Show Less

Migrant Imaginaries

Figures in Italian Migration Literature


Jennifer Burns

This book addresses a rich corpus of contemporary narratives by authors who have come to Italy as migrants. It traces the figurative commonalities that emerge across these diverse texts, which together suggest the shape and substance of what might be termed ‘migrant imaginaries’. Examining five central figures and concepts – identity, memory, home, place and space, and literature – across a range of novels and stories by writers of African and Middle Eastern origin, the study elucidates the affective and expressive processes that inflect migrant story-telling. Drawing on the work of cultural theorists such as Sara Ahmed and Michel de Certeau, as well as on recent work in postcolonial literary studies, memory studies, human geography and feminist theory, the book probes the varied works of Shirin Ramzanali Fazel, Amara Lakhous, Mohsen Melliti, Younis Tawfik and many others. Each chapter posits alternative interpretations of the ways in which the interior experience of encounters across territories, cultures and languages is figured in this literature. In doing so, the book moves towards a wider apprehension of recent Italian migration narratives as suggestions of what a new notion of contemporary ‘Italian’ literature might look like, figured at once within and beyond the boundaries of a national literature, a national language and a national cultural imaginary.


Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter 1 Identity


One of the principal concerns of Italian migrant writing is, indisputably, identity. In the process of migration, identity is at stake because identity is customarily understood to be structured according to context: it is, argu- ably, impossible to formulate an individual identity without recourse to the physical, human, social and cultural features which surround the indi- vidual and serve as tools and markers of association or disassociation.1 If identity is thus dependent on location, then migration from one location to another involves a pronounced dislocation of the identity established in the place of departure and a renegotiation of it within the context of the place of destination. Sara Ahmed foregrounds the notion of encounter between people, ‘strangers’ to each other, and notes its disruptive ef fects: ‘The term encounter suggests a meeting, but a meeting which involves sur- prise and conf lict’. She articulates a question which subtends my discussion in this chapter: ‘We can ask: how does identity itself become instituted through encounters with others that surprise, that shift the boundaries of the familiar, of what we assume that we know? Identity itself is constituted in the “more than one” of the encounter: the designation of an “I” or “we” requires an encounter with others’.2 1 See Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (London: Routledge, 1990) and, in terms particularly of representing oneself as a subject in the social sphere, her Giving an Account of Oneself (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005); Stuart Hall, ‘Cultural...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.