African “ghosts” and the myth of “Italianness”: the presence of migrant writers in Italian literature
In this article, I analyze the cultural meaning of the emergence of an African migrant literature in Italy at the beginning of the 1990s and its presence today. I put this emergence in dialogue with the construction of Italian identity as white. Through a brief historical account of how this social construction came into being, I verify how African migrant literature contests this (de)racialized myth of “Italianness.” Using Gordon’s concept of “haunting,” I argue that African literature within Italian literature can be read as a manifestation of ghosts: the appearance of a presence that has always been there but was repressed by hegemonic discourses. African literature not only works against subalternity, but also reveals whiteness as imagined and acknowledges a colonial past that has been deleted from the public remembrance. Despite such work, African migrant authors today are still writing against the paradigm of the “arrival,” asking: who is Italian? Who can represent Italian citizens?
Keywords: Italian migrant writers, Italian identity, black Italians, African migration to Italy