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1Italians in the Americas!
The topic is so broad that it sounds like an ambitious challenge to deal with. Indeed, between 1860 and 1960, some twenty-six million Italians left their country to go to the Americas. And that is not to speak of the several generations of Italian-Americans who have been raised in their parents’ foster countries and are now living all over the continent!

2The migratory experiences of Italian migrants can be different from one country to another. As noted in some of the essays presented here, the national policies adopted by incoming nations played a decisive role in the representation that migrants had of their settlement. Their lives as well as their position regarding their integration depended on their acceptance by the local populations, on their plan to stay in their foster countries or to remain “birds of passage”. The several periods of migration dealt here with also reveal the uniqueness of each generation, of each flow, which shows that the historical contexts need to be examined to better understand the diverse phenomena of migration.

  • 1 Fernando Ortiz, Contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y el azúcar, La Havana: J. Montero, 1940.

3But the study of their experiences throughout the Americas also displays common points, in particular as far as the process of their adaptation to the local or national environments is concerned. Among other things, their migrations have stimulated a change in their identities – identities, in the plural form, as diverse Italian identities have always existed in the peninsula since regionalism, even campanilismo, have structured societal patterns. Indeed, the contacts with the American environments have ineluctably generated social and cultural changes, due to what Fernando Ortiz called «transculturation»1. This process has led to the adoption of new practices among migrants: the belief in different principles, a renegotiation of their statuses and identities with the local or even national population and milieu. In order to survive or better, to be accepted and to feel successful in their host society, migrants were bound to mix their cultural backgrounds to the American habitus, in other words to adapt their «italianita» to their American host nations.

4First, during mass migration, their experiences in the Americas stimulated Italian nationalism in migrant communities whereas in their motherland individuals struggled to affirm their political entity through the risorgimento; second, transculturation brought about a renegotiation of the migrants’ identities in the sense that individuals had to find an appropriate place in their foster countries while trying to remain who they thought they were; third, national policies may have a deep impact on the representation of the foreign population and as such on the relations between Italians and the native populations, even nowadays, which inevitably influenced the process of integration and the building of a new identity for the Italians – or their attempt to maintain their original Italianness.

  • 2 Milton Gordon, Assimilation in American Life, The Role of Race, Religion and National Origins, New (...)
  • 3 Linda Basch, Nina Schiller, and Cristina Blanc-Szanton, Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Po (...)

5However, their return to their mother countries sometimes, or at least the ties they maintained with their families, nourished their cultural backgrounds and seemed to slow down the diverse processes of assimilation that were required for their social mobility, cultural acceptance, and political recognition2. Transnationalism3 has played an intrinsic role in the building of the migrants’ identities. Individual were then bound to accept a compromise between keeping intact their way of living, even their original identity, and the progressive adoption of American values, which is part and parcel of the process of transculturation.

6The set of essays presented here aims at showing and analyzing the interweaving of these processes, the outcomes of transculturation wherever Italian migrants went throughout the American continent, for example in Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and the United States.

7The contributors are scholars from France, Italy, North- and South-American nations and they are all specialized in Italian-American studies. The essays show how Italian migrants were torn between the different systems (American and Italian) but have adapted to the American requirements during their migration to and settlement in the Americas. They promote neither assimilation nor the maintenance of Italianness but their analyses endeavor to nourish the debate over the effects of the settlement of Italians on American soils and the influence of these individuals on American societies. They aim at better understanding the stakes in the transculturation phenomenon as well as the long and complex process of the building of the Italian-American identities, if there are any.

8The essays first deal with the experiences of Italian-Americans on a «transcontinental» scale, comparing the situations in Argentina and Brazil for example, insisting on the international relations between Europe and the Americas and transnationalism; then they focus on the migratory experiences, transculturation, in specific countries both in North- and South Americas; the compilation also gives examples of personal cases that can be seen as illustrations of the theoretical, historical, sociological, and anthropological approaches the essays have previously presented.

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1 Fernando Ortiz, Contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y el azúcar, La Havana: J. Montero, 1940.

2 Milton Gordon, Assimilation in American Life, The Role of Race, Religion and National Origins, New York: Oxford University Press, 1964.

3 Linda Basch, Nina Schiller, and Cristina Blanc-Szanton, Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritorialized Nation-States, New York: Routledge, 1994.

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« Introduction »Diasporas, 19 | 2011, 7-9.

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« Introduction »Diasporas [En ligne], 19 | 2011, mis en ligne le 01 août 2018, consulté le 04 décembre 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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