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

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.


We, Silvia

How often we find ourselves, when moving abroad, positively struck by how different the academic environment is. A more dialogue-oriented, dynamic working space, where professors don’t look down on you as if you were the umpteenth daily nuisance.

That’s what sort of gave me away in 2016, when i decided after my Erasmus exchange that i would pursue my studies abroad. What can i say: welcome to the Club, Sil.

It’s hard to explain in just a few lines the many problems Italian academia has, and this does not obviously mean that these problematics are entirely absent abroad. However, it is not by chance that most of the italian expats are in the field of research. Once we go abroad, we tend to never return.[1]

What seems striking is that within the new mobilities of italian young emigrants, which we can by now affirm as being a far more complex phenomenon than a mere brain drain, sentimental reasons are considered to be one of the most important factors of expatriation. We move to reach our beloved ones; we move out of affective rather than economic necessity.[2]

Your experience casts light on a fundamental aspect that has been overlooked until now: today, we choose to displace our bodies in order to belong somewhere else with someone else. Your irish reterritorialization and your choice of (temporarily) belonging there with your significant other are admirable, and it partially reminds me of my own choices.

How interesting: not only do we share a name, but we bear similar stories.

Yes, we understand you. “Feeling at home” mostly depends on the social bonds that you manage to create: all those fragmented affective pieces that you inevitably scatter in different spaces and times. That is also a part of being everywhere and nowhere, your love being shared with so many different people you met along the way.

Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something.[3]

We wonder: could this potentially contribute to our constant feeling of “not feeling at home”? Do we have as many homes as loved ones?

Belonging is an affective process of becoming rather than a fixed status of being.[4] Love is possibly one of the most powerful propulsors of transforming the “i” into a “we”, where the boundaries between individual and collective fade in mysterious ways.

If belonging is filled with affective concerns and ‘care’, it is an inclination and an openness towards the Other. Isn’t then love the ultimate form of belonging?

To love is never to be together but to become together.[5]

I think that [belonging] captures more accurately the desire for some sort of attachment, be it to other people, places, or modes of being, and the ways in which individuals and groups are caught within wanting to belong [and] wanting to become.[6]

We, fragments from the Multitude

So, not only brains but complex bodies; voices vibrating with individual life stories, parts of a collective network. Lorenzo, Leandro, Silvia and many other voices are privileged enough to be heard and listened: my thoughts go to the many other voices who are neglected and silenced.

We don’t want our stories to belong to a mainstream narrative that homogenizes us into oversimplified definitions such as “the precarious generation”,[7]cervelli in fuga[8], “italy’s lost generation”.[9]

Let us make use of our voices to reclaim the narrative of our lives as being both individual and collective. Let us reclaim the agency to speak and recount the multiplicity of our experiences, feelings and desires. Let us unite in a chorus that lays claim to a new political subjectivity: a fragmented, deterritorialized and networked Multitude of individuals.

The fragments that constitute us, the forces inhabiting us, the assemblages we enter into don’t

have any reason to compose a harmonious whole, a fluid set, a movable articulation. The banal

experience of life in our time is characterized rather by a succession of encounters that undo us

little by little, dismember us, gradually deprive us of any sure bearings.[10]

We are part of an interrelational community that exceeds traditional spaces such as national boundaries; we embrace a notion of belonging as a dynamic experience of becoming-other, a longing for someone/something else.[11]

Yes, at times nostalgia can hit us hard, but our nostalgia is not for the lost unity, for the lack of belonging to our nation. We sometimes miss some aspects of our cultural background, isn’t that human? A part of us, a fragment of myself, will always be attached to the chirping cicadas, to the Summer breeze or to Christmas tortellini. Does that mean i cannot belong somewhere else?

We should use the many pieces that make us whole as our starting point. Displacement and replacement are paramount concepts for a new understanding of our migration and of the narrative of italian youth’s migration; beware, the oversimplification of this phenomenon ends up with the exploitation of our different and heterogeneous stories feeding nostalgic, reactionary and toxic cries for a lost national unity. Unity is a paradoxical concept: there is no such thing as indissoluble unity.

That’s why i believe we should start from embracing multiplicity and fragmentation as our starting point. Let’s get fragmented and feel all right.

In the face of all that, the thing to do, it would seem, is to leave home, take to the road, go meet up with others, work towards forming connections, whether conflictual, prudent, or joyful, between the different parts of the world. Organizing ourselves has never been anything else than loving each other[12]





[1] Biondo, Alessio et al. “The Propensity to Return: Theory and Evidence for the Italian Brain Drain.” Economics Letters, vol. 115, no. 3, Elsevier B.V, June 2012, pp. 359–62,

[2] 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.

[3] Butler, Judith. Precarious Life. The power of mourning and violence, Verso, 2004, p. 23.

[4] Antonisch, Marco. “Searching for Belonging – An Analytical Framework”. Geography Compass, vol. 4, n. 6, 2010.

[5] The invisible committee. Now, The anarchist library, 2017, p. 48.

[6] Probyn, Elspeth. Outside belonging, Routledge, 1996, p. 19.

[7] This definition can be found ubiquitously in italian media and news. See for instance: Zamponi, Lorenzo. “The ‘precarious Generation’ and the ‘Natives of the Ruins’: The Multiple Dimensions of Generational Identity in Italian Labor Struggles in Times of Crisis”. American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 63, n. 10, pp. 1427-1446.

[8] “Fleeing brains” in english.

[9] Babington, Deepa. “No country for young men; Italy’s ‘lost generation’”, Reuters,, June 2010 (Accessed 12/07/2020).

[10] The invisible committee, p. 48.

[11] Probyn, p. 5.

[12] The Invisible Committee, p. 17.