African-American Slave or Subject of the Italian Colonial Empire? The Trajectory of Uncle Tom in Italy during the Fascist Ventennio

Valentina Abbatelli


This paper aims to illustrate how the Italian reception of Uncle Tom’s Cabin during the Italian Fascist regime (1922-1943) can be interpreted as a way to reinforce Italian national identity while establishing hierarchical bonds with the US and Africa. This article analyses the book covers of several Italian editions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin issued under the Fascist dictatorship and concentrates on the close reading of two editions of the book: the 1928 Nerbini abridgement and the 1940 Hoepli edition for children. This paper argues that certain translations issued under the Fascist regime appropriate the character of Tom, an obedient African-American slave who remains entirely subservient to his masters, and make this figure correspond with the proposed subject of the Italian colonial empire. In doing this, these translations achieve a seemingly paradoxical aim: they reinforce the positive Italian identity as colonisers in Africa and simultaneously challenge the United States on the issue of racism and segregation of the blacks.

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DOI: 10.14324/111.2057-2212.051


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