Postcolonial Borderlands: Black Life Worlds and Relational Place in Turin, Italy

Heather Merrill

Abstract


The emergence of Italy as a receiving country of postcolonial immigrants from all over Africa and other parts of the economically developing world involves the reproduction of deeply rooted prejudices and colonial legacies expressed in territorial concepts of belonging. Yet geographical discussions of borders seldom begin their explorations from the vantage point of what Hanchard has called, “Black life worlds”, complex experiences of place among African diasporic populations in relationship to race. This paper examines situated practices, negotiations, and meanings of place, identity and belonging among first generation African-Italians in Northern Italy whose experiences suggest that the borders between Africa and Europe are far more porous than they appear to be. This essay develops a theory of relational place to study the meaning of place in Black life worlds as indexed by the everyday materiality of bodies in relation to racial discourses and practices, and the profound interweavings of Africa and Europe through space and time. The essay examines African-Italo experiences in relation to the transformation of political culture in Turin, the rise of ethno-nationalism, and legacies of Italian colonialism.

Keywords


postcolonial immigration; colonial legacies; Africa; borders; race; situated practices; place; identity; belonging; first generation African-Italians; relational place; Black life; Turin; ethno-nationalism

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ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies - ISSN: 1492-9732