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Performing extracomunitari: Mocking migrants in Veneto barzellette

  • Sabina Perrino (a1)

Abstract

In Italy, barzellette are short funny stories that speakers perform in various social events with large groups of friends, relatives, or colleagues. In Northern Italy, where a strong anti-immigration platform has been implemented by two influential political parties of the Veneto region, barzellette are performed to represent certain immigrant groups, especially the so-called extracomunitari. In this article, I examine the performative power of multidialectal language play in race-based humor through an analysis of two such joking events. I show how Veneto speakers perform barzellette in their local language, Veneto dialect, to mock immigrant voices, using approaches that purport, not necessarily in a deliberate fashion, to ‘contain’ or ‘conceal’ their racist remarks in their local code. In this way, they sharpen an exclusionary divide between an ‘us’, as insiders, as the local speakers of this language, and a ‘them’, as outsiders, or the immigrant ‘others’, who do not share this code. I thus examine issues of covert racist discourse within an ‘unmarked’ framework in which race and racializing discourses are embedded in social and cultural patterns. (Code-shifting, jokes, Lega Nord, migration, race, racialized discourse, Veneto dialect)*

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Performing extracomunitari: Mocking migrants in Veneto barzellette

  • Sabina Perrino (a1)

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