of the most influential and gave a pseudo-scientific explanation for the superiority of whites. I found this link which is really interesting.  As I glanced through the pages I read a part in which he states that even the blood of blacks is different. He says that it coagulated immediately when drawn. Anthropologists today know that race is a social construct and that it’s impossible to determine a person’s “race” by blood or tissue samples.

I find it paradoxical that northern Europeans viewed Italians with the same prejudice that they used towards the Africans.  Sibilla Aleramo reference to Ferrero’s book in her novel Una donna surprised me.  In Prof. McMenamin’s class we read chapters of this book.  If the southern man who raped her was a different race (quasi orientale – keeping women secluded harem-style) it was her northern father who forced her to marry him. She was very attached to her father and her education was rather liberal for the day, as a matter of fact she was the first Italian woman to leave her husband and her son.

An excellent article that I will save and do research on many of the people she mentioned!

Link to digital copy of Lombroso’s book:


Italians and the Invention of Race

I really enjoyed this article, though I did find it to be extensive and, at times, a little repetitive. It focuses on many areas on which our past readings have focused. Those that stuck out in particular to me were those of the development of gender roles, specifically the role of women and their position of subordination to men. I also thought that it was really interesting the way in which the author describes this desperate attempt to define and enforce a national and racial Italian identity. It is interesting how important it was to have a racial and national identity with which Italians could connect, even at the cost of the racism it encouraged.

I really like that the author connects these themes and analyzes them with the use of examples in literature. I also found section 4 very interesting. The author goes in depth to explain the way in which religion had a place in the process of colonization, and how the racial and social segregations that defined their colonization in Africa came to include religious segregation.

Lucia Re Article

I really liked this article because it was seemed to me to be a culmination of the entire course and what we had talked about in relation to Italian colonialism. One part I found particularly interesting was the poems by d’Annunzio, “Canzoni d’Oltremare.” The “Canzone del sangue” caught my attention because of its religious imagery and the relationship to justifying Italian cruelty and torture of Arabs as a Holy War. These poems were published on the front page of one of the most important news papers in Italy, were interesting as propaganda because I had researched and studied propaganda for children earlier with Mical. This section also likens the Italian Colonization to the Crusades, by uniting the Arabs and Turks as infidels and heathens of against Italy. Very interesting considering I am also in a history of the Crusades class. Overall a very interesting article. Though very long.

Thoughts on Lucia Re

This has so far been my favorite article. Although I really enjoyed the articles on gender and the mixed-race, something about this article really struck me. I think that the way it was written was very well and that the author was very clear and concise in their argument. It was hard to disagree with the author because of their great writing style and there were not many gaps in the argument which made it much easier to follow and understand as it was developed.

I thought that the thesis of this argument pointed out a huge paradox in the history of Italians as people. The article points out how and why racism is a fundamental building block of the Italian identity and how the Italians did not have a uniting identity before they became very racist (during colonial times). A common enemy is known to draw two people together and that seems to be the underlying reason between the estranged halves of Italy uniting against their colonies. This, however, makes the entire concept of the “Italian brava gente” seem void and as if Italians are only going to be considered brava gente toward each other; not as brava gente toward others, but brava gente in comparison to “others” (name: Africans).

Comments on Lucia Re

Overall, I enjoyed the connections that this article made between the pieces of literature and the authors of them to what was happening within Italy as well as within Libya. Racism was definitely a key piece to each of these forms of literature and each of the authors had a message in some way. I thought that the author, despite the length of this article, proved their thesis very well and clearly showed how racism and colonialism were “defining traits of the Italian national identity.” (p. 8 )

My favorite example was that of Corradini and La guerra lontana. I liked how vividly the story was described within the article. This story was one that showed opposition to many elements but it also showed the “interrelatedness of nationalism with racism, anti-Semintism, anti-socialism, and anti-feminism.” Most of the time, I am skeptical of over-analyzing literature because sometimes the message we believe the author was trying to convey may not have been the message they wanted to promote at all. Here, there is no doubt that Corradini had a message in mind. For example, the part that stuck with me the most was the scene where the high school teacher tries to submit an article she wrote to the paper that Ercole runs. Corradini describes her as being ugly and manly and entirely too forward. She is not only denied but laughed at by the rest of the workers for Ercole’s paper.This is clearly an attack on feminism.

For some reason, La guerra lontana stuck with me while I read the entire article. I think it was simply because all of the elements that Re was trying to connect to the Italian identity were found within the story but also because the story had strong descriptions.

