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Community, belonging and intimate ethnicity

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2006
JournalModern Italy
Journal number1
Volume11
Number of pages15
Pages63-77
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This paper analyses the role of the Centro Scalabrini in London in defining a sense of belonging and identification for Italians in Britain. The essay broadens the conventional focus on how community organizations contribute to constructing an ‘imagined community' for minority or migrant populations by suggesting that organizations are used as cultural objects and collective props for enacting and experiencing collective affective belonging abroad. The paper examines the processes through which community spaces themselves are constructed as scenes of ethnicity, for example, in the visual and narrative accounts of events found in the community press. However, rather than arguing that ethnic organizations simply reproduce an identity and culture, it is argued that the community centre offers intimations of ethnicity, as well as ‘intimate ethnicity', for those who use it and move through it. As a locale in which Italians and other migrants can find themselves again (ritrovarsi), what the centre offers is not the continuity or reproduction of the old world; it is the production of a portable Italianness through traces that are filled with sensuality, with the bodily experience of contact.