STEPHANIE MALIA HOM
Empire's Mobius Strip: Historical Echoes in Italy's Crisis of Migration and Detention
Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2019.
*Winner, 2019 American Association for Italian Studies Book Prize (20th & 21st Centuries)*
Italy's current crisis of Mediterranean migration and detention has its roots in early twentieth century imperial ambitions. Empire's Mobius Strip investigates how mobile populations were perceived to be major threats to Italian colonization, and how the state's historical mechanisms of control have resurfaced, with greater force, in today's refugee crisis. What is at stake in Empire's Mobius Strip is a deeper understanding of the forces driving those who move by choice and those who are moved. Stephanie Malia Hom focuses on Libya, considered Italy's most valuable colony, both politically and economically. Often perceived as the least of the great powers, Italian imperialism has been framed as something of "colonialism lite." But Italian colonizers carried out genocide between 1929–33, targeting nomadic Bedouin and marching almost 100,000 of them across the desert, incarcerating them in camps where more than half who entered died, simply because the Italians considered their way of life suspect. There are uncanny echoes with the situation of the Roma and migrants today. Hom explores three sites, in novella-like essays, where Italy's colonial past touches down in the present: the island, the camp, and the village. Empire's Mobius Strip brings into relief Italy's shifting constellations of mobility and empire, giving them space to surface, submerge, stretch out across time, and fold back on themselves like a Mobius strip. It deftly shows that mobility forges lasting connections between colonial imperialism and neoliberal empire, establishing Italy as a key site for the study of imperial formations in Europe and the Mediterranean.
Co-edited with Ruth Ben-Ghiat, London: Routledge, 2016.
The Italian nation-state has been defined by practices of mobility. Tourists have flowed in from the era of the Grand Tour to the present, and Italians flowed out in massive numbers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Italians made up the largest voluntary emigration in recorded world history. As a bridge from Africa to Europe, Italy has more recently been a destination of choice for immigrants whose tragic stories of shipwreck and confinement are often in the news. This first-of-its-kind edited volume offers a critical accounting of those histories and practices, shedding new light on modern Italy as a flashpoint for mobilities as they relate to nationalism, imperialism, globalization, and consumer, leisure, and labor practices. The book’s eight essays reveal how a country often appreciated for what seems immutable - its classical and Renaissance patrimony - has in fact been shaped by movement and transit.
The Beautiful Country: Tourism and the Impossible State of Destination Italy
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015.
Every year, Italy swells with millions of tourists who infuse the economy with billions of dollars and almost outnumber Italians themselves. In fact, Italy has been a model tourist destination for longer than it has been a modern state. The Beautiful Country explores the enduring popularity of “destination Italy,” and its role in the development of the global mass tourism industry. Stephanie Malia Hom tracks the evolution of this particular touristic imaginary through texts, practices, and spaces, beginning with the guidebooks that frame Italy as an idealized land of leisure and finishing with destination Italy’s replication around the world. Today, more tourists encounter Italy through places like Las Vegas’s The Venetian Hotel and Casino or Dubai’s Mercato shopping mall than experience the country in Italy itself. Using an interdisciplinary methodology that includes archival research, ethnographic fieldwork, literary criticism, and spatial analysis, The Beautiful Country reveals destination Italy’s paramount role in the creation of modern mass tourism.