There are two phases in the process of “Cultural Hegemony”; whereby an ‘alien-culture’ of a dominating society replaces the ‘indigenous-culture’ of a dominated society. In the first phase, the ‘indigenous-culture’ is removed from the education system; thus rendering it quaint, moot and forgotten. Second, the dominant ‘alien-culture’ is substituted in the education system and presented as superior.
In the American university system, “Italian American Studies” programs perform the first ‘expunging-function’ of removing southern-Italian history and culture from the education system, and “Italian Studies” programs perform the second ‘substituting-function’ of inserting the illusionary superior northern-Italian history and culture.
- American Studies of Italian People
In the American university system, the study of Italian people is largely concentrated in two academic programs: “Italian American Studies” and “Italian Studies”– neither research nor teach the history and culture of southern Italy and Sicily.
This is to say: both of these intellectual groupings can be characterized by the absence of research and teaching the “Patria Meridionale” (Southern Homeland) history of the “American Terroni” (southern-Italian Americans) before the great migration, circa 1900.
Accordingly, nearly 17 million Americans of southern-Italian descent (American Terroni) are conscientiously and systematically denied the history of their ancestral culture south of Rome by American scholars and teachers.
Italian American Studies scholars/teachers only go back in history as far as the Ellis Island/Little Italy days, and Italian Studies scholars/teachers present alien northern Italian history and culture with primary emphasis on the Renaissance. Thus, nearly 3,000 years of pre-Ellis Island “Patria Meridionale” history and culture is completely ignored by the Italian American literati and lost to the southern-Italian American people.
Documentary evidence supporting this contention presented below.
Cultural Hegemony – phase one
Documentary evidence clearly and unequivocal demonstrates that “Italian American Studies” programs are wildly successful in carrying out the first phase of the north Italian “cultural hegemony”; i.e. removing indigenous southern Italy history and culture from the education system, and preparing the system for the second phase - inserting the hegemonic alien north history and culture.
Italian American Studies
· American Italian Historical Association (AIHA)
AIHA publications clearly demonstrate that scholars in Italian American Studies programs, such as those associated with “American Italian Historical Association”, only research the history and culture of Italian Americans beginning with the Ellis Island/Little Italy days down to the present.
The absence of pre-Ellis Island history is impeccably documented in the association’s annual publication of papers presented at its annual conferences.
- 42 volumes of conference papers have been published beginning in 1968.
- 41 of the volumes/conferences were dedicated to issues of Italians in America (both immigrants and descendents).
The only exception was volume 33 for the year 2000 conference titled “Greece and Italy: Ancient Roots and New Beginnings.”
However, even that was not a total exception; in fact the title is somewhat misleading. Of the 23 papers in that volume, based on titles of articles, I judge only 6 were in fact dedicated to ancient history. All the others were the traditional studies of Italians in America. (See: http://www.aihaweb.org/ ;“Conferences”; “Past Conference Volumes and Programs”; “Table of Contents” for respective years)
· “The Italian American Review”
Similarly, another scholarly publication “The Italian American Review” is also predominately dedicated to research of Italians in America. Evidence for this contention comes from papers published in Volumes 6 – 9 consisting of:
- 42 “Articles;
- 5 “Notes and Documents”;
- 49 “Book Reviews”
Total of 96 authored papers.
Reviewing the titles of the papers, in the table of contents, I judge that 91 articles were about Italians in America and 5 of the 96 papers (5 %) had to do with Italy per se, at or about the time of the emigration.
· In sum
The above is a significant body of representative evidence indicating that “Italian American Studies” scholarship/teaching is predominately about Italians and Italian descendents in America.
Consistent with the first phase of the ‘cultural hegemony’ process (removal of the history and culture of southern Italy from the education system), pre-Ellis Island history is not considered relevant to the “southern-Italian American” people. Further, it assumes that the southern-Italian American people are NOT - or need not be - interested in the history and culture of the land and people from which they are descended.
Cultural Hegemony – phase two
As noted above, the second phase of ‘cultural hegemony’ entails substituting the ‘alien-culture’ of the dominating society in the education system of the dominated indigenous society. In the American university system, Italian Studies Programs carry out this phase of the hegemonic process as evidence by the credentials of the faculties and curriculums taught.
“Italian Studies” - ‘Italy ends at the Arno’
Looking (empirical research) at the course lists and faculty credentials at major universities offering degrees in “Italian Studies”, one finds that there are virtually and in most cases literally no courses taught in the history and culture of the Italian south and Sicily. For example, in New York University’s on-line catalogue of courses offered in the Italian Studies program, only two of the 85 courses are dedicated to the study of the Italian south (i.e. 2%). And! Those two courses are offered “every two to three years” (clearly not a high priority)
Further, if one looks at the on-line credentials of professors in Italian Studies programs they consist largely of expertise in northern history and culture. For typical examples, see on-line faculty resumes at Colombia, Fairfield and Miami Universities.
