African “ghosts” and the myth of “Italianness”: the presence of migrant writers in Italian literature




Italian migrant writers, Italian identity, black Italians, African migration to Italy


In this article, I analyze the cultural meaning of the emergence of an African migrant literature in Italy at the beginning of the 1990s and its presence today. I put this emergence in dialogue with the construction of Italian identity as white. Through a brief historical account of how this social construction came into being, I verify how African migrant literature contests this (de)racialized myth of “Italianness.” Using Gordon’s concept of “haunting,” I argue that African literature within Italian literature can be read as a manifestation of ghosts: the appearance of a presence that has always been there but was repressed by hegemonic discourses. African literature not only works against subalternity, but also reveals whiteness as imagined and acknowledges a colonial past that has been deleted from the public remembrance. Despite such work, African migrant authors today are still writing against the paradigm of the “arrival,” asking: who is Italian? Who can represent Italian citizens?


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Author Biography

Anita Virga, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Anita Virga is Lecturer in the Italian Department at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her research interests include postcolonialism, migration, black identity, blended learning, Sicilian literature and cinema, Luigi Capuana, and Giovanni Verga.


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How to Cite

Virga, A. (2019). African “ghosts” and the myth of “Italianness”: the presence of migrant writers in Italian literature. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 56(1), 102–112.



Research articles