GLOBAL AND LOCAL
The first question is: why
speak of "Italic peoples" rather than in the more usual and
traditional term "Italians"; what distinguishes the concept of
"Italic peoples" from that of "Italians"?
of introduction a concise answer is provided here, but it will be developed,
expanded and analyzed below.
and foremost it must be made clear that this is not a “literary" reply,
something originating from discoveries made "in books", but rather an
existential one, originating from long experience in different institutional
roles of throughout the world, in meetings and contact with communities,
institutions, and people, in relationships and shared (planning) experiences
with the preeminent "Italic" business communities everywhere (but
especially here in the Americas).
short, by "Italic peoples", and so by "Italicity", what is
meant is a belonging in the widest "cultural" sense: not as ethnic or
linguistic belonging as with those of Italian origin or who speak the Italian
language or as the legal or institutional belonging of Italian citizens.
the concept is similar to that described byGeorge
IT is a
transnational community found, to varying extents, on all continents, and not
only here in the Americas and characterized by shared values and interests.
Historically, its roots lie in Italian emigration throughout the world, but it
has since undergone many changes and now extends well beyond those roots.
It is a community many tens of
millions of people. It is estimated that there are at least 60 million people of
Italian origin throughout the world; if this estimate is extended to include
"Italophiles", it may rise to 200 million. It comprises many different
human or social groups:
Emigrant Italians and their second, or third generation descendants, many
of whom no longer speak the Italian language and have not retained Italian
The family members of these emigrants, born in the “new” countries of
residence, and who, though differing in origin and language, at least share a
good measure of values and interests.
and also the most problematic part of this concept of "Italicity"
-- all those who, setting aside ethnic or linguistic belonging and citizenship,
in some way "feel" Italic, precisely because they like and share the
group’s values and interests, which they have come to learn through their
encounters with people, things (Made in
Italy) and "tokens" of the "Italic world": information,
art, the cinema, and all the technological instruments that feed our
"collective image bank". In this connection, it should be pointed out
that the mobility of people, things and tokens increasingly characterizes the
globalization process, for which reason opportunities for these
"encounters" everywhere intensify and multiply.
Truly to understand who the Italic
peoples are, the focus must be on
the concept of diaspora, rather than of migration. The diaspora is a
transnational and for
many centuries has been crossing and re-crossing the world, nourishing its
interconnections and networks.
It is not the only diaspora in the
global world, but it has interesting and peculiarly distinctive identities and
for this reason may make an original and significant contribution to building a
more humane and peaceful global world. This is the more so after the tragic and
highly disturbing events of September 11th, which have thrown all Western
certainty and security into crisis.
HISTORIC ROOTS OF “ITALICITY”: ITALIANS IN THE WORLD OVER THE CENTURIES
The Italians are, in effect, the
Genoans, the Venetians, the Florentines, the Milanese, the Lombards and so on,
that is, all the numerous different regional and local "identities"
into which Italian history is subdivided. Since the early years of the second
millennium, they have traveled the world’s highways and high seas. Beginning
in the Middle Ages, colonies of Italian merchants could be found in London or
Constantinople, Antwerp, Seville or Aleppo.
only In 1283, there were 14 Italian banks in London’s Lombard
Street; in Paris, the Rue des Lombards
had 20 Italian banks by 1292.
But not only merchants and bankers
moved throughout the known “pre-Colombian” world. There were also artists,
university teachers, architects, artisans, churchmen, and political exiles. A
popular 15th-century proverb bears witness to the great mobility of
the inhabitants of Florence: "Sparrows and Florentines may be found
throughout the world". When Vasco de Gama reached India, after a long,
adventurous circumnavigation of Africa, he found that some Venetian merchants
were already there. A citizen of Chioggia – Nicolò de’ Conti – lived and
traveled in India and Indonesia between 1415 and 1459.
With the "discovery of
America" and the birth of the new world, the horizons of the Italian
diaspora were extended. Navigators and merchants, monks and churchmen, artists
and intellectuals began to travel not only in Europe, Asia and Africa, but also
in the Americas. Under Spanish rule, though emigration to the Americas was
prohibited to foreigners, between 1535 and 1538 (thanks to exceptions granted to
Italian states that were subjects of Spain or its allies) there were already 6
people originating from the Kingdom of Naples, 2 from the State of Milan, 3 from
the Kingdom of Sicily, 1 from Lucca, 1 Florentine, 14 Genoese, 1 from Turin, 1
from Piedmont and1 from Cremona in
the new world.
Clearly then long before
the Unification of Italy and the great mass migrations of the late 19th century,
the numbers of Italians were steadily increasing in both American hemispheres.
