Monday, September 01, 2008

"The Self-Identification of the Second Generation Italian Immigrant:"

This was one of the working titles of my Master's Thesis. It grew out of a socio-psychological need to rationalize the sense of marginality that the second generation immigrant experiences vis a vis both the host and mother culture. Here was an entity that was a hybrid of sorts neither fully Italian nor fully Canadian. Neither fully integrated nor accepted by either culture. How much of this sense of marginality is self-imposed is a good question?

Certainly, one of the best litmus tests of the validity of this hypothesis is the trek back to one's roots. Embrace one's mother culture and see if she reciprocates. There have been numerous ethnographic studies on the remigration of immigrants to their points of origin. Most have concluded that the immigrant finds their mother culture changed. That coupled with the changes in the form of assimilation and acculturation that the immigrant must perforce experience in living and surviving within the confines of the host culture - make any idea that the move back should be like putting a fish back in its element problematic.

(yearly procession of the patron saint in San Donato di Ninea)

You Can't go Back

Each time that I go back to Calabria I get that sense of "otherness". The cultural enigma that is Calabria (or Italy for that matter) is like some joke that I should be getting but am at a loss to explain why it's supposed to be so funny. After conducting numerous interviews of SGIs (second generation immigrants) I realized that this was a common perception.

Was this latest trip back to my roots any different? Sadly no. There is still much that escapes me when faced with certain social phenomena. The Italian media is a good example. The Boob Tube is a prime example of this. It is, (at least) from my perspective unfathomable. It is a vast wasteland of cultural opportunity devoid of almost any redeemable properties. But then Berlusconi who is a media magnate & owner of the Mediaset conglomerate is indicative of some of the problems endemic to the state of this form of media.

But the Food is so Good

There is one fixed variable in the cultural equation. The fervor for homemade ethnic cuisine hardly ever wanes. Arguably the southern-Italian culinary palette is one of the healthiest. Still - engorging oneself on homemade bread and pastas do take their toll. I came back with about five pounds of extra baggage. Furthermore, the food here in Montreal seems tasteless in comparison.

Ah Those Vistas!


Justin Evans said...

Great to have you back. That food looks wonderful!

Nick said...

Thanks, Justin, I hope to be back in more ways than just one. However, it was a great trip. :-)