Italian in Florida: Shifting Identities in the Wake of Assimilation

Denise Scannell, New York City College of Technology, CUNY

Tampa’s Italian Americans express a counter-discourse disputing the discourse of assimilation in which Italian-American ethnic identity is typically framed. Denise Scannell explores the identities that resonate in the community’s language and their communication practices.  The personal narratives of Tampa’s Italians tell a story that includes the fusion of many ethnicities and languages.  Many speak a Sicilian shaped by English words, Spanish, and an Italian-American patois.  Community members make claims to shifting identities and multiple social realities, revealed in self-identifying comments like “I’m Latin,” “I’m Sicilian,” “I’m Italian,” and “I’m American.”  This study explores how Tampa’s Italian Americans speak of themselves as different from others, and examines the ways in which they maintain an ethnic identity through language, in the face of a looming identity crisis.