• The Forbidden City: Tombolo between American Occupation and Italian Imagination

    Charles L. Leavitt IV (see profile)
    LLC 20th- and 21st-Century Italian
    Italian literature, American literature--African American authors, Twentieth century, World War (1939-1945), Collective memory, United States
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    20th-century African American literature, War literature, World War II, World War II and American memory
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    Largely ignored by scholarship and increasingly occluded in historical memory, Tombolo was once so central to Italian culture and politics that even allusive references to the term could conjure the doubt, anxiety, and indignation of a society working to recover after the war. A pine grove located between Pisa and Livorno, Tombolo housed a large American encampment, which was both a key staging site for the Allied invasion of Italy and a centre of power for the post-war American occupation. It was also the site of a flourishing black market, rampant prostitution, and racial tensions, which combined to give it an outsized role in the Allied occupation as well as in the Italian imagination. Indeed, a mix of prurience and prejudice made Tombolo a kind of Italian obsession after the war. It became the "città proibita" or forbidden city, the subject of lurid tales of white slavery, murder, and kidnapping, money laundering, and thefts totalling billions of lire. In countless journalistic exposes, short stories, novels, and even two neorealist films-Tombolo, paradiso nero (Ferroni, 1947) and Senza pietà (Lattuada, 1948)-Tombolo was the staging ground for a cultural confrontation with the transgressions of the Second World War and the post-war occupation. As such representations made clear, violent clashes in Tombolo pitted not only American against Italian but also white against black, northern against southern, man against woman, Right against Left. In art as in life, therefore, Tombolo became the "contact zone" for the competing racial regimes of Jim Crow and Fascism, and for the resistance against those regimes: the nascent American Civil Rights movement and Italian anti-Fascism. Then it was largely-but not entirely-forgotten. I argue that, despite this willful act of collective forgetting, the contact and conflict of Tombolo substantially re-shaped both Italian and American society in the years that followed the conclusion of the Second World War.
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    4 years ago
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