Efton Jiles: Migration Report from Italy

Cover of the Italian glamor magazine Panorama, March 27, 2019.
Headline:  “Immigration: Permission to be drug dealers. Repeat offenders, prostitutes, beggars: This is how, thanks to phantom companies and false jobs, illegal immigrants get documents to stay in Italy. Dozens of judicial inquiries are unveiling a colossal scam. Even a risk to our national Social Security Administration.”
Panorama is a premier weekly magazine, published by Italy’s largest publisher, with historical ties to Time-Life and to the financial empire of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Good morning from Genoa, Italy.

I have been a vagabond in Italy since attending The Immigration Conference a week ago in Bari, Italy. The conference is the largest of its kind and brings together researchers, academics, NGOs, policy makers, and politicians to consider the many and difficult issues related to human migration. Presenters and attendees were from many countries – with papers delivered in several languages – most notably English, Italian, and Turkish.

You may know that the current Italian government is trumpian in form, content, and bluster. The Vice Premier Matteo Salvini is a neo-Mussolini trumpster who is cultivating a cult of personality – calling himself “il capitano,” The Captain. Mussolini’s cult called him “the Duke.” To my knowledge our fearless leader in the US has yet to bestow upon himself a nomen eius imperio, but that may come in time.

Ministers from Salvini’s government were in attendance at the conference in Bari – there to defend Italy’s hard-line anti-immigration decrees. They made, over and over, the point that the Italian government exists to take care of the Italian populace – not to take care of your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Questions from the unfriendly audiences suggested that it might be in the best interest of the Italian people if their government confronted and dealt with the reality and inevitability of world population instability. The current policies largely demonize the immigrants and submit them to increased perils by abandoning them in rural communities where they fall prey to organized crime. And, from the fascist playbook, whips up popular resentment of “The Other” along with adoration of the strong-man of the moment.

Last week I spent in Florence at the NYU Villa La Pietra – getting to know the place and people ahead of my fellowship which begins there in September. As was part of my summer research plan, I also made contact with the Italian refugee “reception center” at which I will work. My plan is to make a series of oral history recordings with refugees – looking for markers of hope and despair as they manifest in the continuing difficulties these people face in their quest for asylum.

This week – I’m actually a bit late this morning – I am in Genoa for a seminar on the sociology of immigration – organized by the University of Milan and a private research group called CSMedì. We are about 20 researchers – and about 20 presenters – a very good ratio for someone like myself who needs to absorb from both sides of the aisle. This is my first foray into an Italian-only academic environment. Yesterday was a challenge – we academics really do have our own dialects – and the abstruse forms seem designed to keep others (me for example) from understanding.

I have made several videos – which I had hoped to upload – but the blog site hasn’t cooperated. I’ll upload them to YouTube and send along the link.

Best greetings to you all.


2 thoughts on “Efton Jiles: Migration Report from Italy

  1. Thanks for the comment. Your work seems like a natural complement to mine – sort of a polar opposite. How is it that Chinese immigrants into Italy have settled in and become rooted in Italian industry (if not in culture), and the African immigrants are so excluded as to be criminalized and demonized? Can it be as simple as the needs of Capital – that Chinese labor can be commodified in ways that African labor cannot be? Is the racial outsider only the one that cannot be exploited? The Italians have made room for tens of thousands of Balkan women – because the Italians need a lower class of domestic workers.

    I look forward to hearing more as your work unfolds.

  2. Wow this is all very interesting! I also saw that there was the huge conference in Bari, and considered going, so I’m happy to read this review. I am impressed that it drew the attention of Salvini’s ministers and I do think this is important to show the gravity of the issue of migration in Italy. I have been only gaining insight by talking to Italians in Rome, Prato, and the Tuscan coast about the issue so far. It seems that the ‘lay’ person, or person just trying to get by is mostly worried about the economy and not being able to have a sustainable job, which reveals a wider global issue and people’s regular fears in capitalism, and shows how Salvini and Trump (thank you for making that connection, I had not yet) employ their versions of populism to make people scared of/resent the ‘Other.’

    Good luck in Genoa!

Comments are closed.