Early Representations of Organized Crime and Issues of Identity in the Italian American Press (1890 to 1910)

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Abstract

Beginning from the early days of mass immigration (1890s), Italian immigrants were increasingly depicted in association with crime, especially organized crime, in the mainstream press. Fuelled by nativist views of immigrants as a threat to American safety, character, and morality, these first images of the newcomers became increasingly popular as the new century progressed, crystallizing in the minds of Americans and becoming the predominant representations of Italian immigrants. The response of the newly formed Italian communities can be found in the Italian-American press, which took upon itself the task of providing alternative images with which the burgeoning Italian community could identify, and alternative perspectives on organized crime. I argue that, as Italians were represented almost exclusively in the context of criminality, it was in this discursive field that many immigrant writers sought to construct their own representations. The dominance of criminality, coupled with the central role that the Italian-American press played in the immigrant community, makes the immigrant press an unrivalled source in which to examine the ways Italian-American communities struggled to define themselves and their place within the larger American society. It was in newspapers that counter-representations and re-codings of stereotypes first emerged, and in the press that the process of constructing a collective Italian-American identity first takes shape.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)54-75
Numero di pagine22
RivistaTHE ITALIAN AMERICAN REVIEW
Volume6
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2016

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