Displaced Italianness in Latin America through the Lens of Italians versus Latin Americans

George Epolito, Leeds Beckett, UK

The presentation builds on the prior one given at DMU, however with greater specificity. In the particular case of Latin America, the migration of Italian ideas regarding art and architecture were received by locals with a preference towards the Cuban concept of Transculturation or it cousin Brazilian concept of Antropophagite. In contrast, the intent mostly of the Italian cultural elite was towards Acculturation. The former concepts emphasised a positive contamination of ideas, an appropriation of various sources (presences) in order to create new hybridised wholes, whilst the latter preferred to impose their single, self-proclaimed culturally superior, approach (influence). The presentation highlights texts written by key 20th Century cultural promoters on both sides of the Atlantic in support of this argument. More recent scholarly activities devoted to the subject are also analysed in order to better understand how contemporary views often still follow the same pattern of migrated ‘presences’ versus ‘influences’. The few exceptions are also noted.

George Epolito is an academic whose career has spanned over two decades in the United States, Puerto Rico, Italy, and the United Kingdom. His research explores the intersection of politics and culture with an emphasis on the innovative, hybridised aesthetics produced by people who have been displaced into the margins of societies. Initial investigations generally explored the plight of marginalised cultures, their situation within the realm of the everyday, and their potential for informing new (urban) design strategies for the built environment. The specific cultures studied were African-American, Puerto Rican, and Italian immigrant – both in Rió de la Plata Basin of Latin America and the Deep South of the United States. More recent research included the Italian influence in their former colonies in North and East Africa. Future research intends to revisit Buenos Aires looking at new displaced cultures in the urban margins of its villas miserias (shanty towns).