AUDITORY FRAGMENTS FROM THE MULTITUDE (a series) reframing the narrative around italian youth emigration (part two)

In this series, Silvia Vari explores and reframes narratives about the emigration of Italian youth through the use of auditory fragments. Her “audiobiography” creates a network of different people, individual narratives, homes, feelings and voices, whose intersections and ramifications uncover a “heterogenous multitude”. She argues against the oversimplification of the experience of the young Italian emigrant and pleads for the embracement of diversity, fragmentation and multiplicity.

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We, Lorenzo

Work, independence, stagnation and opportunity. How many of us can relate to your words, my friend? Rather than asking you what you can do, we usually get asked who do you know. That is a sad truth. Managing on your own without relying on your family becomes a quasi-impossibility. You feel glued to your nest and, the more you grow up, the more you feel a cumbersome presence and yet, the possibility of finding a job in order to become self-sufficient so to spread your wings and fly away gets postponed into the future.[1]

I like that you alternate the first singular and first plural pronouns. That pause you make when you say “we…young people without any experience, never get a chance to learn a job” just gave me shivers. Yes, we are together in this.

If you get the chance, how much do you end up getting paid? How often do we work without a regular contract? I, you, we have all been there, working eight hours (if not more) and ending the workday, exhausted, with forty euros cash in your hands.[2]

I wonder why we never asked you this before, why all those times we sporadically met back in italy we never had this conversation. All too caught up into our own deliriums that we actually forget to talk and listen to each other.

I don’t think you’ll ever read these words, but we’ve always admired you for the guts of leaving everything behind and moving abroad when you were barely in your twenties.

For what it’s worth, i’m proud of you.

You refused the toxicity that too often affects italy’s working environment, you found it unacceptable that a system could be based on the premises of irregular work, nepotism and the thorough lack of social mobility. Italy offers a static socio-cultural system, where talent is mostly overlooked, and hierarchies are strictly enforced.[3]

It does not come without surprise that youth experiences the feeling of not feeling at home.[4] If we don’t reflect ourselves in this dysfunctional system, why not leave? Why not belong somewhere else?

Too often have our stories been used to reinforce national and populist discourses that pinpoint how italy is losing its international prestige because of the loss of its most valuable and youngest intellectual resources.[5] Isn’t it time we re-appropriate our narratives?

Everywhere, they promise therefore to reconstruct the national unity by force. But the more they “divide” by going on about the “feeling of belonging,” the more the certainty spreads of not being part of the whole they have in mind.[6]

We, Leandro

You started wandering the globe before even finishing high school: United States, Spain, Belgium and more than a year in Chile. How long have we been chasing each other? But we always knew that you’d be coming back some day, that you belonged to italy.

You call italy “my country”. Your use of the possessive pronoun in relation to a place that randomly happened to welcome you on this planet – well, it intrigues me. You feel you have a place where you fully consider yourself at home.

Your words for italy and the gratefulness in your voice disclose how much you feel part of a real community. Your Nation is a tangible reality, a concrete space where you belong.

Would you say that belonging means that you have roots in your national community? Do those roots branch vertically, deep down into the ground that saw your birth?

We’re asking because we feel more like we live in constant horizontality, branches extending in all different directions, creating a network-like subject that has no centre, no fixed home.

Belonging is a temporary feeling. To be territorialized, located, fixed: that is almost to be considered a privilege.

Mobility and flexibility are more like it; we are trained in precariousness and variability.[7]

I like thinking of me in terms of a “deterritorialized self” who is in constant search for reterritorialization. We feel that in this way i belong everywhere and nowhere at the same time. We gain agency in our belonging. It is not easy, and at times we might feel nostalgia for our birth-space, but among the many facets of globalization, deterritorialization and reterritorialization become a bit of an easy thing to do. In a globalized world, following the ongoing flux of mobility has become part of the status-quo – unless a pandemic strikes, of course…

Consequently, young people are not constrained by a single social solidarity characterized by a single set of hegemonic values, beliefs and often deterritorialized relationships and social solidarities. Their modes and ways of belonging are diverse and can vary according to the particular social group or solidarity.[8]

[1] Leccardi, Carmen. “Young people and the new semantics of the future”. Societàmutamentopolitica, vol. 5, n. 10, 2014, pp. 41-54.

[2] King, Ben. “Jobless young Italians face life on the black market”, BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/business-24734058, October 2013 (Accessed 11/07/2020); Johnson, Miles and David Ghiglione. “’Pasta and Beans’ – Italy’s shadow workers are out of the safety net”, Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/08847c08-9582-4c48-9d2d-319f8593da19, March 2020 (Accessed 11/07/2020).

[3] Caneva, Elena. “La nuova emigrazione italiana: cosa ne sappiamo, come ne parliamo” (The new Italian emigration: what we know, how do we talk about it). Cambio, n. 11, 2016, p. 196.

[4] Virno, Paolo. A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life, Semiotext(e), 2004, p. 34.

[5] Beltrame, Lorenzo. “Realtà e retorica del brain drain in Italia. Stime statistiche, definizioni pubbliche e interventi politici” (Reality and rhetoric of the Italian brain drain. Statistical estimations, public definions and political interventions), Dipartimenti di Sociologia e Ricerca Socialie, Quaderno 35, 2007, p. 36.

[6] The invisible committee. Now, The anarchist library, 2017.

[7] Virno, p. 85.

[8] Halse, Christine. Interrogating Belonging for Young People in Schools, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, p. 6.