Italian Blackness: Decolonising the former Museum of the Colonies
Kingston University, London
Year of enrolment: 2018 -
Supervisor: Professor David Cottington
Institutional email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This action research project aims to investigate how former colonial collections can be “decolonised” in order to include empowered experiences of Blackness and represent a more fluid concept of “Italian-ness” by focussing on the collections of the former Museum of Colonies, founded in 1904, to propagandize a specific racialised idea of national identity. Owned now by the Italian Institute for Africa and the Orient (IsIAO), these collections are conserved at the Museum of Civilizations (MuCiv) and at the National Library in Rome. Plans to re-exhibit the IsIAO’s collections to the public (c 2021), the increase in populism and antimigratory campaigns in the Global North, and a growing movement advocating a decolonization of cultural institutions has brought to light an urgent need to analyse the historical racialised constructions of identity in order to foster contemporary debate on a more fluid concept of identity. Recent Italian postcolonial studies have exposed the continuity of the colonial past and its racist politics into the present, highlighting contradictions between democratic and liberal-fascist values in post-War Italy. This research starts from these studies and builds on concepts of decolonisation of knowledge and the postcolonial museum, aiming to contribute new understanding on the concept of decolonised identity representation within a museum context, focusing on such issues as Italian Blackness - a subject that needs further investigation. Based upon extensive archive and collection research, I will use a participatory action research methodology through focus groups and a series of interviews where Italians with a background of the former Italian colonies (Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya) will be invited through museum items to offer new insights and raise new questions about national identity, citizenship and belonging. The findings analysed in a written thesis will contribute to a decolonisation of cultural institutions and promote a more fluid idea of European identity.