Transnationalism: a dictionary

This semester, I’m teaching a film course on contemporary Italian transnational cinema and I’ve started writing down terminology I find in the articles and books on the topic that I’ve been reading. This is my current ‘dictionary.’ With footnotes.


Cultural pluralization / cultural plurality

I like that my migration dictionary does not start with ‘A’. In a time when ‘immigration’ and ’emigration’ have lost their directional prefixes and been unified in a transnational ‘migration’ path, displacements no longer occur from point A to point B. Directions of anarchic dispersal. From C to T.

And I like even more that it opens with ‘clandestine.’ The illegitimate ‘Other’ who has no right of stay. Here, you’re my #1.



(1992 Benetton & Toscani – click on image)


Developing countries


Diasporic filmmaker / community



Double occupancy

Dual heritage

In human beings and animals, the ‘developing’ phase is transitional, inevitably leading to growth and maturity. Why the so-called ‘developing countries’ seem to be permanently left in a state of primal puberty?

‘Dual’ is addition, growth, more than one. ‘Double occupancy,’ however, feels crowded, one too much. An unfriendly receiving country that forces you to co-depend in a place too small for more than one.

Ethnically marked body


First-generation filmmaker

From sending to receiving countries


In motion



Electronic spell-checkers mark ‘islamophobic’ as spelled incorrectly. It is not stored in their data bank. Easy solution: if the term is not present, the concept does not exist. We’re all tolerant.

In films, the immigrant body is often ‘ethnically marked’: tired, dirty, emaciated, harsh, unfamiliar. Migrants are like parcels, sent and received. With a third-class ticket. Migrants, in the public opinion and in (too many) contemporary films, are associated with criminality and liminality. They are outcasts, living in a non-lieu, a non-space of liminality dissociated from the national territory.

(from Quando sei nato non puoi più nasconderti/Once you’re born you can no longer hide, M.T. Giordana, 2005)



Migrant communities/filmmakers

Minority filmmaker



One of the few contemporary Italian films that does not represent migrants as ‘marginal’ figures, deviant, liminal, criminal, inevitably doomed to a tragic destiny, is Cristina Comencini’s comedy Bianco e nero (Black and White, 2008). The four protagonists, the Italian Carlo and Elena and the Senegalese Nadine and Bertrand, are ensconced in a middle-class life, with secure jobs, nice houses, and well-dressed kids. Carlo and Nadine fall in love. Unfortunately, ‘miscegenation’ in the film is just a glossy love story.  And racism, cultural clash, (post)colonialism, integration, and so forth get diluted by comedic tones. Which in Bianco e nero are not the pungent elements of the commedia all’italiana – the ‘comedy Italian style’ that in 1950s and 1960s provided a sarcastic commentary on the Italian society of the time.

New Italian-language writers

Yes, Italian is not their native language but why do we have to specify it? They reside in Italy. They write in Italian. They are Italian writers. Joseph Conrad was born in Poland and he didn’t learn English until he was in his twenties. Joseph Conrad belongs, doubtlessly, to the canon of British literature.

Other / Otherness

Permits of stay

Population movement



Regularize (their position)


Second-generation filmmaker

Source countries



Transnational mobility

Transnationally mobile filmmakers

We are in the era of the post-hyphen: Italian Americans are dual. The ‘national’ is dead and get hybridized in a wealth of prefixes, rigorously made in one single world: postnational, supranational, transnational. Their global mobility is not the colonial disease that engulfs and erases the native. It’s ‘glocal’ vibe. The world – first, second or third – is just a wor(l)d.

If my transnational list had to be chanted, it would be like this:


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