Criminal Calabria: The alignment of crime with constructed Calabrian racial inferiority in the Italian national imaginary

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper


This paper explores some possible readings of Calabrian identity as it is portrayed across the mainstream Italian media, and indicates where and how Calabrians are situated within a racialised modernity-backwardness paradigm. Through analysis of Giulio Manfredonia’s film Qualunquemente (2011), and an article published in Cosmopolitan Italia entitled ‘12 cose da sapere prima di uscire con un uomo calabrese’ by Mauro Scali (2016), this paper explores how the rhetoric of the Questione Meridionale is drawn on and broadcast in a way that
presents Calabria as extreme in the national imaginary, even within the context of the South. Constructions of this extreme Calabrian marginality are inextricable from the historic conceptualisation and representation of Southerners as both biologically inferior and inherently criminal: the perceived result of Arab and African racial influences. In both these cultural artefacts this racialised rhetoric is subtly employed, aligning regional socio-economic conditions as well as national political scandals and corruption with Calabrian Otherness and backwardness. Considering these cultural artefacts as hegemonic constructions of Calabrian identity, the function these works have in terms of the formation of public opinion is also addressed. The emphasis of Calabria as a racially inferior ‘zona del male’ in the national imaginary will be considered through Foucault’s theory of ‘subjugated knowledge’: the idea that a backwards, criminal Calabria existing in contradistinction to Italian national identity is ‘known’ by the rest of the nation is explored as a political and ideological tool used to reinforce dominant Italian discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2018
EventItalian Studies Postgraduate Colloquium, 'Body Narratives' - University of St Andrews, St Andrews, United Kingdom
Duration: 16 Nov 201816 Nov 2018


ConferenceItalian Studies Postgraduate Colloquium, 'Body Narratives'
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CitySt Andrews
Internet address


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