Are Italians Brown? Categorical Miscegenation and Early Twentieth Century Italian Homosexuality

Abstract: Recent critical race theory suggests that, in the modern period, categories of race, gender, nation, and sexuality are mutually constitutive and largely indistinguishable. This essay explores the historical co-constitution of Italian racial identity and homosexuality in several works of literature from the early twentieth century, one written in English, the others, in Italian. In the Italian texts, men travel to have homosexual encounters with non-white Others, while the English novel recounts Northern Europeans coming to Italy to constitute themselves as white and homosexual in opposition to Italian “brownness.” Such an analysis helps us to specify the “difference” that Italian homosexuality – long neglected as an area of interest in the Anglophone world — represented and perhaps still represents. It also contributes to a historicization of whiteness as a racial category.

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