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The Culture of Italian American Emigration- When We Were the Immigrants

Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago

Tuesday, June 5, 2018 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (CDT)

The Culture of Italian American Emigration- When We...

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The Culture of Italian American Emigration   more info Jun 5, 2018 Free  

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A Lecture by Distinguished Italian Fulbright Lecturer Michela Valmori, University of Bologna

Immigration has created the foundation of America, it is not only what made this nation unique but it’s also a source to its core strength. No other nation, anywhere in the world, was founded on the same principle; that people of many lands can coexist and, indeed, thrive on the intermingled traits and customs brought from more than a hundred different foreign soils. By and large, the immigrants that met at the American shores came from nondescript Italian farm villages where they had heard the rumour of “streets paved with gold”, in a place where all men were free. The early immigrants tended to form tight islands in the urban centers of America that became their frontier.

By 1900 the Italians had become the dominant population of a multi-ethnic area in the Mulberry District. They occupied dirty tenements, often with rooms no larger than the ones they had left behind in Italy, but with many families living in the same room, eating and sleeping together “in the same hole, without air and light. They started being called words as “Dago,” “Wop” whenever they wandered out of their enclaves and in every way they were reminded that America demanded the complete renunciation of the immigrant’s ancestral culture in favor of the behavior and values of the Anglo-Saxon Group, the so-called WASP.

The enormous increase in immigrants with little or no grounding in Anglo-Saxon culture intensified the general fear that, unless the newcomers were quickly Americanized, the national culture would be endangered. Assimilation took place largely in the streets, where the image of Italians was more often that of bootblacks, barbers and other common laborers. The parents rarely learned more than a few words of English; unless English was spoken in the household, there was little chance of an immigrant mother becoming Americanized. It was not unusual for such a person to spend most of her life in the new land without knowing any English.

It is feasible that, the American-born children who grew up in a home where the parents’ dialect was spoken were able to absorb their ancestral culture. But it could be said that this contributed creating a blurred sense of identity in the children, forced to be Italian at home and American elsewhere. Unlike their children, the earlier immigrants continued to spurn assimilation and the efforts to accelerate it had the opposite effect. Among the older immigrants there was some degree of superficial assimilation, but it usually amounted to nothing beyond the acquisition of American citizenship. Once the Italian immigrants were committed to the American race it was inevitable, if regrettable, that the second and third generations looked at the reality of the Italian family and caught the spirit of the new land.

Among these, some got a name. And whether Joe di Maggio and Frank Sinatra became popular icons and good examples, not exactly the same could be said about Al Capone …

Distinguished Italian Fulbright Lecturer Michela Valmori joins the Institute from the University of Bologna, where she currently serves as a lecturer in Languages and Literature. Her areas of expertise include Italian American studies, migrant literature and the Beat Generation. She wrote her dissertation in Comparative Literature at King's College University and has lectured at Goldsmiths University London and Harvard University in the United States. She has also specialized in Italian language linguistics and acquisition process, an interest she continues to explore in her recent investigation of language use among Italian migrants to the USA. While at Notre Dame, Dr. Valmori has been teaching a cross-listed, interdisciplinary course, "The Culture of Italian Emigration," focusing on "fictional, non- fictional, musical, and visual texts that recount the experience of migration as seen through the eyes of Italian American as well as Italian authors."

 

Free and open to the public.

Reservations kindly requested.

 

     

Have questions about The Culture of Italian American Emigration- When We Were the Immigrants? Contact Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago

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Italian Cultural Institute
500 N Michigan Ave
Suite 1450
Chicago, IL

Tuesday, June 5, 2018 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (CDT)


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Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago

Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago

500 N Michigan Ave., Suite 1450

Chicago, IL 60611

 

Currently active in all the major cities of the five continents, the ninety Italian Cultural Institutes serve as an ideal meeting place for intellectuals, artists, and cultural operatives, as well as for ordinary citizens, both Italian and foreign, who wish to establish or maintain a relationship with our country. By acting not only as a showcase and source of current information on Italy, but also as a driving force behind initiatives and projects of cultural cooperation, the Italian Cultural Institute has become a focal point for both the Italian communities abroad and the growing demand for Italian culture throughout the world.

By extending the role of Embassies and Consulates, the Italian Cultural Institutes offer the most effective tools for promoting a worldwide image of Italy as a center of production, preservation, and dissemination of culture from the Classical Age until today. Along with organizing cultural events in a vast array of areas, including art, music, cinema, theatre, dance, fashion, design, and photography, the Italian Cultural Institutes:

  • Offer the opportunity to learn Italian language and culture through the organization of courses, the management of libraries and the preparation of educational and editorial materials;
  • Provide the networks and the premises to facilitate the integration of Italian operators in the process of cultural exchange and production at an international level;
  • Provide information and logistic support to public and private cultural operators, both Italian and foreign;
  • Continuously support initiatives aimed at promoting an intercultural dialogue based on the principles of democracy and international solidarity.
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