Winx, Orzowei, Pik e altre rappresentazioni della razza. Una prospettiva comparata sui libri per l'infanzia in Italia

Renata Morresi


Children’s literature seems to occupy a secondary position compared to general literature in terms of relevance for the cultural debate. Actually, being on the margins of ‘serious’ literature allows it to avoid the canonical control over literary appropriateness and to introduce “subversive” elements. As an academic subject, a commercial business and a cultural phenomenon, children’s books move more freely between mass culture, entertainment, and educational environments: they can become the symbol of transnational cultural struggles, as well as unconsciously embodying the functioning of dominant stereotypes and taboos. They can certainly bring to our attention the material factors of their production, distribution and reception, and the ways these are enmeshed in contemporary debates over race and gender.

This paper discusses ‘race’ in Italian children’s literature in a comparative perspective, taking into account mainly books and characters, but also cartoons, merchandising, and textbooks. I analyze different processes of racialization: how ‘race’ tends to be suppressed and normalized in commercial products such as The Winx, how it is idealized in works with an educational purpose like the novel Orzowei, by Alberto Manzi, how it is reduced to an easily recognizable stereotype in picturebooks like Pic Badaluk, which borrows the language and images of the colonial fascist era trying to obliterate their implications; and then, how anything that has to do with ‘race’ tends to be identified with social issues and trauma, erasing, for example, the whole post-migrant experience, and limiting access to more interculturally nuanced stories of adventure, experiment and personal growth.

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