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.

Author Biography

Corey Cherrington

Corey Cherrington is a recent graduate of the M.A. program for European History, Politics, and Society at Columbia University. She has published articles on European history and politics and focuses primarily on the history of foreign relations. Corey wrote the full version of this paper as a part of her participation in Columbia University’s Cold War Archives Research (CWAR) Fellowship.