Academic journal article Annali d'Italianistica

Visions of Italy beyond the North/South Divide: Regional Documentaries and Global Identities

Academic journal article Annali d'Italianistica

Visions of Italy beyond the North/South Divide: Regional Documentaries and Global Identities

Article excerpt

"Ci sono storie che valgono solo per quello che non e immaginabile." Gianni Celati in Davide Ferrario's Mondonuovo (2003)

The "Southern Question," "Padania," and their Discontents

Ever since its inception, the Italian nation has struggled to provide an integrated image of itself and its culture to its own citizens and to the rest of the world. This was the case after Unification as much as it was in the postwar period (Ascoli and Von Henneberg; Bouchard). In the present age of postmodern globalization, national unity continues to be subject to debate. Placed at the core of a variety of cultural practices, it also informs a recent set of documentary films about Emilia-Romagna and the Po Valley whose subject-matter and formal narrative structures intervene directly in the ongoing struggle to define the local, national and global nature of Italian identity. Indeed, documentaries, such as Gianni Celati's Visioni di case che crollano (2003), Davide Ferrario's Mondonuovo (2003), Giuseppe Bertolucci's Segni particolari: appunti per un film sull'Emilia-Romagna (2003), and Nello Ferrieri and Raffaele Rago's Mozambico dove va il cinema (2002), point to an unresolved crisis of postmodernity in Italian society and subvert a notion of identity based on territorial belonging. At the same time, these documentaries suggest a relational understanding of subject- and community-formation constructed through the encounter and negotiation with other cultures within and outside Italy. They do so by underscoring a number of elements that shed new light on the construction of Italy and Italians since the postwar period with respect to the country's internal national divides (exemplified by the "Southern Question," on the one hand, and by the separatist attacks of the Northern League, on the other hand) and in relation to the challenges put forth by the phenomenon of global migration which is forcing an expansion of cultural boundaries and a reflection on the foundations of local histories.

The Italian "Southern Question" has been central to the construction of the Italian nation and its contested notions of identity since at least the 19th century. A number of critics have convincingly argued that the language and images used to describe the South and its people as fundamentally "other" vis-a-vis the rest of the peninsula had a lasting effect on both northerners and southerners, even when they did not correspond to reality (Gribaudi; Moe; Lumley and Morris; Schneider). These long-standing perceptions of Italy as divided into an affluent and dynamic North and a fatalistically poor and picturesque South have been challenged since the mid-1980s by the work of a number of scholars, who have questioned this model and responded with their research to renewed essentialist views brought forth by the rise of the Northern League on the Italian political scene. (1) To be sure, attempts to read the relation between North and South differently had occurred at other times during the 20th century. In Bound by Distance, for instance, Pasquale Verdicchio notes that in The Southern Question Gramsci highlighted the ways in which "North and South were never objective cultural and political entities, but were rhetorical effects of the very process of unification; it was the rhetoric of nationalists that provided the image of two distinct Italies, a binary opposition that obscured the potential for other cultural, political, and economic alliances" (12-13). The same rhetoric certainly has survived under different guises throughout the Novecento and lately manifests itself in the xenophobic and racist appeals of the Northern League to regional separatism and to the purity and legitimacy of a state they dubbed "Padania," a geo-cultural term that, notwithstanding the League's appropriation, was never intended to be exclusive. As Giuseppe Gavioli writes in "Verso mezzogiorno: un itinerario padano," "anche vista dall'esterno, Padania, prima di essere sequestrata da Bossi, non evocava immagini di rivolte regressive e secessioniste, ma soprattutto una grande pianura che si diffonde dalla lunga fascia che accompagna il suo fiume, fino al Delta. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.