As may be seen from studies
carried out in recent years in the United States, in an area like Philadelphia,
an initial community of Italian origin formed and consolidated in the period
between the eve of American independence and the 1870s. During that period,
leadership made up of tradesmen, businessmen and entrepreneurs emerged as the
first "ethnic" intermediaries between the Italian community and the
United States society. At the same time, significant community institutions were
created, such as the first parish for Catholics of Italian origin (1852). The
first Italo-American Provident Society, the Italian Association of Union and
Brotherhood, was formed in 1857, by Italians who first and foremost were
Italian emigration to America, it
should be recalled, was not only an economic emigration. As the historian
Ruggiero Romano has written, "there were more than a few Carbonari, and in
general Italian patriots who, after the failure of the various revolts,
uprisings and revolutions of 1821, 1831, 1840 found refuge in America".
Political exiles, too, were part of the panorama of Italian "mobility"
before Unification, anticipating a significant dimension of the mobility of
people in our global world.
In the year of the Italian
Unification – 1861 – many Italians, though they considered themselves
Piedmontese, Lombards, Venetians, Tuscans, Sicilians and so on, had already
settled throughout the world.
According to data from the General
Census of 1861, 77,000 were living in France, 14,000 in Germany, 14,000 in
Switzerland, 12,000 in Alexandria, 6,000 in Tunisia, and above all – for the
purposes of this study – 500,000 in the United States, and the same number in
the rest of the Americas.
The key point, then, of this short
and partial historical breakdown is that the Italian diaspora in the world has
old roots. In some ways it belongs to the essential characteristics of Italian
identity even before the country achieved national unity, before the first
unified state and citizenship were born, before the Italian language truly
became a spoken language used by the great majority of the inhabitants on the
peninsula. All this occurred only gradually over a long process destined to be
completed only with the birth of television after the Second World War.
Running the risk of the
“anachronism” inherent in such opinions and language, in essence it may be
said that over the centuries the Italian diaspora has been a precursor to the
It is a diaspora of
“localisms” (Venetians, Genoese, Florentines, Milanese and so on) typical of
the many urban and regional identities that are interwoven into the country. At
the same time it is a “global” and cosmopolitan diaspora, traveling the
world in the name of values. For example, the Roman Catholic faith, the thirst
for knowledge, the spirit of adventure. It also sougth interests: money which
spurs merchants and bankers to travel and profit which derives from production
and business. All were by characterized a “universal” vocation.
Behind the “imagined
community” of Italic peoples, there are centuries of trans-territorial
mobility of the peninsula’s inhabitants, their cities, and their various
constituent political bodies. This preceded transnational mobility, that is,
even before the modern “nation” was born.
This mobility was not
only migration; there were many different reasons behind it. It took
place in different ways, involving not only leaving, but also returning. It is
significant, in this sense, that of the 14 million Italians who left the country
between 1876 and 1914, there was a high repatriation rate.
More than half of them returned to Italy; many were to emigrate more than
once during their working lives.
it should be noted that recently, there has been a to Italy byArgentineans
To conclude this point, the
“Italic peoples” are the descendents of this centuries-long process of
mobility and of diaspora. They did not have behind them – unlike other
great transnational diasporas – the long history of a strong and unified
nation state, an exclusive and “protected” identity politically and
militarily. Rather, their roots lie in a history divided into different smaller
identities, which only recently have come together into a joint identity. For
this reason, it maintains an unusual and significant “acceptance of
AND THE DIASPORA: THE ITALIC PEOPLES AND THEIR VALUES
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Today’s globalized world is increasingly one
of transnational diasporas:
from the “historic” Jewish, Spanish and Anglo-Saxon diasporas to the
Chinese, Indian, Arab and, last but not least, Italic diaspora.
is, inevitably, a world of multiple
belonging, where “transidiom” is used. This linguistic phenomenon is
the post-modern offspring of people’s mobility and the triumph of electronic
communications. “Diasporic public spaces” are formed and cultivated, made up
of a growing set of transnational relationships. These are physical, but also
virtual via the web which today is available at least potentially to everyone.
One of the consequences of this
phenomenon is the transformation of the
traditional concept of “identity”. It should be noted that the United States
at the center and “heart” of the world increasingly is seen not in the
traditional image of the melting pot,
but rather - in the words of anthropologist Arjun Appadurai, an
Indian who lives and works in the United States – as “a node of a
post-national network of diasporas. . . . They are no longer a closed space
where the magic of the melting pot may
operate, but one of the many diasporic points of exchange, in which people come
to seek their fortune, but without any longer resigning themselves to leaving
their country of origin behind.”
glocal world, identity is increasingly less a “given”; increasingly it is
more a “process,” built up through social practices that take place in
increasingly numerous and extensive “spaces.” These extend from territorial
and local spaces where the communities of the different diasporas live together
and interweave, to the virtual-global spaces of the web. In these the
imagination is nourished by encountering people, things, and tokens. It plays a
new and decisive role, not comparable with any experiences of the past.
way, throughout the world human groups are formed that we could define as
“communities of feeling”. These begin to imagine and feel things in common.
