Crisis and the Canon: Rethinking the Black Mediterranean focuses on representations of blackness, femininity, and mobility in Black Italian literature and culture from 1985 to 2015. My aim is to contribute to theorizations of syncretic racial and cultural formations while undoing several stages of ethnoracial and gendered assumptions of Southern European, Mediterranean, and African identities in the process.
Part One of the manuscript, “Where Blackness Meets the Sea,” sets the theoretical framework of my intervention. I take up the notion of the Black Mediterranean espoused in Cedric Robinson’s Black Marxism (1983/2000) and analyze the racialization of immigrants in Italy and the more recent category of “Black Italian,” examining how issues of race, citizenship, and color—with particular regard to memories of colonial violence and Italian unification—are represented in contemporary Italian media and responded to by Black Italians.
In Part Two, “Black Italianità,” I discuss Blackness as an epistemic and analytic category in relation to other minoritized categories such as “Muslim” or “foreigner.” I provide a comparative analysis of the lived experience of “belonging to Africa” or “feeling African” versus “feeling Italian” with a historical reading of how contemporary immigration laws developed and the political function of belonging and ethnoracial or ethnoreligious nostalgia in the writings of Somali Italian writer, Igiaba Scego. Thus, I assess the differing implications within Italian imperialism of discourses of “outsiderness” as they intersect with the phenomena of Italian migration, colonial occupation, and its postcolonial aftermath.
In Part Three, “Scenes of Meticciato,” I proffer a theory of meticciato, a term roughly translated as “mixed,” and one whose nuance and complexity I explore. I analyze meticciato as a narrative framework, as a legally codified historico-biological category, and as a contemporary cultural experience. I argue that the syncretic sphere of the Mediterranean undermines the construction of whiteness as the assumed requirement to citizenship and cultural belonging in Italy, and thus, in Europe.
In Part Four, “New Representation Regimes,” I discuss the queer aporia in postcolonial and Black Italian literature. I read the collectively and often anonymously written literary and artistic political project known as “New Italian Epic” to consider the regulation of queerness, Blackness, and non-normative identity as constitutive components of the polyvalent meticciato that comprises and reconfigures the Mediterranean.