chapter
14 Pages

Introduction: The problem of Italy and the wider world 1860-1960

In Perth, Western Australia, 'the most isolated city in the world', Kings Park looks out over the central business district. In this park can be found the unique fauna and flora of Western Australia - raucous parrots, nocturnal marsupials, tortured 'kangaroo paws' and giant gums. On Sundays, the populace gathers there to picnic and to play. But, a young anthropologist has told us, beware what goes on at the wall by the Pioneer Women's Fountain. For there congregate some second-and third-generation Italo-West Australians. Their clothes, their gestures, their style flaunt their version of italianità. Males greet each other with dramatic hugs and fervent kisses like football players having scored a goal. Females talk knowingly about the superior sexual mores of 'Marias' (Italian girls) compared with those of 'skippies' (Australian girls). Morality, material goods and ethnicity mingle. The anthropologist's description runs on: 'there were many Fiat cars, many Italian flags and many private number plates sporting Italian names. Most rear vision mirrors dangled crimson garters'. Should non-Italian Australians intrude into this sacred space, they are expelled: 'A group of Australian cyclists passed the wall and one [Italian youth] commented [sarcastically]: "Oh look, the whole family is here". They were quickly booed and jeered and chased off the scene.'1