In this Book

Italian Folk
summary
Sunday dinners, basement kitchens, and backyard gardens are everyday cultural entities long associated with Italian Americans, yet the general perception of them remains superficial and stereotypical at best. For many people, these scenarios trigger ingrained assumptions about individuals' beliefs, politics, aesthetics, values, and behaviors that leave little room for nuance and elaboration. This collection of essays explores local knowledge and aesthetic practices, often marked as folklore,as sources for creativity and meaning in Italian-American lives. As the contributors demonstrate, folklore provides contemporary scholars with occasions for observingand interpreting behaviors and objects as part of lived experiences. Its study provides new ways of understanding how individuals and groups reproduce and contest identities and ideologies through expressive means.Italian Folk offers an opportunity to reexamine and rethink what we know about Italian Americans. The contributors to this unique book discuss historic and contemporary cultural expressions and religious practices from various parts of the United States and Canada to examine how they operate at local, national, and transnational levels. The essays attest to people's ability and willingness to create and reproduce certaincultural modes that connect them to social entities such as the family, the neighborhood, and the amorphous and fleeting communities that emerge in large-scale festivals and now on the Internet. Italian Americans abandon, reproduce, and/or revive various cultural elements in relationship to ever-shifting political, economic, and social conditions. The results are dynamic, hybrid cultural forms such as valtaro accordion music,Sicilian oral poetry, a Columbus Day parade, and witchcraft (stregheria). By taking a closer look and an ethnographic approach to expressive behavior, we see that Italian-American identity is far from being a linear path of assimilation from Italian immigrant to American of Italian descent but is instead fraught with conflict, negotiation, and creative solutions. Together, these essays illustrate how folklore is evoked in the continual process of identity revaluation and reformation.

Table of Contents

  1. Title Page, Copyright
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  1. Contents
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. p. ix
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  1. Introduction: Listening with an Accent
  2. pp. 1-10
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  1. ‘‘Sunday Dinner? You Had to Be There!’’: The Social Significance of Food in Italian Harlem, 1920–40
  2. pp. 11-29
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  1. Cuscuszu in Detroit, July 18, 1993: Memory, Conflict, and Bella Figura During a Sicilian-American Meal
  2. pp. 31-48
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  1. The Italian Immigrant Basement Kitchen in North America
  2. pp. 49-61
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  1. Creative Responses to the Italian Immigrant Experience in California: Baldassare Forestiere’s Underground Gardens and Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers
  2. pp. 63-81
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  1. Landscapes of Order, Landscapes of Memory: Italian-American Residential Landscapes of the New York Metropolitan Region
  2. pp. 83-160
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  1. Locating Memory: Longing, Place, and Autobiography in Vincenzo Ancona’s Sicilian Poetry
  2. pp. 107-131
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  1. Valtaro Musette: Cross-Cultural Musical Performance and Repertoire Among Northern Italians in New York
  2. pp. 133-152
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  1. Italians in Public Memory: Pageantry, Power, and Imagining the ‘‘Italian American’’ in Reading, Pennsylvania
  2. pp. 153-169
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  1. Changing St. Gerard’s Clothes: An Exercise in Italian-American Catholic Devotion and Material Culture
  2. pp. 171-187
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  1. Cursed Flesh: Faith Healers, Black Magic, and (Re-Membering) Death in a Central Italian Town
  2. pp. 189-196
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  1. Imagining the Strega: Folklore Reclamation and the Construction of Italian-American Witchcraft
  2. pp. 197-214
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 215-246
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  1. Contributors
  2. pp. 247-248
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 249-257
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