Answering the Southern Question: Race, Belonging, and Nation in the Making of Italy

Aliza S. Wong , Texas Tech University

The phrase,"Fatta l'Italia, bisogna fare gli italiani," popularly and mistakenly attributed to nineteenth century politician Massimo D'Azeglio, speaks to the difficult and complex progress of the Italian Risorgimento. Misattributed or not, the saying reveals some truth that if geo-political unity had been achieved (Fatta l'Italia - Italy is made), the work of actually fashioning Italians (bisogna fare gli italiani - now we must make Italians) was still to be done. And if the work was still to be done, the making of Italians is in progress even today. The process of "making Italians," given the dynamics of the unification process, was largely informed by the perceived divide - cultural, political, social, economic, and racial - between northern and southern Italy. Meridionalism or the southern question became one of the central debates amongst politicians and intellectuals as the Italian state struggled to find a way to ameliorate the gaps in literacy, poverty, industry, diversity of dialects, cultural systems, rituals, and stereotypes of "primitivity," "barbarism," and "inferiority." So prevalent and pervasive were the issues of the southern question that the vocabularies and languages used to describe the differences between north and south timbred the languages of difference used to justify imperialist endeavor, delineate gender norms, define the limits of immigration, and determine diplomatic relations.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 221. "Are Italians White"? Continuing to Debate Processes of Racialization across Time and Space