Italian Roots: Family History, Inter Generational Experience, and Identity
Dewhirst, Catherine M. (2003) Italian Roots: Family History, Inter Generational Experience, and Identity. In Bradley, Rebecca, Lyddon, Jeff, & Buys, Laurie (Eds.) Social Change in the 21st Century, 21 November 2003, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.
‘Australia’ as a notion has formed part of both mythical and real experience for Italians over the last seven centuries since Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) wrote La Divina Comedia in the vernacular. Our Terra incognita was imagined as the doorstep to purgatory after death, but it was also experienced by real people venturing beyond the frontiers of the homeland peninsula as explorers, artists, writers, poets, scientists, sailors and migrants (Lorenzato 1995:iii-iv; Cecilia 1987:ch.1). The migration of Italians to Australia has had a profound impact on the social, economic and political spheres of this country, starting mainly with the post-Risorgimento period. As a result of their presence and interaction in Australia, Italians have made untold contributions and left many legacies. One intriguing and certainly contentious legacy is that captured by the modern-day term of ‘ethnicity’, ‘ethnic identity’ or italianità [Italianness]. We might therefore consider a discussion of Italian ethnicity as a valuable means for exploring important features about Australia’s past.
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