'Going out of stock': Mulattoes and Levantines in Italian literature and cinema of the Fascist period

Date of Completion

January 2008


Literature, Romance|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies|Cinema




My dissertation examines, within Fascist propagandist literature and cinema of the 1930s, the hybrid figures of mulattoes—the offspring of interracial unions between Italian men and native women of Italy's African colonies—and Levantines—white Italian immigrant merchants and craftsmen living in Alexandria, Egypt, who culturally intermingled with other ethnic groups. The popular novels and feature films I examine reveal the mulattoes and Levantines as interchangeable characters invalidating Benito Mussolini's efforts at establishing a national identity based on a common cultural background, racial attributes, and religious beliefs. As my title suggests, I take mulattoes and Levantines out of the cinematic and literary “stock” of propaganda, where they were depicted as outside the stirpe (stock) of the Italian people, to reveal the inconsistencies within Fascist ideals of racial and cultural purity. In historical and anthropological terms, I intend to bring to light how literary and cinematic devices used to stigmatize mulattoes and Levantines often undermine themselves, calling attention to what was supposed to be absent or different from what was in “stock,” in the works themselves, in the actual peoples depicted and even in the motives of Fascist colonial enterprises. My analysis is informed by the framework of studies on exoticism, hybridity and mimicry, passing and the tragic mulatto, masculinity and femininity, and cultural studies, all of which lead back to the question: Why did Italians resist the ethnic and cultural metissage during colonialism and still to this day insist on “whiteness” when they describe themselves and their culture?^