Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 200–211 | Cite as

Reading ‘things’ in Italian-America

  • Lori MerishEmail author


Drawing from recent work in ‘thing theory’, this essay examines the significance of ‘things’ in Italian-American immigrant texts, focusing on narratives and photographs from 1880 to 1924. It explores the special importance of ‘things’ such as clothing that enable bodily transformation, constituting a vehicle through which new immigrants’ marginal racial status — their ‘probationary whiteness’ — could be negotiated. The essay reads narrative depictions of ‘things’ as means of racial and national ‘assimilation’ against counterdepictions of objects brought from ‘home’ that register how, in Peter Stallybrass’ words, ‘history, memory and desire [can be] materialized in objects that are touched and worn and loved’.


race clothing embodiment identity immigration immigrant narratives 


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Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

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