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Migrant Memories

Cultural History, Cinema and the Italian Post-War Diaspora in Britain


Margherita Sprio

Migrant Memories provides an innovative perspective on the power of cultural memory and the influence of cinema on the Italian diaspora in Britain. Based on extensive interviews with Southern Italian migrants and their children, this study offers a fresh understanding of the migrants’ journey from Italy to Britain since the early 1950s. The volume examines how the experience of contemporary Italian identity has been mediated through film, photography and popular culture through the generations. Beginning with an analysis of the films of Frank Capra and Anthony Minghella, the book goes on to address the popular melodramas of Raffaello Matarazzo and ultimately argues that cinema, and the memory of it, had a significant influence on the identity formation of first-generation Italians in Britain. Coupled with this analysis of cinema's relationship to migration, the cultural memory of the Italian diaspora is explored through traditions of education, religion, marriage and cuisine. The volume highlights the complexities of cultural history and migration at a time when debates about immigration in Britain have become politically and culturally urgent.


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Firstly, l would like to thank all of the Italian migrants and those of the second, third and fourth generations that I interviewed, as well as those that helped me with my research in Britain and Italy during its various stages. Together with this, I would like to thank those who have discussed various aspects of this book and also those who have given me feedback when I have presented parts of the research at dif ferent conferences. I would like to give particular mention to the conference Europe and Its Others: Interperceptions Past, Present, Future, held by the Institute of European Cultural Identity Studies, 2007, where I was given the opportunity to pre- sent my paper ‘Migrant Translations: The Films of Matarazzo Remembered’ in the panel ‘Narratives of History and Memory: Migrant and Diasporic Cinematic Narratives’. A version of part of the chapter ‘Memories and Movies’ is published as ‘Migrant Translations: Matarazzo Remembered’ in The Poetics of the Margins: Mapping Europe From the Interstices, ed. Rossella M. Riccobono (Peter Lang, 2011). Together with this, I would like to thank Peter Goodwin and Rosie Thomas at The University of Westminster and Laurel Plapp at Peter Lang – their encouragement has been invaluable. I would like to give a very special thank you to my family, friends and colleagues who have supported me throughout the time of writing this book – they know who they are but particular thanks go to Jorella Andrews, David Bate, Craig Bell, Alfio Bernabei, Zarina Bhimji, Rosanna Bottiglieri,...

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