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Making Italian AmericaConsumer Culture and the Production of Ethnic Identities$
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Simone Cinotto

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823256235

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823256235.001.0001

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In Italy Everyone Enjoys It—Why Not in America?

In Italy Everyone Enjoys It—Why Not in America?

Italian Americans and Consumption in Transnational Perspective During the Early Twentieth Century

Chapter:
(p.71) 3 In Italy Everyone Enjoys It—Why Not in America?
Source:
Making Italian America
Author(s):

Elizabeth Zanoni

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823256235.003.0004

The magnitude of Italian imports in the United States before World War II reflected the role that immigrants played in fostering the commercial flows. Italian immigrants’ conspicuous fondness of imported goods, from cigars to laces to olive oil, witnessed their attempt at articulating their diasporic nostalgia, identity, and taste through shopping, as well as the centrality of consumption in the project of diasporic nationalism—regularly encouraged as it was by the local/transnational immigrant mercantile elites and their supporters in the Italian government abroad. The chapter expands on scholarship by historians such as Lizabeth Cohen and Meg Jacobs who describe consumption’s role as a complex but ultimately successful tool of U.S. nation and citizenship building. The chapter concludes that, instead, by buying and consuming items from Italy, immigrants acted as transnational consumers who formed their national identities around goods from their homeland, as well as around those in their host countries. It was not only Italians’ participation in U.S. consumer culture that turned migrants toward consumption; rather, it was also migrants’ transnational familial, community, and national sentiments that made consumption increasingly acceptable among a people more used to saving than spending. The consumption of Italian exports abroad in some cases strengthened migrants’ ties to their homeland, while fostering a more distinct ethnic and Italian identity in the United States.

Keywords:   transnationalism, Italian Americans, Italian immigrants, ethnic food, immigrant consumers, ethnicity, diasporic nationalism, immigrant entrepreneurship, Il Progresso Italo Americano, consumer culture, U.S.-Italy trade

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