The Somali Within
Language, Race and Belonging in ‘Minor’ Italian Literature

Simone Brioni

Italian Perspectives 33


11 September 2015  •  188pp

ISBN: 978-1-909662-64-3 (hardback)  •  RRP £80, $110, €95


The recent histories of Italy and Somalia are closely linked. Italy colonized Somalia from the end of the 19th century to 1941, and held the territory by UN mandate from 1950 to 1960. Italy is also among the destination countries of the Somali diaspora, which increased in 1991 after civil war. Nonetheless, this colonial and postcolonial cultural encounter has often been neglected. Critically evaluating Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of ‘minor literature’, as well as drawing on postcolonial literary studies, The Somali Within analyses the processes of linguistic and cultural translation and self-translation, the political engagement with race, gender, class and religious discrimination, and the complex strategies of belonging and unbelonging at work in the literary works in Italian by authors of Somali origins. Brioni proposes that the ‘minor’ Somali Italian connection might offer a major insight into the transnational dimension of contemporary ‘Italian’ literature and ‘Somali’ culture.

Simone Brioni is Assistant Professor at the Department of European Languages, Literatures, and Cultures – Stony Brook University.


  • ‘A very welcome and significant contribution to the growing field of Italian postcolonial studies... offering a convincing in-depth textual analysis of a specifically postcolonial literature (though many of his insights could usefully also be stretched out to apply to the wider ‘migration’ field), as well as contributing an important linguistic study, which draws Translation Studies into productive proximity with a potential transcultural turn in Italian Studies in general.’ — Emma Bond, Modern Language Review 116.2, April 2017, 524-25 (full text online)
  • ‘inserisce pienamente all'interno degli studi postcoloniali che negli ultimi vent'anni hanno iniziato a interessare la critica letteraria italiana. Attraverso l'analisi di un corpus eterogeneo di testi, Brioni esamina il ruolo che nel grande quadro della letteratura nazionale italiana ha la letteratura italo-somala, cioè scritta in italiano da autori e autrici italiani che provengono dalla Somalia, o le cui origini familiari sono somale.’ — Serena Alessi, Incontri 31.2, 2016, 152-54
  • ‘A new and original analysis... From how the Somali writers describe race and colour it is, in fact, possible to start a reflection that, from the colonial adventures and through the racial laws of 1938 and the apparent neglect of the colonies after World War II, reaches contemporary Italy and the current problems with racism.’ — Daniele Comberiati, Crossings: Journal of Migration & Culture 2016, 247-49
  • ‘The postcolonial and transnational perspective of this work... calls for fresh and stimulating elaborations, making it a com- pelling reading also for readers who are not well acquainted with the body of literature here analysed.’ — Lorenzo Mari, Interventions 2 September 2016 (full text online)
  • ‘Una delle questioni più rilevanti risulta essere sicuramente quello del colore della pelle: particolare importanza viene data da Brioni ai personaggi meticci presenti nei diversi romanzi presi in esame e che diventano sempre più numerosi nel corso delle successive pubblicazioni. Questi testimoniano la presenza di una problematica culturale che era rimasta relegata nella penombra della memoria storica del colonialismo italiano.’ — Michele Pandolfo, Between VI.11, May 2016
  • ‘The Somali Within is an innovative volume that discusses the Somali-Italian encounter, from the colonial period to the subsequent historical events intertwining the histories of Somalia and Italy well into their postcolonial present... Brioni’s volume is indeed a much needed and complex contribution to the study of Italian Somali literature which engages masterfully with these texts while redefining multiple theoretical problems.’ — Elena Benelli, Italian Studies Online, 3 October 2018 (full text online)
  • ‘Simone Brioni’s The Somali Within signals perhaps a new direction in the field of Italian migration literature in Italy... A valuable resource to scholars of Italian, minor, post-colonial, and migration literatures as well as those interested in how Italy’s colonial past can help explain contemporary views in Italy of language, race, and identity.’ — Francesca Minonne, Quaderni d'Italianistica 38.2, 2018, 277-79
  • ‘Rich in its theoretical approaches, Brioni’s study will be of immense interest to scholars of contemporary Italian culture, Italian postcolonialism and, indeed, to anyone interested in the ongoing debates surrounding ‘minor literature.’’ — Renata Redford, Italica 93.4, Winter 2016, 849-51

Bibliography entry:

Brioni, Simone, The Somali Within: Language, Race and Belonging in ‘Minor’ Italian Literature, Italian Perspectives, 33 (Legenda, 2015)

First footnote reference: 35 Simone Brioni, The Somali Within: Language, Race and Belonging in ‘Minor’ Italian Literature, Italian Perspectives, 33 (Legenda, 2015), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Brioni, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Brioni, Simone. 2015. The Somali Within: Language, Race and Belonging in ‘Minor’ Italian Literature, Italian Perspectives, 33 (Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Brioni 2015: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Brioni 2015: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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