General field of research
Enzo Colombo, Università degli Studi di Milano
After a long experience of emigration, since the end of the 70s Italy has become a country of immigration. Initially, the attention to this new phenomenon focused on the factors that gave rise to migration, the process of settlement of new migrants, their different origins and motivations. Once the new phenomenon was “discovered”, attention shifted to the so-called “second generations”, with studies oriented to their behaviour, forms of identification and future projects. In the light of the structural nature assumed by cultural diversity in the context of increasing globalisation, this research, although important, needs to be further developed. This new approach is not limited to looking at the characteristics of an alleged “foreign otherness” that needs to be integrated into the social fabric of host countries, but rather takes into account the functioning of social relations in societies whose structures are increasingly characterized by super-diversity (Vertovec 2007) or hyper-diversity (Tasan-Kok et al. 2009).
The project follows the latter approach: it aims at analysing the love relationships of young adults (18-34 years old), focusing on the relationships of couples composed by one member with a migrant family background and the other with a “native” family context. The research adopts the perspective of daily multiculturalism (Colombo 2006; Wise, Velayutham 2009) as it considers cultural difference not as a “given” but as a “political” resource that subjects can use in their daily relationships to define situations, establish boundaries, foster relationships, or create forms of exclusion and isolation.
Through 13 focus groups conducted between 2018 and 2019 with 102 young people aged 18-34, ethnographic interviews with 8 couples and the analysis of their personal networks, the research – conducted in the metropolitan area of Milan between 2018 and 2020 – explores how young people represent intercultural affective relationships in Italy and the meanings of cultural difference when the beloved is a “stranger”. We highlight four main results: 1) the difference in emotional ties is perceived as an enrichment; 2) the significance of the partner’s social status for parental approval; 3) the values that affect a relationship negatively, particularly when it comes to religious and gender differences; 4) the forms that latent racial prejudice takes in young people attitudes. The conclusions confirm the perception of “normality” of intercultural love: if on the one hand experiencing diversity becomes a resource, on the other it is still problematic when older generations disapprove it.