Book Review: Italians in Wales and their Cultural Representations, 1920s-2010s

This book by Bruna Chezzi is a most welcome addition to the growing and diverse literature surrounding the Italian migrant presence in the United Kingdom.

9781443882606.jpgIn a highly readable and insightful discussion of Welsh Italian history and identity, considering both self-perceptions and perceptions, Chezzi unravels key aspects and developments of the Italian landscape in Wales.  Building on earlier writing and also addressing more recent research by other scholars, Chezzi elegantly takes up the debate on memorialisation and also questions of who remembers and how memory is represented.  By progressing through the decades from stability in the 1920s and 30s, where her analysis of historic images is especially interesting, to the traumatic wartime period and up to the present day, new research and new perspectives ensure a comprehensive and compelling study.

Perhaps the most significant contribution and heart of the book lie in Chezzi’s work on the Arandora Star legacy, not only in research terms but also in actuality.  An understanding that this wartime tragedy was intrinsic to Welsh Italian identity amongst the descendants of the ‘historic’ migration stimulated recovery of lost and buried memory and fostered generation of an absent narrative.  While some are critical of this type of community-building exercise and others detect political interest on the part of museums and authorities keen to promote Wales as a tolerant and inclusive society, these initiatives, as described by Chezzi, discernibly encouraged a sense of belonging amongst Welsh Italians and raised awareness of their history within the host society.  Commitment, dedication and personal involvement with key cultural events, including publication of this absorbing book, evidence considerable contribution towards understanding the journey of the Italian community in Wales.

Dr Terri Colpi

British Italian Community Specialist

Honorary Research Fellow, University of St Andrews

References

Giudici, Marco.  (2012).  Immigrant Narratives and Nation-Building in a Stateless Nation: The Case of Italians in Post-Devolution Wales. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37:8, 1409-1426.

Giudici, Marco. (2012).  Discourses of Identity in Post Devolution Wales: The Case of Welsh-Italians.  Contemporary Wales, 25, 227-246.

Hughes, Colin. (1991).  Lime, Lemon & Sarsaparilla.  The Italian Community in South Wales, 1881-1945.  Bridgened: Seren Books.

Ugolini, Wendy. (2011).  Experiencing War as the ‘Enemy Other’: Italian Scottish Experience in World War II.  Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Wren-Owens, Liz.  (2012).  The Delayed Emergence of Italian Welsh Narratives, or Class and the Commodification of Ethnicity?  Crossings: Journal of Migration and Culture, 3:1, 119-134.


To find out more about Italians in Wales and their Cultural Representations, 1920s-2010s and to purchase a copy, click here.

 

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