Immigrant Culture Enriches Italian Literature

Inclusion and acceptance of immigrant ideas is resulting in a richer Italian culture, Professor Alessandra DiMaio of Regis College said in a lecture last night at the Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel.

The lecture, entitled "Immigration and National Literature: Italian Voices from Africa and the Diaspora" discussed the impact of immigrants on Italy and on Italian literature.

In recent years, DiMaio said, Italy has become a hub for immigrants from North Africa, South America and Eastern Europe.

DiMaio said that the immigration of so many diverse groups to Italy has made adjustment difficult at times.

"The increasing pressure of immigrants from all corners of the world has raised issues of ethnicity and civil tolerance," she said.


Italy was caught completely unprepared for such a wave of immigration, and suffered a relapse of nationalism, racism and intolerance according to DiMaio.

She said that as Italy has adjusted to its changing demographics. the immigrants' presence has become increasingly evident--especially in literature--as they gain a voice in society. Many of these immigrants have written fictional stories about the real difficulties of immigrants, she said.

DiMaio discussed a book called Princesa written by Fernanda Farias de Albuquerque and Mariozio Janelli about a Brazilian transvestite who was an immigrant prostitute in Italy.

She said immigrant prostitution was a real problem in Italy, and was often a result of illegal immigration.

DiMaio described the way in which immigrant authors have collaborated with native Italians to combine their cultures through literature. She quoted the Cameroonian-Italian poet Ndjock Ngana on the subject of combining cultures.

He wrote, "Living only one life in one town only, in one country only, in one universe only, living only in one world, is prison."

DiMaio also discussed the role of immigrant women, saying that they lived in the margins of Italian society, with many participating in prostitution and working in legal or illegal domestic labor.

To close the lecture, DiMaio discussed the impact of immigrants on television and film, saying that immigrants influenced these genres as well, with their books often being made into screenplays.

DiMaio came to the United States six years ago as a student interested in migratory movements and their impact on culture.

The Harvard African Students' Association and the Italian Cultural Society sponsored the lecture and discussion.

John J. Rector `99 and Elvira G. DiFabio, senior preceptor in Romance languages and literatures, organized the event.

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