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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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Italian Americans, Consumerism, and the Cold War in Transnational Perspective

Italian Americans, Consumerism, and the Cold War in Transnational Perspective

(p.148) 8 Italian Americans, Consumerism, and the Cold War in Transnational Perspective
Making Italian America

Danielle Battisti

Fordham University Press

The chapter shows that the appreciation of so many Italian Americans for the material rewards that American liberalism had delivered to them was used as a transnational Cold War weapon—a means to convince Italians in Italy to choose the promise of American consumerism over communism in a crucial political moment in which the “homeland” was at the forefront of the clash between the two worlds. The chapter emphasizes how public campaigns like the mass letters and donations for Italian war relief that Italian Americans sent to their relatives in Italy to convince them to vote for anticommunist parties in the watershed elections of 1948 had in fact a double purpose: one international, influencing the self-determination of Italians in Italy and keeping the country in the U.S. sphere of influence; and one domestic, proving to other Americans that (despite indications or fears to the contrary) the levels of material consumption Italians had achieved in America had decisively won them to the cause of capitalism and Americanism. Furthermore, Italian Americans involved in organizations that worked to repeal the National Origins System quotas and reform American immigration policies set out to prove the fitness of Italians as both new immigrants and citizens in the 1950s and 1960s. One way they did so was to demonstrate that Italian immigrants who came to the United States after World War II adopted lifestyles that reflected the culture of mass consumption that prevailed in the United States.

Keywords:   Cold War, transnationalism, Italy, history, 1940s-1950s, Italian American, anti-communism, Italian refugees, post-World War II Italian immigration to the United States, politics of consumption, ethnicity, foreign relations

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