Visions of Migration: Cinematic Representations of Mobility and Belonging

Sandra Ponzanesi

Italian cinema of migration has captured international attention thanks to more mainstream productions such as Fuocoammare, (Francesco Rosi, 2016), Mediterranea (Jonas Carpignano, 2015), and Terraferma (Emanuele Crialese, 2011), which have managed to garner international prizes and critical praise.

However, the question of visibility, recognition, and dialogue around issues of migration in Italy remains highly problematic and often falls prey to media and political instrumentalization, which foments xenophobic anxiety instead of solidarity and hospitality.

The latter should be mobilized through a reminder of Italy’s history of outward mobility, both in relation to its colonial expansion in Africa and to the substantial emigration from Italy to the Americas. Italy’s many migrations deserve further scrutiny and analysis, in establishing patterns not only of responsibility and entanglements with the current so-called “migration crisis,” but also of similarity and communality.

Cinematic representations of migration help visually and politically to counter hostile frameworks by offering a podium to individualized narratives, and to diversified forms of civic engagement in the name of solidarity and of a shared common humanity, e.g. Io sto con la sposa (Antonio Augugliaro, Gabriele del Grande, and Khaled Soliman al Nassiry, 2014). Many of these productions are postcolonial interventions that manage to convey the visual and ideological instability of the Italian identity in its entanglement with different histories and geographies, while also creating alternative visions and spaces, where notions of hospitality and belonging are negotiated and developed from new perspectives.

Sandra Ponzanesi is Chair of Gender and Postcolonial Studies, Department of Media and Culture Studies at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. She has published widely in the field of postcolonial feminist theory, cinema studies, Italian postcolonialism, digital media, and migration. Among her recent publications are Postcolonial Intellectuals in Europe (2018), Postcolonial Transitions in Europe (2016), The Postcolonial Cultural Industry (Palgrave, 2014), Gender, Globalisation and Violence (2014), and Postcolonial Cinema Studies (Routledge, 2012) with Marguerite Waller. She has also guest edited several special issues on Postcolonial Europe, Digital Migration and Transnational Cinema Studies. She is project leader of the ERC project “Digital Crossings in Europe: Gender, Diaspora and Belonging” CONNECTINGEUROPE, director of the PCI (Postcolonial Studies Initiative), and project leader of the NWO-PIN (Postcolonial Intellectuals and their European Publics) network project.

She was Visiting Professor at Columbia University and at University of California, Los Angeles. She was also visiting scholar at New York University, Rutgers University, and University of California, Riverside, and Senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics.