Series Note: The following post is part of a series written by Rutgers graduate students participating in the 2017 Dissertation Funding Mentoring Program. Designed to allow students to practice public writing, the first blog post prompt asked participants to narrate a story about how they came to be interested in their research topic.
As I am starting to write my dissertation, it is helpful to look back on what sparked my interest in this research in the first place. I study internal exile in fascist Italy, confino, and the work of the Italians who were sent to confino.
I first heard about confino when I was an undergraduate studying Italian at Penn State. At the time, I was very interested in Italy’s so-called “Southern Question,” or the idea that the South of Italy is inherently backward economically, culturally, and otherwise. I read Carlo Levi’s seminal memoir, Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Christ Stopped at Eboli), which is one of the books that reignited discussion on the Southern Question in 20th century Italy. Carlo Levi was an antifascist who was sent to confino in a remote town in the South, and his memoir is about the year he spent in exile. After reading this book, I became interested in the work of others who had been sent to internal exile by Mussolini’s regime.
This is now the focus of my research, and I am interested in the ways in these writers theorized post-war Italy while in exile. The intellectuals who were silenced and imprisoned during Italy’s fascist period would be the same men and women called upon to rebuild the nation and Europe in the aftermath of World War II. For example, Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi – both political prisoners on the island of Ventotene – wrote a manifesto that would become one of the founding documents of the European Union. Many other exiles, such as Giorgio Amendola, Alessandro Pertini, and Camilla Ravera, would become public servants as they pursued a career in politics, reshaping the national and international community that had been destroyed by fascism.
Confino is relatively understudied in the United States, so I believe that there is still a lot to uncover about its significance!