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Italian American: The Racializing of an Ethnic Identity

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Overview

When southern Italians began emigrating to the U.S. in large numbers in the 1870s-part of the "new immigration" from southern and eastern rather than northern Europe-they were seen as racially inferior, what David A. J. Richards terms "nonvisibly" black.

The first study of its kind, Italian American explores the acculturation process of Italian immigrants in terms of then-current patterns of European and American racism. Delving into the political and legal context of flawed liberal nationalism both in Italy (the Risorgimento) and the United States (Reconstruction Amendments), Richards examines why Italian Americans were so reluctant to influence depictions of themselves and their own collective identity. He argues that American racism could not have had the durability or political power it has had either in the popular understanding or in the corruption of constitutional ideals unless many new immigrants, themselves often regarded as racially inferior, had been drawn into accepting and supporting many of the terms of American racism.

With its unprecedented focus on Italian American identity and an interdisciplinary approach to comparative culture and law, this timely study sheds important light on the history and contemporary importance of identity and multicultural politics in American political and constitutional debate.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Within a comparative analysis of European and US patterns of racism, Richards (law, New York U.) studies the acculturation process of US Italian immigrants since the 1870s. This third- generation Italian American discusses flawed national liberalism in the US and Italy, and argues that immigrant internalization of being "nonvisibly black" reinforced US political pathologies. Court cases since 1863 are among the references. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814775202
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Author of numerous books including Conscience and the Constitution: History, Theory, and Law of the Reconstruction Amendments and Women, Gays, and the Constitution: The Grounds of Feminism and Gay Rights in Culture and Law, David A. J. Richards is Edwin D. Webb Professor of Law at New York University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Introduction 1
2 Revolutionary Constitutionalism 14
The Six Ingredients of American Revolutionary Constitutionalism 14
The Civil War Amendments as an Expression of American Revolutionary Constitutionalism 27
French and American Revolutionary and Constitutional Thought Compared 39
Popular Sovereignty in French Constitutionalism 44
Rights Skepticism and the Positivistic Challenge to German Constitutionalism 63
Summary and Concluding Remarks 73
3 The Promise and Betrayal of Italian Revolutionary Constitutionalism: The Southern Italian Emigration 76
The Risorgimento as Revolutionary Constitutionalism 76
American, French, and Italian Revolutionary and Constitutional Thought Compared 86
The Legitimation Crisis of Italian Constitutionalism: The Emigration from Southern Italy 97
4 American Liberal Nationalism and the Italian Emigration 116
Racism as a Constitutional Evil 119
The Rationalization of Structural Injustice 152
The Southern Italian Emigration and American Racism, 1890-1920 158
Italian American Identity and American Racism 181
5 Multicultural Identity and Human Rights 213
Bibliography 239
Index 259
About the Author 273
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