Cover for GABACCIA: Italian Workers of the World: Labor Migration and the Formation of Multiethnic States. Click for larger image

Italian Workers of the World

Labor Migration and the Formation of Multiethnic States

The impact of transnational Italian workers on the countries where they lived and worked

Offering a kaleidoscopic perspective on the experiences of Italian workers on foreign soil, Italian Workers of the World explores the complex links between international class formation and nation building.

Distinguished by an international panel of contributors, this wide-ranging volume examines how the reception of immigrants in their new countries shaped their sense of national identity and helped determine the nature of the multiethnic states in which they settled. In Argentina and Brazil, Italian migrants were welcomed as a civilizing influence and were instrumental in establishing and leading syndicalist and anarcho-syndicalist labor movements committed to labor internationalism. In the United States, by contrast, where Italian workers were greeted by the American Federation of Labor's hostility to socialism, internationalism, and unskilled laborers, they organized in ethnically mixed unions, including the radical Industrial Workers of the World. The xenophobia they encountered in the "land of opportunity" ultimately encouraged sympathy among Italian Americans for Mussolini's modernizing, imperialist ambitions for the Italian state.

Covering the work of republican "Garibaldians" in South America and antifascist currents among Italian migrants in France and the United States, as well as such seminal events as the 1912 textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia, Italian Workers of the World shows how modes of incorporating (or excluding) foreign-born workers were carried over from nineteenth-century labor movements to twentieth-century nation-states. This volume also paves the way for new modes of collaboration across the boundaries of historical nationalism.


"In this path-breaking collection of essays, editors Donna Gabaccia and Fraser Ottanelli and chapter contributors trace the ideological, political, and cultural courses charted by Italy's migrants. . . . Italian Workers of the World offers profound new ways of thinking about class and ethnic identities, immigrant communities, and the importance of national histories. . . . A remarkable work ."--Labor History

"This stimulating collection suggests new approaches adaptable to several disciplines and provides model essays for the next generation of migration scholars."--American Historical Review

"Marked by a rare coherence and clarity of vision, this elegant collection is a focused attempt to come to grips with some of the thornier issues that have confronted immigration historians in the past decade: how to practice comparative history, how to reconcile historians' emphasis on nation-states with the transnationalism paradigm of social scientists, and how to make race and class meaningful analytical categories rather than tired clichés."--Dorothee Schneider, author of Trade Unions and Community: The German Working Class in New York City, 1870-1900

"An important book located at the intersection of labor migration, workers' internationalism, and nation-building, Italian Workers of the World offers compelling portraits of courageous class-conscious workers and radical exiles negotiating both national and transnational identities. An inspiring model for international collaboration and transnational perspectives on historical practice, the book challenges us to rethink the connections between the building of national labor movements and international class solidarity."--Franca Iacovetta, author of Enemies Within: Italians and Other Internees in Canada and Abroad

Publication of book supported by a grant from the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation


Donna R. Gabaccia, Mellon Professor of History at the University of Pittsburth, is the author of Militants and Migrants: Rural Sicilians Become American Workers and other books. Fraser M Ottanelli, an associate professor of history at the University of South Florida, is the author of The Communist Party in the United States: From the Depression to World War II.

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