American Italian Historical Association
In Il pensiero meridiano, sociologist Franco Cassano claims that the cultural autonomy of the South hinges upon a radical redefinition of the relationship between South and North. Dominant representations of the South as a “not-yet North”1 (Cassano viii), always imperfectly mimicking a more advanced North, found themselves on the idea of a linear transition from backwardness to development where the differences are often reduced to a matter of time. If Gramsci, in The Southern Question, deconstructed the Italian North/South binarism by suggesting potential alliances among non-dominant groups (namely, Northern workers and Southern peasants), Cassano proposes a spatial rethinking of the South where the connections between the South of Italy and those of the world, particularly the Southern Mediterranean coast, are paramount for the construction of the South as an “other” viewpoint, autonomous and relational at the same time.2 In order to reach this goal, Cassano’s “meridian thinking” advocates a cognitive transformation of our relationship with places, a key point that I will address in this paper through a reading of Kym Ragusa’s memoir The Skin Between Us (2006). If the “meridian thinking” manifests itself in multiple and scattered forms,3 my main purpose is to investigate Ragusa’s narrative, primarily set in the city of New York, with respect to the kind of southern exchange that Cassano hopes for. To this end, I will analyze the specific ways in which racial boundaries are inscribed in space within the memoir, and highlight the centrality of the journey to Palermo, and thus the Mediterranean, as a source of cultural belonging for the biracial author.
Small Towns, Big Cities: The Urban Experience of Italian Americans
Southern Encounters in the City: Reconfiguring the South from the Liminal Space.” Small Towns, Big Cities: The Urban Experience of Italian Americans. Ed. Dennis Barone and Stefano Luconi. New York, NY: American Italian Historical Association, 2010. 219-27.