Whiteness and the blackening of Italy: La Guerra Cafona, extracommunitari and provisional street justice

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In this essay, I briefly revisit the historical moment of Italian unification, drawing attention to its violent colonial dimensions and the twenty years of insurgent southern brigandage that erupted immediately after unification, in order to begin to trace the survival of this southern insurrectionary and anti-nationalist movement in the contemporary Italian context. In the process of focusing on the manner in which a statue of the Italian national poet, Dante, has been graffitied by southern youth in a square in Naples, I transpose the historical tradition of southern brigandage, returning the term back to its insurgent political roots, in order to begin to establish lines of connection between seemingly disparate politico-cultural practices and genealogies; in particular, I examine contemporary southern hip hop culture, including graffiti and rap, in relation to the history of southern anti-unification and counter-nationalist movements, marking the transmediterranean-atlantic politico-cultural flows that inscribe southern hip hop culture. I conclude by bringing into contemporary focus this northern history of anti-southern discrimination and exploitation by drawing attention to the plight of recent immigrants from the Global South that constitute the underbelly of contemporary Italy’s economic prosperity. My focus here is on mapping points of polico-cultural connection between immigrants of the Global South and meridionali through the instantiation of such tactical cultural practices as establishing suks and transitory markets in Italy’s civic squares.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-35
Number of pages35
JournalPortal: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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