For the first time they have the opportunity to know and choose existential
possibilities and life models that are different and are practiced by
“others” and “elsewhere”. In other words, communities whose identity is
not so much, and not only, ethnic, linguistic or political-institutional, based
on citizenship, but rather are culture- and value- based.
In this context, identities appear to be increasingly “fluctuating.”
They are constructed, transformed, interwoven, and subjected to constant and
completely new challenges and tensions. Loyalties and belonging differ and
multiply. In some cases they enter into conflict; in others they give rise to
new and original cultural and value-based “cross-breeds”.
In the light of these
considerations and in this frame of reference, it may be possible better to
understand “Italicity” and how Italicity can differ from, and go beyond,
“being Italian”. Undoubtedly it has strong historical roots in terms of
identity, linked to centuries of Italians’ trans-territorial and
trans-national mobility. But it is not limited to these roots, although it
continues to nourish itself through them.
In the age of globalization and
post-national and trans-national diasporas, the Italic peoples have become, in
substantive terms, a diaspora interlinked internally by a “common feeling”
more than by a common ethnic-linguistic and national belonging. What is this
“common feeling”; what are the essential shared
values of Italicity that are being described, the ?
On the basis of experience and
reflection, the author can try to outline a general picture, an initial, partial
and provisional “repertory” of shared values and connected interests.
These are values that to some
degree have a particular glocal configuration. They originate from long
experience in many particular “places” (small villages, towns, the regions
of the “Boot”). But over time people have been forced by the need to
emigrate in search of work or have chosen for exploration, business, or
religious vocation to travel and encounter the “globe”.
In brief, these great values are:
Multiple belonging and the acceptance of differences. The values are
linked to the history of multiple local identity traditions, and at the same
time to the short, late and “weak” experience of a nation state. They long
coexisted and in some respects still coexist with other pre-existing identities.
Today increasingly the coexist also with the new-born European identity.
A conception of belonging that is essentially cultural and existential,
rather than ethnic-linguistic or legal-institutional. Thus, at least
potentially, they are more “malleable” and open to dialogue with those who
have a “different” belonging,
as well as to contributions from other identities. It may not be by chance that
after the Second World War Italian public opinion was one of the most favorable
in Europe towards European integration which entailed an attenuation and
dislocation of national sovereignty at a new European Community level.
The central role of the family
and of family relationships in
the fabric of social relations. This pre-eminent value runs transversely through
state and national belonging. It contributes to “attenuating” and to
“softening” the traditional harshness of power and force incarnating in the
modern, Hobbesian “Leviathan-state”. Even when Italy took the path of the
ethical, totalitarian, militarized state, fascism had to come to terms with this
background, and it is clear, in the end, who were the winners and losers.
Christian, and more precisely Roman Catholic values, that have contributed
and still contribute to forming in many respects the identity of Italians and of
Italic peoples. Here values of the person and family are pre-eminent over those
of state and nation; values of universalism and cosmopolitanism, linked to
feelings of humanity; values of a “non-economistic” conception of economy
which cannot be separated from an ethical view of life.
The aesthetic sense and the values of good taste and beauty. These have
played a large part in Italian history, and are embodied not only in the
extraordinary heritage of art and culture that distinguishes the country, but
also in lifestyles. These are universally known today thanks to the triumph of Made
in Italy and more recently have been discovered and loved by millions of
people throughout the world.
The values of enjoyable and
creative work, whose roots run deep in Italian history, from the
centuries-long artisan traditions often bordering on art, to the more recent
experience of design and Italian style built
into ones – including technological products – of the Italic genius.
It should be made clear that this
repertory of values does not take the
form of a claim to a superiority or exceptionality of the “Italic peoples”
compared to other peoples and diaspora in the world. That would be some sort
of “masked chauvinism”. Two considerations bear witness to this warning and
to this sense of the limits Italians have and must preserve.
First, it is known full well that each of these values has “another face” in the form of potential negative values,
oft-experienced in history. Pluralism and tolerance always risk becoming
relativism and indifference; love for the family can turn into “amoral
familism” with little respect for institutions and public ethics; Roman
Catholic values became the
Inquisition, and more recently have been
tempted towards closure and fundamentalism; creativity in life and work risks
becoming disorder and lack of organizational purpose. Clearly, all of these are
traditional and well-known negative Italian “stereotypes” that the first
generations of emigrants had to pay for.
