Nations Divided: America, Italy, and the Southern Question
University of Georgia Press, Dec 1, 2002 - Political Science - 152 pages
In Nations Divided, Don H. Doyle looks at some unexpected parallels in American and Italian history. What we learn will reattune us to the complexities and ironies of nationalism. During his travels around southern Italy not long ago, Doyle was caught off guard by frequent images of the Confederate battle flag. The flag could also be seen, he was told, waving in the stands at soccer matches. At the same time, a political movement in northern Italy called for secession from the South. A historian with a special interest in the long troubled relationship between the American South and the United States, Doyle was driven to understand the forces that unite and divide nations from within.
The Italian South had been at odds with the more prosperous, metropolitan North of Italy since the country's bloody unification struggles in the 1860s. Thousands of miles from Doyle's Tennessee home was an eerily familiar scenario: a South characterized in terms of its many perceived problems by a North eager to define national ideals against the southern "other." From this abruptly decentered perspective, Doyle reexamines both countries' struggle to create an independent, unified nation and the ongoing effort to instill national identity in their diverse populace. The Fourth of July and Statuto Day; Lincoln and Garibaldi; the Confederate States of America and the secessionist dreams of Italy's Northern League; NAFTA and the European Union--such topics appear in telling juxtaposition, both inviting and defying easy conclusions. At the same time, Doyle negotiates the conceptual slipperiness of nationalism by discussing it as both constructed and real, unifying and divisive, inspiration for good and excuse for atrocity.
"Americans like to think of themselves as being innocent of the vicious ethnic warfare that has raged in the Old World and over so much of the globe," writes Doyle. "Europeans, in turn, enjoy reminding Americans of how little history they have." This enlightening, challenging meditation shows us that Europeans and Americans have much to learn from the common history of nationalism that has shaped both their worlds.
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