In short, in American universities, the word Italian in the phrase “Italian Studies” means northern Italy – largely confined to the regions around the Arno and Po River Valleys, with a Roman addendum.
Clearly, “Italian” DOES NOT mean ‘south of Rome’ – indeed, for Italian Studies programs Italy ends at the Arno!
Exceptions to the rule – but not too exceptional
While the above empirical data demonstrates the absence of southern Italian history and culture in Italian Studies and Italian American Studies programs; nevertheless, there are many excellent and formidable scholars/teachers in the field of southern Italian history and culture. For example: Nelson Moe, Jane & Peter Schnieder, John Dickie, Karla Mallette - to mention just a few.
However, scholars such as these are often found in departments such as History, Anthropology, etc. (although the amazing Nelson Moe is in Columbia’s Italian Studies Dept.) Further and more importantly, even these very noteworthy exceptions only “scratch the surface” of southern Italian history. They are largely limited to the nineteenth century as far back as the Bourbons.
In the Italian programs of American universities, there seems to be a complete absence of any thought that the whole 3,000-year southern history back to its origins has any relevance to the nature of the southern Italian people and their culture – Norman Architecture; Arabic language, music, food; Roman latifundia; etc. are not thought to be worthy of study - not thought to affect contemporary Spirito di Terroni.
For example, Oxford University classical scholar Arnold J. Toynbee has made a strong case based on documentary evidence that parts of southern Italy suffered from the ravages of Hannibal down to the time of Mussolini. Accordingly, one can infer that at least part of the great emigration circa 1900 A.D. is associated with events circa 200 B.C. (see: http://www.i-italy.org/bloggers/15991/hannibal-and-mussolini-south-will-rise-again)
This type of long view seems to be foreign to American historians of Italy. Frankly, there is, to my mind, a stunning lack of appreciation for the significance of history (beyond recent) from those sitting in what Nietzsche called the Chairs of Wisdom.
Enquiring minds may wonder:
Why does a nation with nearly 17 million citizens of southern-Italian descent have an education system, from the Ivy League universities down to the high schools, so thoroughly dominated by northern Italian history and culture?
Or to put it another way:
Why does a nation with nearly 17 million “Terroni” NOT have an education system that teaches the history and culture of their “Patria Meridionale”?
In short, the southern-Italian American people have come to be dominated by the northern-Italian “hegemonic” culture. This is a fact, not an ‘opinion’ or ‘value judgment’, supported by an overwhelming preponderance of empirical evidence such as, but not limited to, the above examples of university Italian scholarship, education programs and faculties.
Domination by Education
The process of hegemonic cultural domination is an education process.
The armies of the Piedmont conquered, pillaged, terrorized, destroyed and ultimately force emigration of the southern-Italian people. But Piedmont armies could not foist northern Italian cultural on to the southern Italian people. The only ones who could substitute the northern culture for the southern were the southern intellectuals and teachers (e.g. Croce, Amari).
Cultural hegemony cannot succeed without the TEACHERS of the dominated indigenous culture convincing the indigenous population that their native culture is inferior and the alien culture is superior.
The dominated people are educated to believe that their native culture is inferior and therefore irrelevant. Education is not limited to schools (mass media propaganda is another important factor), but school teachers at all levels play a very significant role of convincing the people of a dominated culture that domination is in their best interest– they should forget about the ‘old’ ways and embrace the ‘new’.
Clearly, the northern-Italian cultural domination of southern-Italian people, which commenced 150 years ago, with the so-called Risorgimento, has reached deep into the American education system down to the high schools. Indeed, the great hew and cry about AP Italian, while no doubt a benefit to high school students, was also another American philo-Piedmontese victory in support of the northern Italian cultural hegemony.
However, what the American philo-Piedmontese Chairs of Wisdom teach is the Illusion of Italy – not the reality. The Renaissance is a delightful period in the history of art and literature. But, every aspect of all European history and culture has its roots in southern Italy and Sicily. The pointed arch made possible the Gothic cathedral. And, the first point arch in Europe was the “Admiral’s Bridge” in Palermo. And, the reason there are cathedrals is because Christianity came to Europe through southern Italy.
The Reality of Italian and European culture is NOT on the banks of the Arno – it is in the 3,000-year history of “Patria Meridionale”.
“Behold the students sleeping before the Chairs of Wisdom – Thus Spake Zarathustra.” (Nietzsche)