“The meaning of the nation’s degradation”: sexual unions, gender and racism in post-World War II Italy. Since the liberal era, “half-breeds” have been one of the greatest problems, but also one of the most difficult “solutions” that Italian colonial racism had to face. From the initial absence of explicit prohibitions, to useless and confused attempts to stop “interracial sexual unions” (long tolerated only in the form of the “madamato”), to the Empire’s final prohibition of “unions of conjugal nature” between “nationals” and “subjects” (which introduced the asymmetry of the entwined relationship of race and gender; see Sòrgoni 1998), the “miscegenation” problem was continuously short circuited by the popular image that the racist discourse had helped construct. After World War II, while the new republic attempted to hastily put the ugliness of colonialism behind them as merely the fruit of fascist barbarism, a heavy silence fell around the issue of the “mixed” children who were abandoned by their Italian fathers in Africa (a taboo throughout the Fifties; see Petrovich Njegosh 2012), the birth of “mulatto” children by “Italian” women and non-white allied soldiers, reintroduced the “problem” in the heart of the metropolis. In this paper I analyze (using archival documents, and iconographic, literary and cinematographic sources) the strategies that were used to conceal the unions and births of those who would represent, through the “Italian-black colour of their cheeks, the meaning of the Nation’s abjection” (to cite an Italian deputy during a Constituent Assembly session in 1947). The analysis reveals the persistence of violent relationships of domination after the war, which were simultaneously “racialized” and “gendered,” and which still exist in our postcolonial present.
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