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.
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 (see below) 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 the Ministry's official website reads, "migration policies have two main objectives: to ensure order and public safety through combating illegal immigration; to ease regular immigrants' reception and integration, thereby guaranteeing social cohesion". The Ministry's Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration is also responsible for the safeguarding of civil rights with regard to immigration, asylum, citizenship, religious faiths and "historical" linguistic minorities. In 2005, the Ministry set up a Council for Italian Islam, to gain advice on policies regarding Muslim immigration in Italy and civil rights issues. As the Councilfaced growing problems due to its Muslim Brotherhood component, some of its most moderate members decided to pursue separate negotiations with the Ministry and create a new organisation called the Federation of Italian Islam, aiming at becoming the body that will eventually sign the intesa (agreement) with the Italian state.
Since 2008, the Ministry has also been promoting integration processes through the European Fund for the Integration of third-country nationals, including "cultural mediation" among its strands of activity. Since 2010, it publishes the bi-monthly journal "Civil Liberties", also focusing on the cultural dimension of integration.
A new key actor is the Ministry for Integration, set up by Mario Monti's government in 2011, which jointly promoted with the Ministry of the Interior the "Integration agreement" (see chapter 4.2.4). The current minister Cecile Kyenge, Italy's first black minister, is strongly committed to granting citizenship to the children of immigrants born on the Italian soil (see chapter 4.2.4).
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) – and the Ministry for Equal Opportunities, in particular through UNAR (National Office Against Racial Discriminations, established in 2003); its annual reports and its national campaigns such as "Dosta!" (promoted at international level by the Council of Europe), an initiative to fight prejudice against Roma and Sinti communities.
As the steady increase of migratory flows, in recent years, has had its most dramatic impact on the make-up of the school population (see chapter 4.2.4), it is not surprising that the Ministry of Education, University and Research is another key player in the promotion of intercultural dialogue in Italy. Its Memorandum "Intercultural dialogue and democratic coexistence" was a groundbreaking document when it was drafted (1994), and today still provides the clearest guidelines in Italy for understanding intercultural education as a dialogical and transformative process (see chapter 8.3.3).
A relevant role in enhancing intercultural dialogue through technical and financial assistance and capacity building in heritage matters is also played by the Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (see chapter 3.4.5).
Lastly, the Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities hasactively contributed, along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to the ratification of both the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (February 2007) and the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (September 2007), but to date no coherent set of policies have yet been put into place, although some of its DGs are starting to actively engage in the promotion of cultural integration and inclusion:
Regional, Provincial and Local Authorities
The most interesting cultural programmes and pilot projects in Italy to foster intercultural dialogue are being undertaken at the local level, through the initiative of particular configurations of local authorities, non-governmental institutions and civil society.
The City of Turin, for instance, set up a Department for Heritage Education which has been strongly committed to exploring new models of intercultural communication in museums (see for example the "Heritage for all" programme and the European project "Museums as Places for Intercultural Dialogue" on http://www.ismu.org/patrimonioeintercultura). Although severe cuts in the City's budget for culture are currently restricting the Department's activities, the legacy of its continued engagement since 2004 is apparent in the partnerships created and nurtured throughout the years between museums, schools, centres for adult education and learning, social and welfare agencies. One case in point is the recent agreement "I am contemporary", signed by the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation and the Centre for Adult Education and Learning "CTP3", which in the past have already collaborated in intercultural projects "A Vision of my Own" and "City Telling" (see http://www.ismu.org/patrimonioeintercultura).
Some examples of regional legislation to promote intercultural dialogue are provided in chapter 4.2.4. In the past decade, Regione Puglia has been devoting particular attention also to the transnational dimension of intercultural dialogue through Regional Law 20/2003 ("Partnership for cooperation"), the creation of the Department for the Mediterranean, Culture and Tourism, and the support of projects such as "Brothers-Bracia", promoting the social inclusion of young Serbs and Roma through arts and culture (2011) (see http://www.europuglia.it/).
The Italian National Commission for UNESCO has highlighted several examples of cultural initiatives promoted by regional administrations across the country, such as Regione Veneto's "Educard – A heritage of cultures" programme (2010); Regione Toscana's "Regional Hub of Intercultural Documentation" in public libraries (since 2003); Regione Marche's international festivals "Theatres of the World" (since 1990) and "Adriatic / Mediterranean" (since 2005). For a more exhaustive list of programmes and activities, see the periodical report 2007-2011 prepared by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities on the implementation at national level of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the protection and promotion of diversity of cultural expressions (see also chapter 3.4.3).
Intercultural education is at the heart of several programmes and activities carried out by individual schools and Intercultural Centres; although the latter term is used to describe a range of very different organisations, the prevailing typology is represented by documentation centres, set up by provincial and local administrations and primarily targeted at teachers and educators.
In the past years, several Regions and Provinces across Northern and Central Italy have also 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.ismu.org/patrimonioeintercultura, English version available); developing and running joint intercultural projects with museum institutions (e.g. "TAM TAM – The Museum for All" project, 2010-2012, see "Patrimonio e Intercultura" website); promoting and coordinating the open call for young artists and cultural institutions "Art, Heritage and Human Rights" in partnership with Connecting Cultures and with the support of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities (since 2010, see above).
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. In the past twenty years, Caritas Diocesana of Rome has been promoting the Forum per l'Intercultura, one of Italy's main intercultural education programmes, which explores different aspects of the immigrant communities' cultures, including art, cinema and literature.
Several documentation centres, mostly created by NGOs and Catholic or lay associations (e.g. the documentation centre of the Rome-based Archivio dell'Immigrazione), also make an important contribution to intercultural awareness-building by offering scholars and researchers, operators and ordinary citizens materials on the history, sociology, politics and culture of the migrant communities' countries of origin, as well as on multicultural society at large.
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 the "Suq festival of Cultures" in Genoa since 1999). 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.
Last but not least, places of worship provide key spaces and opportunities for social and cultural interaction, where language courses, cultural and sport events, theatre and music performances are organised alongside catechism, sung masses and religious festivities.
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. world culture festivals at the Auditorium-Music Park in Rome; "Suq" Festival in Genoa, see above; African, Asian and Latin American Film Festival in Milan) or the mounting of blockbuster exhibitions.Most of these initiatives, however, are distinguished 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.
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'Angolo in Turin, Teatro delle Albe in Ravenna and Teatro di Nascosto in Volterra (see chapter 4.2.8). 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.provincia.bologna.it), websites (e.g. LettERRANZA, http://www.letterranza.org), anthologies and awards (e.g. Mantua-based "Eks&tra", "Tracce diverse" in Naples, "Concorso Lingua Madre" for women in Turin, "Immicreando" in Milan).
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 "Acting diversity", a project of Intercultural Theatre for Political Refugees and Youth in partnership with Al-Harah Theater and Badac Theatre Company (October 2012 – September 2013) with the support of the Anna Lindh Foundation (http://argine.it/download/Alf_Eng.pdf).