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Global Geography of ‘Little Italy’: Italian Neighbourhoods in Comparative Perspective

  • Donna R. Gabaccia

Between 1870 and 1970 the migration of 26 million people from Italy produced an uneven geography of Little Italies worldwide. Migrants initially clustered residentially in many lands, and their festivals, businesses, monuments and practices of everyday life also attracted negative commentary everywhere. But neighbourhoods labelled as Little Italies came to exist almost exclusively in North America and Australia. Comparison of Italy's migrants in the three most important former ‘settler colonies’ of the British Empire (the USA, Canada, Australia) to other world regions suggests why this was the case. Little Italies were, to a considerable extent, the product of what Robert F. Harney termed the Italo-phobia of the English-speaking world. English-speakers’ understandings of race and their history of anti-Catholicism helped to create an ideological foundation for fixing foreignness upon urban spaces occupied by immigrants who seemed racially different from the earlier Anglo-Celtic and northern European settlers.

Corresponding author
Correspondence to: Donna R. Gabaccia, Department of History, University of Minnesota, 614 Social Sciences Bldg, 267 19th Avenue, South Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. Tel.: 00 1 612 625 5573. Email:
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