Pickering-Iazzi – Italian pioneer women

The need to recruit Italian women to colonize Africa after the “leggi razziali” required special strategies.  These women were meant to bring to the colonies the idea of settlement and home.  Very different from American pioneer women who had to face the unknown and many hardships, these women knew where they were going and most often the colonizers were treated to a Camelot where women only had to think of how to enjoy a “vibrant social life of pomp and circumstance” (p.209).  The problem of colonial architecture was to design plans for the colonies which separated the whites from the blacks.  Rava called the geographic separation a preventive measure so there would be no intermingling of the races.  Basically, “reverse ghettos” were created with boundaries to make the separation loud and clear.  Beautiful villa with gardens and servants were to give Italian women a lifestyle they could only dream of back home.  It must have sounded wonderful but I wonder why if 100,000 females enrolled in pre-colonial camps, fewer than 10,000 actually went to Italian East Africa.

The need to create colonial residences was meant to show Italian dominance and superiority but it was also a way to protect colonizers from locals.  The lifestyle offered to Italian colonial women appeared to give them power and make them feel responsible for the well being of the community.  With all of the comforts they were to have, the anxiety of moving to a foreign country was probably not reason enough to leave the homeland and start a new life.

Italian villa in Asmara

American pioneer women



Margot’s post on Mass Mediated Fantasies

This article came at a good time because I read it after having the discussion group on Regina di Fiori e Di Perle, which put me in a very skeptical place regarding the portrayal of what happened in Ethiopia. In the discussion group I argued that the book includes Italian colonizers who we can relate to, who are “good” Italians. The “bad” Italians in the book are all generals and high-ranking soldiers who we knew were “bad” before even reading the book. Ghermandi portrayed the “real” Italians who we understand as good people, therefore they were unaccountable for their actions.

Pickering-Iazzi talked about this unaccountability in her article. When she was talking about the transportation of the Axum obelisk back to Adddis Ababa, she described different rationales for this gesture. One that she mentioned which fits in with the idea of unaccountability is  that the emptiness of Piazza Capena (where the obelisk was housed) unburdens the Italians from the constant reminder of the fascist reign and the brutality they inflicted. Along with this, Pickering-Iazzi argued that the apologies by the President tried to erase Italy’s brutality from historical memory.

(re-erecting of the obelisk)

(an interesting article about Presidente Scalfaro’s death with a picture of him on a visit to Ethiopia)

America’s “Liberty” and Colonial Ethiopian

The comparison that I first drew after reading this article was between the feminine propaganda of the Italian Ethiopia and the American feminizing of Liberty at the end of the civil war. In America, “Liberty” appeared as a powerful woman, draped in robes or even American flags in a  relatively seductive way, that at the time was probably sex appeal. Later she is shown leading the way into the American West during the idealistic period of “Manifest Destiny.” Both of these situation give the woman, “Liberty” and the idea of freedom and American power a feminine spin that both make it seductive as well as matriarchal. Comparison that was most surprising from the Pickering-Iazzi article was in the last paragraph she writes, “Furthermore, in this romantic tale and the fictions of Africa published in the press, the representations of women as the subjects of adventure, independence, mobility, and desire invent powerful terms of identification.” In both cases, the women encourage adventure, expansion, mobility and tempt people with their feminine charm. Very interesting article, big fan.



Colonizing as Feminizing

Given the “alpha-male” tendency of fascist ideology, it makes sense to examine phenomena relating to it, such as colonialism, in gendered terms. In Robin Pickering-Iazzi’s Mass-Mediated Fantasies of Feminine Conquest, 1930-1940, a lot of the main parallels between the male fantasy of the female and the colonizer’s fantasy of the colonized are put on display.

The most obvious parallel, I would say, is the idea of dominance and power. Not only do these ideas reinforce the colonial power, they also reinforce masculinity. The colonizer is dominating the colonized, as (in this very heteronormative comparison) the male dominates the female. Ideas of power and masculinity at this time were so heavily intertwined that they actually could not be separated.

The other idea that Pickering-Iazzi posits, though, is that both the colonies and women shared an air of exoticism. There was not only a feeling of power in colonizing, but there was a seductiveness, a sensuality, to the colonies themselves.

I found a picture that I think illustrates both of these ideas in action in the colonies. There is not much information surrounding the photograph, but it was taken in a colony with a native woman and an Italian soldier.

Mass-Mediated Fantasies of Feminine Conquest, 1930-1940

I found this article, specifically the aspect of propaganda, to be especially interesting. I have enjoyed the presence and analysis of propaganda during Italian fascism throughout the readings we have done so far. The colonies were portrayed to the women of Italy as an exotic and exciting place. Through the use of propagandistic images and selective words to describe the environment, the colonies seemed to be romanticized in a way that made them appealing to women. It is interesting that the method used to encourage women to visit the colonies focuses on these stereotypes of female fantasy that include aspects of various housewife duties. The appeal made to men to visit the colonies, however, was a representation of war and of conquering and improving. It was made appealing to men through its abundant presence of ways in which to exert masculinity.