From the European South

a transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities

Postcolonialismo o postmeridionalismo? Riflessioni sulla teoria postcoloniale a partire dalla ricerca sul campo “Into the heart of Italy”

Maria Teresa Milicia


Postcolonialism or postmeridionalism? Reflections on postcolonial theory from the perspective of the research “Into the heart of Italy”. In 2009 the opening of the new display of the Museum of Criminal Anthropology “Cesare Lombroso” in Turin was greeted by the protests of Neoborbonic and Neomeridionalist political associations. The exhibition of the skull of Giuseppe Villella – a “suspected brigand” born in 1802 in the Calabrian town of Motta Santa Lucia and now the staple of Lombroso’s craniological collection – was considered an intentional offense to southern people. The museum staff was accused of spreading racist prejudices against the so-called “terroni.” In the then forthcoming celebration of the birth of Italy, Villella became a hero of the counter-narrative of the resistance against the Piedmontese conquest of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. A “No Lombroso” Committee was appointed by the leaders of the protest to ask for repatriation of Villella’s skull to Motta Santa Lucia and for the burial of all human remains displayed in the Museum. Since the Seventies, the request of repatriation of human remains has been the main topic of postcolonial nativist claims that concern Museums and scientific institutions throughout the Western world. Stemming from the results of my multisided ethnography on the “No Lombroso” protest, my contribution focuses on affinities and differences between political claims of Southern Italian natives and those of the ‘other’ natives. The aim is to propose some critical reflections on the usefulness of the postcolonial analysis of the contemporary cultural and political legacies of the Southern Question.




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