Today’s featured member profile comes from the wonderful Simone Marino. Take it away Simone!
Member: Simone Marino
The Construction and Transmission of Ethnic Identity among Italian-Australians of Calabrian Ancestry across Three Generations. In my sociological study, I investigated 14 families, three generations of people from an Italian background, in the local “Italian community” of Adelaide. By first generation, I mean the immigrants who migrated during the 1950s, the second generation are their children and the third generation are the children of the second generation, who now are in their 20s. I found that the Italian community is very tight knit and it achieves this by regular social networking, religious celebrations, intra-ethnic marriages and family alliances. There is a fluidity of identity across the generations. It seems that being Italian means different things for different generations. Sadly, the first generation perceived to be undesirable when they migrated and the second generation inherited this legacy and tended not to emphasise their Italian-ness. But now, their children show off their ethnic background by ‘performing in a number of intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic contexts’: they might proudly gesticulate, they display specific objects (like golden chains,or driving a vespa or, if they can afford it, an Alfa Romeo car) and they ask their grandparents how to cook Italian food.What was despised by the dominant society in the past then came to be caricaturised, and successively celebrated.
The main conceptual finding of my study is that individuals’ ethnic identities appear to be shaped by their ‘institutional positionality’, which is their ethnic perception of ‘being in the world’. I have coined this term to try to capture the temporal, subjective and spatial dynamics of ethnic-race race relations of individuals and their ontological (in)securities.
What drew you to this topic?
Do you ever remember those Italian kids at school, with their salami sandwiches who, after their classmates comments, such as: “what’s this stinky stuff?” turned red, perhaps they had changed their names from Giuseppe to Joe, from Pietro to Peter? This got me wondering why, today, their children, at school proudly bring their salami sandwiches and even sell them to their classmates, and how it came to be that they want to be called Giuseppe or Pietro, and to learn from their grandparents how to make a good pizza, how to be Italian. Matters of ethnic identity and integration are extremely relevant to contemporary Australia. My work on the way the Italian presence has evolved can help us integrate our new migrants. The tight knit little Italy community I found is the result of the previous Anglo-Australian racism. Once an ethnicity is perceived positively, migrants can not only keep their ethnic identity and feel part of mainstream Australian society, but they can add an extra dimension of their dolce vita.
What have been the highlights of your RhD journey?
After my first six months of working formally with the community holding 30 one hour interviews I found I was accepted as “one of them”, and was delighted to receive invitations to 4 weddings 3 christenings, 3 funerals and a number of engagement parties. Over a period of three or more years, I immersed myself in the community spending up to 20 or 30 hours a week with the families, taking careful notes after my meetings, and learning to understand their culture and experience.
What do you wish you had known before you started?
I should have been more aware that the structure and style of academic writing might be different between English and Italian. However, I am eagerly keen to learn and to challenge my position.
What advice would you give to others who are either just beginning, or contemplating starting postgraduate study?
I feel so ignorant to give advice to other colleagues. However, in my opinion, students who have just begun, or are contemplating starting a postgraduate study, must be very motivated. They also must love what they are researching, and must have the vice to read a lot! It is important to have days off. Most importantly, take notes whenever they believe they have found a key concept. Further, I found out that it is very beneficial to share your thoughts with colleagues, friends, and all possible audiences which may not be academic. By telling your ideas to others, your thoughts become clearer and organised.
What do you do when you aren’t working on your research?
When I am not researching, I teach Sociology of Migration, Intercultural Communication and Italian Studies. In my free time, I like playing guitar, singing, doing karate, and when it’s possible travelling across Australia.
Thanks Simone! If you think you could answer our 6 quick questions, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org