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Post-Colonial Women's Writing in Italian: A Case Study of the Eritrean Ribka Sihhatu Dr. Sandra Ponzanesi University of Amsterdam Over the past two decades, Italy, previously a country of massive emigration, has become the destination of a great number of immigrants from African countries and elsewhere. The current renewed contact between Africans and Italians, with the flow of migrants going in a historically new direction (from the former colonies toward the ex-empire), presents a new set of issues, problems , and opportunities which have important implications not only for the future of Italian society but for intercultural and interethnic relations throughout the world. In an attempt to perceive and understand the diverse dimensions and opportunities inherent in this new encounter between Africa and Italy, I am engaging in analyzing the literary works originating from this cross-cultural fertilization, and I propose to explore frameworks of literary analysis that are pertinent to this peculiar brand of Italian multiculturalism. Although the term multiculturalism resonates globally, it has very specific local inflections (see Gunew 1994). The term is, in fact, used in the United States, Canada, Australia, or United Kingdom to denote very different problematics which are pertinent to the historical and political development of those countries. The same can be said about Italy, a country which is not usually addressed as multicultural, owing to the oblivion to which Italy relegated its colonial past, as well as its anomalous and belated flux of immigration (see BrinkerGabler and Smith 1997). What marks the Italian multicultural discourse is, for example, the governmental lack of systematic legislation on immigration and the absence of a policy ofconsolidation for already present immigrants. This lacuna is partly owing to the Italian inherent civil immaturity (Allen and Russo 1997)®Northeast African Studies (ISSN 0740-9133) Vol. 5, No. 3 (New Series) 1998, pp. 97-115 97 98 Sandra Ponzanesi and to the fact that Italy has only recently turned from a land of emigration into a site of immigration. Therefore, undertaking a case study of Afro-Italian writings has not only included the pioneering work of finding texts by African women writing in Italian, but it has entailed the methodological problem ofhow to assess and classify these texts. A strict narratological analysis would not have done justice to the message of these works or to the backgrounds they try to evoke. Therefore, I shifted toward a more material and cultural-studies interpretation, where these texts are contextualized within a colonial background and placed within an international post-colonial literary tradition. This has created some difficulties , since Italy does not see itself as a multicultural country yet, and therefore there are no precedents for the analysis of immigrant texts as connected to a more general European discourse on colonialism and on new national identities . This is also the reason why, from an international perspective, the situation in Italy is not seen as ripe for real discussion on post-colonial literature. Even though Africa occupies an extremely marginal place within Italian literature compared to its positions in French and English literature, there is a considerable production of Italian colonial texts on Africa and of emerging post-colonial writing in Italian from Africa. If this "weaker presence" ofAfrica in Italian literature reflects the historically shorter involvement of Italy in the Black Continent, it also manifests an act of denial. The history of Italian colonialism is, in fact, a rather obscure and forgotten chapter in Italian history. Italy colonized Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and occupied Ethiopia (1935-41), creating the Africa Orientale Italiana (AOI). It is interesting to note that Italy, despite its aggressive past, still perceives itself more as a colonized country than as a colonizer. Its internal divisions are, in fact, the result of a long history of invasion. Foreigners were always on its territory, from the Greeks, the Arabs, the Spanish, the French, and the Austrians, to the Germans. Others were guests, but the host country remained subaltern. Furthermore, the massive migration of Italians since the beginning of this century to the Americas and northern Europe creates a picture of Italy as a land of emigration, as "anomalous." And lastly, Italy is a profoundly divided country, characterized by migration...

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