Finding the Imagined Motherland in China: The Italian Experience in Tianjin

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Maurizio Marinelli


Between 1860 and 1945, the Chinese port city of Tianjin became the site of up to nine foreign-controlled concessions, functioning side by side. China historian Ruth Rogaski (2004) has argued that Tianjin's distinctiveness deserves the appellation 'hyper-colony', a term which reflects Tianjin's socio-political intricacies and the multiple colonial discourses of power and space. This article focuses on the multiple layers of historical representations, as well as the discursive and material practices of spatial production that were at stake in the former concessions’ area in Tianjin (1860-1945), with particular attention to the Italian concession. The production of this enclave was informed by the notion of the concession as an Italian-style ‘neighbourhood’: a miniature venue of ‘Italianness’ or ‘Italian spirit’ (Italianità), that seemed to reproduce the imagined community of the newly unified Italian nation in China.

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Author Biography

Maurizio Marinelli, China Research Centre, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney

Professor in Chinese Studes