Second, Italian history
contains not only peaceful religious, intellectual or mercantile experiences
of traveling around the world, but also colonial conquests, fascism, and forms
of organized violent crime exported to other countries.
But what is to be stressed is that
today’s Italicity – as a “community of feeling” arises from a selection
and a synthesis of positive values. It comes also from what is now a
consolidated defeat of totalitarian and imperial experiences. Finally it comes
from the more recent, but equally consolidated fading of the
“stereotypes” that have long given a negative image to Italian
emigrants throughout the world.
What is open to
“reconciliation” is the Italy of art, science and culture; of religiousness
of transnational humanitarian volunteer work, both religious and secular; of
cultured, welcoming tourism; of beautiful, functional Made
in Italy products; of small-scale yet dynamic and courageous
entrepreneurship; of the organized creativity of the famous “industrial
districts”; and of a greatly admired and sometimes envied ability to “know
how to live” and “live well”. In this sense, Italicity is a
great resource to be used to tackle the challenges of the global world.
This is clearly a theme that merits reflection.
AND THE CHALLENGES OF THE GLOBAL WORLD WHEN CERTAINTY IS IN CRISIS
The tragedy of September 11th
2001 for the first time struck the world’s greatest power “at home.” It
placed the “variable” of unpredictable planetary and technological terrorism
squarely on the world stage so that the global world now shows all of its ambivalence.
hand, there is the extraordinary potential for development offered by scientific and technological innovation, by
the increased production of goods and services, by the opening of countries and
markets. On the other hand, there is the increased inequality and level of
conflict (among states, ethnic groups, social groups), the consequently
increased disorder and insecurity, and the increasingly evident inadequacy of
the global system’s capacity for governance.
It is increasingly clear that no
“empire”, no great power – not even the greatest in human history – can
alone guarantee order and security. Above all, no power can do this only or
chiefly using the tools of military might, without an overall strategy for the
intelligent use of all resources – human, cultural, technological,
institutional, and others. Enemies who “network” (international terrorism
first and foremost) with “other networks” must be countered using the same
acentric and bottom-up rationale that
characterizes the enemy networks.
The great post-national and trans-national diasporas – and, in particular, that of the Italic peoples – are among these resources. They criss-cross the planet and interconnect it; they have a glocal nature that enables them to “act locally and think globally”; they know what it is to live as the “different” people; they are thus potentially able to act as “intermediaries” among different cultures and peoples. is
For the United States seen now not as a melting
pot, but as a “node of a post-national network of diasporas” awareness
of the positive potential of the great diasporas
which run through it is becoming an urgent necessity.
diasporas, too, can have something of an ambivalent nature. Diasporas such as,
fro example, the Islamic cultural matrix, which is possibly the most
“dissonant” with regard to Western society, may bring connections and
resources, as well as conflicts, to the countries they move through.
Multicultural societies, as is known, always oscillate between the “royal
road” of integration and risks of conflict and separatism. In Italy, too,
people have begun to discuss these concerns, since migratory processes towards
the country have become notable.
The strategic question for
countries that are “nodes of diasporas” is therefore: how to enhance the
positive potential of their diasporas in order to face the challenges of the
global world -- peace, development and social unity? In other words, how to
“take the best” from each of the diasporas; how to “metabolize” their
best universalist, cosmopolitan, non-fundamentalist aspects?
It can be said in this general
framework that the diaspora of Italic peoples stands as an original resource,
and is among the least ambivalent ones.
The values of this diaspora
already outlined above are:
a “compliant” identity
with no hegemonic claims deriving from strong colonial and imperial traditions;
“unresentful” as is often the case of peoples who have undergone, or
are still undergoing, domination and oppression, and who therefore feel
“aesthetic,” sensitive to the universal value of beauty;
“affective,” aware of the deep and non-rational dimensions of human
life; of the value of feelings expressed in the experience of family life; of
the value of “sympathy”, understood etymologically as an instinctive
“universalist,” based on the search for universal and shared values;
“cosmopolitan,” which expresses itself in the desire to deal with the
“other,” in an intellectual and aesthetic attitude that is open to different
cultural experiences, and in a personal capability to succeed in other cultures
and populations by listening, asking, looking, touching, intuiting and
Italic peoples may make a contribution to dealing with the challenges of the
global world with identities and values of this type. Perhaps, from this
standpoint, it is neither naive nor Utopian to think that “another world may
with which the siesits