Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pg. 99: Mark Choate's "Emigrant Nation"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Mark Choate's Emigrant Nation: The Making of Italy Abroad.

About the book, from the publisher:
Between 1880 and 1915, thirteen million Italians left their homeland, launching the largest emigration from any country in recorded world history. As the young Italian state struggled to adapt to the exodus, it pioneered the establishment of a “global nation”—an Italy abroad cemented by ties of culture, religion, ethnicity, and economics.

In this wide-ranging work, Mark Choate examines the relationship between the Italian emigrants, their new communities, and their home country. The state maintained that emigrants were linked to Italy and to one another through a shared culture. Officials established a variety of programs to coordinate Italian communities worldwide. They fostered identity through schools, athletic groups, the Dante Alighieri Society, the Italian Geographic Society, the Catholic Church, Chambers of Commerce, and special banks to handle emigrant remittances. But the projects aimed at binding Italians together also raised intense debates over priorities and the emigrants’ best interests. Did encouraging loyalty to Italy make the emigrants less successful at integrating? Were funds better spent on supporting the home nation rather than sustaining overseas connections?

In its probing discussion of immigrant culture, transnational identities, and international politics, this fascinating book not only narrates the grand story of Italian emigration but also provides important background to immigration debates that continue to this day.
Among the early praise for Emigrant Nation:
"Emigrant Nation is a compelling study that will be of great interest to scholars and students of migration in the past as well as the present. Through a fascinating analysis of the impact of emigration on Italy a century ago--and the Italian government's involvement with its emigrants abroad--Mark Choate makes an important contribution to our understanding of the global and transnational processes that are of such concern today."
--Nancy Foner, author of In a New Land: A Comparative View of Immigration

"Why is it that Italians abroad have often seemed more 'Italian' than those at home? In this lively and amply documented study, Choate shows that between 1885 and 1915 Italian governments sponsored an emigrant colonialism among Italians worldwide that they hoped would invigorate the making of a 'global nation' both at home and abroad. This book sheds light on how people leaving home helped reconstitute the identity of those they left behind."
--John Agnew, author of Place and Politics in Modern Italy

"Mark Choate succeeds in making emigration a central rather than peripheral theme of Italy's history, closely linking it to Italy's desire for imperial and cultural influence abroad and nation-building challenges at home. Readers will find especially compelling the implications of Italy's unique history for contemporary emigrant nations such as Mexico and the Philippines."
--Donna R. Gabaccia, author of We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans
Read an excerpt from Emigrant Nation, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press webpage and Mark Choate's website.

Mark Choate is a history professor at Brigham Young University.

The Page 99 Test: Emigrant Nation.

--Marshal Zeringue