Religion(s) and Cultural Production(s) of the Italian Diaspora(s)

Stefano Luconi

Stefano Luconi
University of Florence




Overcoming Campanilismo: Italian Americans’ Religious Experience and Ethnic Identity

The belated achievement of Italy’s political unification interfered for a significant extent of time with the elaboration of a national identity among most of this country’s inhabitants, who long retained a parochial sense of regional, provincial, or even local belonging. Likewise, many Italian newcomers from different places in their motherland did not think of themselves as members of the same ethnic minority upon arrival in the United States during the decades of mass immigration from the late 1870s to the early 1920s. The political exiles of the Risorgimento, who sought sanctuary on the other shore of the Atlantic Ocean but preceded such incoming waves, were the only main exception on the grounds of their strong nationalistic feelings. However, leaving the latter case aside, separated by disparate dialects, traditions and even foodways, as well as by local antipathies and rivalries, Italian arrivals tended to group together along lines of common geographical origins and shied away from fellow nationals from other milieu in their adoptive society. It was only in the years between the First and Second World Wars that the immigrants and their progeny realized their mutually shared Italian roots and began to reshape their ethnic affiliation in terms of a single national attachment. This paper focuses on the religious experience of the Italian immigrants and their offspring from the early 1850s to the late interwar years in order to highlight their progressive shift from campanilismo (the attitude by which loyalty hardly extends beyond the area where the sound of the bell tower of one’s native town or village can be heard) to an ethnic identity based on their Italian background. Specifically, it shows that, although most newcomers were Catholics, localism also affected religious life and practices, causing fragmentation and antagonism in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century, but the immigrants’ emerging Italianness eventually came to redefine their faith-related behaviour, too.



Stefano Luconi teaches U.S. history at the University of Florence and specializes in Italian immigration to the United States. His publications include From Paesani to White Ethnics: The Italian Experience in Philadelphia (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001) and The Italian-American Vote in Providence, Rhode Island, 1916-1948 (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2004). He also edited, with Dennis Barone, Small Towns, Big Cities: The Urban Experience of Italian Americans (New York: American Italian Historical Association, 2010) and, with Mario Varricchio, Lontane da casa: Donne italiane e diaspora globale (Turin: Accademia University Press, 2015). His most recent volume is La “nazione indispensabile”: Storia degli Stati Uniti dalle origini a oggi (Florence: Le Monnier, 2016). He serves on the editorial boards of Forum Italicum and The Italian American Review and is the book review co-editor for Altreitalie: Rivista Internazionale di Studi sulle Migrazioni Italiane nel Mondo.


List of most recent publications


– Luconi, S. 2016. La “nazione indispensabile”: Storia degli Stati Uniti dalle origini a oggi, Firenze: Le Monnier.

– Luconi, S. & Varricchio, M. (a cura di). 2015. Lontane da casa: Donne italiane e diaspora globale, Torino, Accademia University Press.

– Luconi, S. 2013. Dalle piantagioni allo studio ovale. L’inserimento degli afro-americani nella politica statunitense, Padova, Cleup.

– Ducci, L., Luconi, S. & Pretelli, M. 2012. Le relazioni tra ltalia e Stati Uniti: Dal Risorgimento alle conseguenze dell’11 settembre, Roma, Carocci.

– Luconi, S. 2011. Gli afro-americani dalla guerra civile alla presidenza di Barack Obama, Padova, Cleup.

– Catania, D., Luconi, S. & Zucca, G. 2010. Guardando l’oceano da un grattacielo,Viterbo, Sette Città.

– Barone, D. & Luconi S. (a cura di). 2010. Small Towns, Big Cities: The Urban Experience of ltalian Americans, New York, American Italian Historical Association.

– Luconi, S. &  Pretelli, M. 2008. L’immigrazione negli Stati Uniti, Bologna, il Mulino.

– Luconi, S. 2008. La questione razziale negli Stati Uniti dalla Ricostruzione a Barack Obama, Padova, Cleup.

Selected Articles

Luconi, S. 2013. “Italian Americans”, in Carlos E., C. (ed.), Multicultural America: A Multimedia Encyclopedia, (3), Los Angeles: Sage, pp. 1247-51.

Luconi, S. 2011. “Urban and Regional Interests”, in Pederson A., W. (ed.), A Companion to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 114-34.

Luconi, S. 2006. “Organized Crime”, in Ciment, J. (ed.), Social Issues in America: An Encyclopedia, , (5), Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, pp. 1324-36.

Luconi, S. 2006. “Xenophobia,” in Ciment, J. (ed.), Socíal Issues in America: An Encyclopedia, (7), Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, pp. 1911-23.

Luconi, S. 2006. “Albertario, Davide”, “Andreotti, Giulio”, “Dossetti, Giuseppe”, “Mazzolari, Primo,” in Roy P. Domenico P., Roy & Hanley Y, M. (ed.), Enciclopedia of Modern Christian Politics, Westport, CT: Greenwood, pp. 12-13; p. 20; p.178; pp. 367-68.

Luconi, S. 2005. “Ostrogorski, Moisei Yakovlevich”, “Quay, Matthew S.,” in Buenker D., J. & Buenker, J. (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, (2), Armonk, NY: M.E, Sharpe, pp. 742-43, p. 809.

Luconi, S. 2001. “Internment and Relocation of Italian Americans,” in Sandler S. (ed.), World War II in the Pacific: An Encyclopedia, New York: Garland, pp. 267-68.