Journeys beyond binaries : storytelling and polyphony in the narratives of Gabriella Ghermandi, Igiaba Scego, Ubax Cristina Ali Farah and Amara Lakhous
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In the last two decades, in media and political discourses, Italianness has been increasingly represented as a homogeneous and compact entity, which is intruded on and contaminated by immigrants. In this study, the binary opposition between Italians and migrants is investigated from the perspective of writers who inhabit a liminal space, between at least two cultures, with the main intent to problematize the binary itself and to show its nature of fabrication. On the basis of Said’s contrapuntal method, the novels by Ghermandi, Scego, Ali Farah and Lakhous are thought to establish a counterpoint with dominant discourses about Italianness. With the firm belief that discourses about postcolonial Italy must address its colonial past, the works analysed are considered as in dialogue with both colonial and postcolonial discourses. A dialogical relation is established, within the study, between Ghermandi’s Regina di fiori e di perle and Flaiano’s Tempo di uccidere. Written from the perspectives of the colonized and the colonizers respectively, both novels unveil colonial crimes and faults in Ethiopia, thus being counter-narratives about official representations of Italian colonialism. In Scego’s Rhoda and Oltre Babilonia and Ali Farah’s Madre piccolo, like threads, the individual stories of Somali exiles intertwine to create a fabric, whose pattern reveals the importance of the legacy of colonialism within contemporary Italy. Mainly situated between Italian and Somali cultures, the protagonists experience traumas, suffering and loss but finally attain a contrapuntal awareness between the two cultural poles. They become conscious of how enriching their in-between position is; they affirm the value of their hybrid identity. With a further zoom into postcolonial Italy, Lakhous’ Scontro di civiltà per un ascensore a piazza Vittorio and Divorzio all’islamica a viale Marconi analyse the binary ‘us-Italians’ versus ‘thosemigrants’ in two microcosms in Rome. General polarizations such as Islam and the West emerge as factors which are exploited in order to exacerbate tensions and divisions. In addition, Italianness appears to be an internally fragmented entity, which is imagined as compact and homogeneous, as a reaction to the influx of immigrants. Against any logic of binarism, the novels by Ghermandi, Scego, Ali Farah and Lakhous reveal the constant effort to create a passage between two poles and to uphold a dialogical relation between them; crossings over and hybridity are continuously affirmed. With their highly important affirmation of multiplicity, the works challenge any essentializing notion of identity and any narrow representation of Italianness, within multiethnic contemporary Italy.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2020-10-30
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 30th October 2020
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