Experiencing War as the ‘Enemy Other’,: New Book by Wendy Ugolini

Posted on 27/09/2011 by


Wendy Ugolini, history lecturer at Edinburgh University and Oral History Society committee member, talks about her new book:

“Having started my oral history research on the experiences of Italians in Scotland during the Second World War many years ago, it is immensely satisfying to see the final version published as part of Manchester University Press’s Cultural History of Modern War series.  My book, Experiencing War as the ‘Enemy Other’, critically analyses the narratives of men and women who were mainly born in Scotland of Italian parentage in the inter-war period and whose endured categorisation as the ‘enemy within’ when war broke out between Italy and Britain in June 1940.

Following Mussolini’s declaration of war, the British government implemented a policy of internment and deportation of many Italian men and the enforced relocation of Italian women from coastal ‘protected areas’ with anti-Italian riots occurring in British cities. Over 400 Italian internees died when the ship deporting them to Canada, the Arandora Star, was torpedoed.

However, as I carried out my oral history interviews, I increasingly felt that the commemorative activity surrounding the Arandora Star tragedy threatens to overshadow significant aspects of Italian Scottish wartime experience – in particular, the enlistment of second generation Italians in the British Forces and the experiences of women, who were either relocated from their homes or took over the running of family businesses in a period of intense anti-Italian hostility. By presenting a critical analysis of the ways in which internment has been represented within communal discourse, my book addresses the question of dual allegiances amongst second generation Italians as well as recovering the long-term emotional impact of wartime events on those who lived through them.

Overall, my book considers how the war affected the construction of Italianness in Scotland and aims to illuminate the complex ways in which ethnicity interacts with a sense of belonging to a nation. As a huge fan of Penny Summerfield’s groundbreaking work on memory and narrative, I also attempt to address the interaction between individual subjectivities and wartime discourses.”

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