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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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The dif ferent chapters of this book have addressed the overarching theme of Italian cultural history, cultural memory and cinema through post-war migration to Britain. Through using oral quotations throughout this book, it has been made clear that the migratory experience of those Italians that came to Britain after the Second World War created a particular pattern of diasporic experience. Together with this, the importance of how converging experiences of cultural formation are lived through during the temporal nature of the immigrant journey has to be considered in the light of what the spoken words translated and transcribed throughout this book reveal about identity formation. The degree to which cinematic memory and storytelling relates to the viewing experience of a particular set of films of the 1950s has been pivotal to the identity formation for some members of the various Italian communities in Britain. Since the oral interviews informed the premise of this book, this has resulted in the need to re- configure film as the cultural form through which to think about cultural identity. Future explorations into the cultural history of modern migrations cannot ignore the significant role that is played by the cinematic experi- ence in the formation of this history. Without the methodology employed throughout this book, there would not have been a way in which diasporic experience, and the importance of cinema within this experience, could have been made visible. In the introductory chapter, the cultural determinants of the migrant journey from the South of Italy...

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