The Emotion of Truth and the Racial Uncanny: Aborigines and Sicilians in Australia

Francesco Ricatti

Abstract

Through references to four anecdotes, this article approaches the complex and often neglected topic of the relationship between Sicilian migrants in Australia and Aborigines. It does so not in search of clear evidences that may structure a well-defined historical narrative, but rather looking for moments of truth that may open up new dialogues, narratives, research. Within embodied otherness, it is the uncanny feeling towards the racialised other that most effectively make us understand the complex relationship Italian migrants have had with the (un)familiar. The concept of the uncanny helps us understand that the racism of many Italian migrants towards Aboriginal people in Australia has not been resulting from a frightening encounter with the other, with the unfamiliar, with the difference. It has rather been the result of the return of what has been repressed from historical memory, namely the colonial character of Italian unification, Italians’ own racist and colonial history, the colonial nature of many Italian migrants’ settlement abroad, and the identification of southern Italians as the colonised, racialised others, in Italy and abroad. Through positive examples of emotional, intimate and political engagement between Sicilians and Aborigines, this article also consider people’s agency in moving within and challenging the constraining, intricate pervasiveness of the racial and colonial dictate in contemporary Australian society.

Keywords

Migration; Racism; Colonialism; Australia; Sicilian migrants; Aborigines; Uncanny; Historical truth

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