The Slavic Circe. Literary and non-literary images of the Balkan women in Italy (1946–1980)
For at least three decades in the years after World War II, there was a very peculiar image of the Slavic woman in Italy. She was often represented as some sort of an operetta character, despite the social and historical reality, and we will try to show the reasons for this stereotype that is not as positive and sympathetic as it may seem at the first glance. In fact, the idea behind this folk image is that she is also a dangerous Circe, capable of anything to achieve her goals. This image came directly from the theories proclaimed by positivist scientism, later adopted and promoted by fascism: the origin of the Italian anti-Slavism is in these racist ideologies that defined these populations as “inferiors” if compared to the Mediterranean ones, and especially to Italians, direct descendants of the Roman conquerors. So, Slavic women usually appear to be sensual, expansive and candid, but actually, they are cynical, greedy and cruel. This idea of the Slavic Circe was so deeply embedded in the Italian imagination that it was exploited even in some court cases (the most emblematic one was the Tandoj affair, when the image – widely reported by the press – of the “depraved Slav” Danika Pajovic was exploited by the handlers to cover up a mafia crime). In other words, it was the perfect spy, someone to someone to avoid in the Cold War era. This image has obviously also negatively influenced the perception and acceptance of Istrian refugees and other Slavic women living on the Italian territory at least until the 1980s.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Antonella Mauri is an Associate Professor of the Italian language and civilization at the University of Lille (France). Her main areas of research focus on image and iconology (ads, comics, illustrations, etc.); representation and culture in Italy in the 20th century; history of women in Italy; racism and history of racial theories; identity and history of identity ideas; fascism, colonialism and post-colonial studies. Her PhD thesis was about L’image de l’Autre dans la littérature italienne exotique et coloniale de 1919 à 1935. Together with Monica Biasiolo and Laura Nieddu she has edited “Meretrici sumptuose”, sante, venturiere e cortigiane. Studi sulla rappresentazione della prostituzione dal Medioevo all’età contemporanea. She published numerous studies and articles, the most recent being “Sane, robuste, feconde. L’educazione sportiva delle giovani fasciste“; ”Umiliati e offesi. La rappresentazione del mutilato prima e dopo Caporetto”, “Amore cannibale: chi mangia chi? Identità femminile e ricatto affettivo”; “Le charme slave. Images littéraires et paralittéraires des femmes slaves émigrées en Italie: stéréotypes et réalité”; ”Les enfants, Rome et la latinité : un endoctrinement identitaire”; ”I Buoni e i Cattivi. L’interventismo italiano nelle immagini di propaganda”.