A Political History of National Citizenship and Identity in Italy, 1861-1950

By Sabina Donati | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION
National Citizenship and Italianità
in Historical Perspective

Invited to define the Italians, students at Princeton replied: “artistic, impulsive, passionate.”1 This is a stereotype that, together with many other formulas such as “the Italian is good, […] bright, […] lazy, […] an anarchist, […] a saint, a hero,” is not infrequently heard when trying to capture the “Italian character.”2 Leaving aside these curious portraits, and having reached the end of our voyage (the ad quem of our research), we now draw some conclusions and discuss fully the vision(s) of Italian national identity that emerge from analysis of the citizenship policies and related official discourse carried out in our history.

To this purpose, we will go back to the two metaphors introduced at the start (i.e., citizenship as a mirror and citizenship as a pencil) because it is through them that we have written this political history of Italian citizenship, and it is through them that we finally provide and discuss the full details about notions of Italianness. The first metaphor (citizenship as a mirror) has given us guidance to answer an important question: What types of national self-identification are reflected, as a mirror, in appropriating and applying certain differentiated membership policies by Italian authorities, and in the political debates pertaining to the status of the Italians from monarchical subjects to republican citizens and throughout the liberal and the fascist eras of their national history? In other words, which traditions of nationhood and which concepts of the nation have clearly shaped in the peninsula contingent adoption of certain citizenship strategies, the choice of a particular policy, the running of a discussion?

Second, and moving from mirrors to pencils, the other metaphor has provided us with assistance and support to answer a further historical question of significant importance. Since citizenship norms, legislation and debate can be a useful pencil for the historian in attempting to sketch and give form to meanings of being Italian, what findings analyzed in the

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