COMPENDIUM CULTURAL POLICIES AND TRENDS IN EUROPE
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A more structured effort to address cultural diversity and integration issues was made in December 2015 by the launch of the “#MigraArti” arts project.

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Italy/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.7 Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes

As Italy still tends to deal with the most recent migratory waves in terms of a "socio-economic emergency", it is hardly surprising that no clear vision of the policy challenges posed by the "new" forms of cultural diversity has been developed, nor any comprehensive cultural policy document drafted, most notably at a national level.

Public actors

The State

Due to its relatively short history as a country of immigration and to the constantly shifting moods of political coalitions, Italy's "model of integration" is more difficult to pinpoint than in other European countries. The prevailing trend at the state level has, so far, been to devise policies promoting a balance between the safeguarding of identity and integration: the creation of a Council for Italian Islam in 2005 is a case in point, aiming at a "harmonious incorporation" of the Muslim component within Italian society.

In Italy, immigration and integration policies have been primarily entrusted to the Ministry of the Interior, which is also the main body responsible for the government's legislative initiatives (see chapter 4.2.4) as well as the safeguarding of civil rights with regard to immigration, asylum, citizenship, religious faiths and "historical" linguistic minorities (Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration). Since 2008, the Ministry has been promoting integration processes through the European Fund for the Integration of third-country nationals (now AMIF - Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund), including "cultural mediation" among its strands of activity.

Other important actors are:

  • the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, which through its DG Immigration and Integration Policies, is responsible, alongside the planning of migrant workers' flows, for the coordination of policies aimed at promoting the integration of migrant communities (e.g. cultural mediation activities, language courses, courses on Italian culture and civics). In 2014, the Ministry launched a new section devoted to "Culture" in its portal "Migrants' Integration. Living and working in Italy" (http://www.integrazionemigranti.gov.it/area-cultura/Pagine/default.aspx), in collaboration with the Ministry of Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism / MIBACT;
  • the Ministry of Education, University and Research (see chapter 8.3.3); and
  • the Department for Equal Opportunities (Prime Minister's Office), in particular through UNAR (National Office Against Racial Discriminations, established in 2003).

A relevant role in enhancing intercultural dialogue through technical and financial assistance and capacity building in heritage matters is also played by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (see  chapter 3.4.5) in cooperation with MIBACT.Both ministrieshaveactively contributed to the ratification of both the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2007.

As far as the cultural participation of new citizens is concerned, however, to date no coherent set of policies have yet been put into place by MIBACT, although in the past few years some of its DGs started to engage in the promotion of cultural inclusion:

  • since 2010, the DG for Contemporary Art, Architecture and Urban Suburbs (formerly DG for Landscape, Fine Arts, Contemporary Architecture and Art) has been supporting the Award "Art, Heritage and Human Rights", jointly promoted by the association Connecting Cultures and Fondazione ISMU (see below). This initiative is meant to foster collaboration between young artists and cultural institutions (most notably museums, libraries and archives) in the development of art projects dealing with the complex issues of integration, exchange and osmosis between cultures.
  • in 2012, a call was launched by the former DG for the Valorisation of Cultural Heritage (now partly absorbed by the DG for Education and Research) for proposals "Promoting innovative forms of cultural participation" (see chapter 4.2.2 and chapter 8.2.2), which provided an unprecedented opportunity for national museums, archaeological areas and historical sites to promote wider access and the cultural inclusion of "new citizens".

A more structured effort to address cultural diversity and integration issues was made very recently, in December 2015, when the "#MigraArti" ("#MigrArts") project was launched by MIBACT in partnership with UNAR. The project comprises two calls for proposals respectively supervised by the DG for Cinema and the DG for Performing Arts (with an overall budget of 800 000 EUR – 400 000 for each DG), whose main goal is "to promote the different cultures of origin of Italy's new citizens, with a view to fostering mutual knowledge, intercultural dialogue and exchange, and social inclusion" http://www.beniculturali.it/mibac/multimedia/MiBAC/documents/1450202710153_bando_migrarti_cinema.pdf). A key prerequisite of applications is "to actively involve migrant communities, with a particular focus on second-generation youths and underage students"; partnerships are also strongly recommended with organisations promoting intercultural mediation activities and migrants associations. The "#MigraArti" project also aims to carry out a survey of migrant cultural organisations in our country, which will be able to register on MIBACT's website through an ad-hoc form.

Regional, Provincial and Local Authorities

The most interesting cultural programmes and pilot projects in Italy to foster intercultural dialogue has so far been undertaken at the local level, through the initiative of particular configurations of local authorities, non-governmental institutions and civil society, although in the past few years the most structured experiences (from the creation of ad-hoc Departments to the launch of long-term programmes) seem to have been disconnected due to severe cuts in cultural budgets and changes in the political make-up of local councils.

There are of course exceptions to this trend, such as the Intercultural Service of the Libraries of Rome, which has been engaged in promoting social inclusion of new citizens and in supporting active citizenship and cross-cultural dialogue since 1994. The Service, which also runs the website "Roma Multietnica" (http://www.romamultietnica.it), has established long-lasting and fruitful partnerships with many migrants associations, schools, centres for adult learning and education and other social/educational organisations; it is now in the process of creating a network with other cultural institutions of the city, such as MAXXI – Museum of XXI century Arts (see chapter 5.3.1).

Over the years, several Regions and Provinces across Northern and Central Italy created Observatories on Immigration with the twofold purpose of monitoring the migratory flows and assisting regional and local administrations in devising sensible immigration policies. These bodies, however, tend to address the typical issues of employment, housing, healthcare and formal education, and do not consider culture as an area of concern.

