The Family as a Cold War Weapon: Italian-American Cultural Diplomacy to Italy, 1951-1957

Corey Cherrington


Based on a full version of this project, this short paper sets out to form a descriptive analysis of Italian-American cultural diplomacy towards Italy from 1951-1957, during the Cold War era. Diverging from current scholarship on cultural diplomacy from the U.S. towards Italy in this period, I assert that intersections between gender and religion (specifically Catholicism) contributed to the ways in which Italian-Americans were able to relate with those they left behind in Italy. This paper utilizes archival evidence pertaining to Catholic Italian-Americans in Utica, New York to explore the roles of gender and religion in Italian-American cultural diplomacy to Italy. The conclusion I arrive at in this project is that many Italian-Americans were not only consistently in touch with their relatives in Italy, but they also sought ardently to protect a very Catholic ideal for the family in which the woman was viewed as the protector of familial structures. In a sense, the family was used as somewhat of a strategic weapon in this cultural exchange, in an attempt to convince Italians that the wellbeing of the family rested on disavowing Communism. Moreover, this paper addresses its topic with a “one-way street” approach to cultural diplomacy, concentrating primarily on the historical richness of Italian-American mentalities involved in reaching out across the Atlantic to influence the politics of their ancestral homeland. As such, this essay explores Italian-American mentalities in cultural diplomacy to Italy as opposed to the effects/reception of said diplomacy in Italy.

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