How US industry made it into Italian society (A conversation with Jessica L. Harris)

Feb 21, 2022 283

BY: Luca Cottini

The new episode of the show marks the beginning of a trilogy of episodes dedicated to the “converging influences” of American and Italian culture in the post-war years.

In this first episode, we’ll examine American penetration in Italian society following the Marshall Plan, in the company of Jessica L. Harris, assistant professor of history at Saint John’s University, author, and scholar of African-American history, women’s history, and modern Italy. Watch the episode here.

In the second episode (coming up in Italian on February 24), I will explore Italian commercial penetration in the United Stated over the same years. In the third episode (an interview with professor Simone Cinotto coming up on March 20), we’ll observe the two perspectives at once starting from the laboratory of food.

The three episodes of “converging influences” aim at investigating the role of culture in promoting industry, and at the same time, exploring how an “influence” is formed across different cultural contexts.

In this first episode-interview, Jessica L. Harris and I discuss how the United States entered the Italian market in the aftermath of WWII and how America forged new models of behavior in Italy through film, music, fashion, and popular customs. We’ll do this starting from the perspective of a few Italian entrepreneurs (Mondadori, Borletti, and Borghi, among others) and, above all, of Italian women, who become the focal point of a fascinating commercial and cultural battle.

The American influence. How US industry made it into Italian society (1945-1975)

* Italy in the aftermath of WWII. The Marshall Plan as both aid and economic opportunity (1:15)

* The emergence of Mrs. Consumer and the Americanization of Italy (4:10)

* The American model in Italy. The case of Mondadori and La Rinascente (7:25)

* The diffusion of American refrigerators and its impact on food conservation, the birth of grocery stores, and the emancipation of women (14:40)

* Hygiene and cosmetics. A new model of American beauty and womanhood (22:15)

* Italian women as the target of American consumerism and the terminal of Italy's culture wars (28:00)

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