Fondazione ISMU, Regione Lombardia's partner in the Osservatorio Regionale per l'Integrazione e la Multietnicità, is one interesting exception to the rule: since 2005, it has been placing a new emphasis on the potential contribution of heritage institutions in promoting intercultural exchange and understanding by: developing a new area of research and training; creating and editing the on-line resource "Patrimonio e Intercultura" (http://www.patrimonioeintercultura.ismu.org, English version available); developing and running joint intercultural projects with museum institutions; promoting and coordinating the open call for young artists and cultural institutions "Art, Heritage and Human Rights" (see above).

Private actors

Fondazione ISMU's case history also introduces us to the role of private actors in addressing the issue of intercultural dialogue, which has grown significantly in the past decade in Italy.

Catholic charities such as Caritas Italiana make a significant contribution, both in providing assistance and services to the "new citizens" and in disseminating knowledge on migration patterns and key issues affecting the country. With its yearly Dossier statistico sull'immigrazione, Caritas' Centre of Studies and Documentation is one of the most reliable and comprehensive sources of information on immigration in Italy.

Several documentation centres, mostly created by NGOs and Catholic or lay associations (e.g. the documentation centre of the Rome-based Archivio dell'Immigrazione, http://www.archivioimmigrazione.org/), also make an important contribution to intercultural awareness-building.

An increasingly important role in promoting immigrant communities' cultures in the host country, as well as the accessibility of Italian culture for foreign residents, is played by associations, both foreign and Italian (e.g. cultural association "Chance Eventi", organising on a yearly basis the "Suq festival of Cultures" in Genoa since 1999, http://www.suqgenova.it/). It is not easy to provide a reliable estimate on the number of such associations, especially those initiated by immigrants: some are nation-based; some were established to co-ordinate initiatives aimed at communities belonging to the same continent, or at promoting inter-community relationships. Across Italy there is a growing demand for formal recognition (and increased legitimacy) of these representative bodies of migrant communities, for example through the creation of a register of associations.

Strategies and programmes

While witnessing the growing interest of both public and private actors in the issue of intercultural dialogue, cultural policies still play a very marginal role in integration processes.

The field in which cultural institutions in Italy have been more active in supporting cultural diversity is the promotion of a better understanding and greater recognition of other cultures, most notably through the organisation of festivals (e.g "Suq" Festival in Genoa, see above; African, Asian and Latin American Film Festival in Milan, http://www.festivalcinemaafricano.org/new/) or the mounting of blockbuster exhibitions. Many of these initiatives, however, are characterised by a will not so much to encourage immigrant communities' cultural participation, as to promote a "knowledge-oriented" multiculturalism directed principally at the Italian public. In this respect, public libraries distinguished themselves for not only promoting the knowledge of different cultures through literature, but also helping "new citizens" keep their original language alive through reading and conversation (as an opportunity for both cultural and emotional exchange), and creating opportunities for intercultural encounter (e.g. Intercultural Service of the Libraries of Rome, "Berio" Library in Genoa).

As for the emergence of innovative intercultural forms, "social theatre" is by far the most interesting and experimental field on the Italian cultural scene, with well-established companies such as Teatro dell'Argine in Bologna (see http://teatrodellargine.org/site/lang/it-IT/page/27/category/1#.VurCV4-cHIU for "Intercultural Projects"), Teatro dell'Angolo in Turin, Teatro delle Albe in Ravenna and Teatro di Nascosto in Volterra (see chapter 4.2.8). Also "mainstream" theatres like the lyric foundations are starting, albeit timidly, to deal with the issue of migrants' cultural participation; one interesting case in point is the open call recently issued by Teatro Massimo (the Opera House in Palermo) to select – in agreement with the Consulta delle culture – second-generation children with a migrant background for its "Rainbow Choir" (2016/2017 theatre season).

In cities like Milan, Rome and Genoa, there is a growing number of theatre / hip-hop / spoken word projects developed by second-generation migrant youths, denouncing their own condition of "outsiders" in Italian society. Another interesting phenomenon is the creation of "multiethnic orchestras" in several Italian cities (Milan, Turin, Genoa, Padua, Trento, Naples), following the great national and international success of the Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio (Rome).

"Migrant literature" in Italian language is being promoted through specialist book publishers (e.g. Sinnos Editrice in Rome or Edizioni dell'Arco in Milan) and documentation centres (e.g. Fondazione ISMU), on-line journals (e.g. El Ghibli, http://www.el-ghibli.org), websites (e.g. LettERRANZA, http://www.letterranza.org), anthologies and awards (e.g. "Concorso Lingua Madre" for women in Turin, http://concorsolinguamadre.it/; "Concorso Immicreando" in Milan, http://www.ismu.org/2016/02/concorso-di-scrittura-immicreando/).

A growing number of examples of groundbreaking intercultural work may also be highlighted in the museum field, in spite of the highly conservative nature of this sector (for a good overview of case studies, see "Patrimonio e Intercultura" website).

Finally, interesting examples of trans-border intercultural dialogue are Fondazione Pistoletto's "Love Difference - Artistic Movement for an Inter Mediterranean Politic",aiming to bring together people and institutions of the Mediterranean regions interested in opening new areas of thinking on multiculturalism (http://www.lovedifference.org), or Teatro dell'Argine's "Lampedusa mirrors", a project in partnership with the non-profit organisation "Eclosion d'Artistes", the Institut Supérieur D'Art Dramatique and the Association "L'Art Vivant" in Tunis (http://teatrodellargine.org/site/lang/it-IT/page/45/project/30#.VtWzio-cHIU).

Additional Resources:

Government's overall approach to intercultural dialogue

Database of Good Practice on Intercultural Dialogue

Key Resources


Chapter published: 14-07-2016

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