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Abstract

This article examines the poetics and politics of place in Italian/American culture and in Tina De Rosa’s novel Paper Fish (1980), particularly its portrayal of ‘elegies and genealogies of place’, an appropriate framework through which to read the importance of spatial belonging. It investigates the way in which cultural identity is mostly built on both imagined communities and imagined places, as is common in migrant and diasporic cultures, through the evocation or creation of ancestors and the homeland. In addition, the Italian/American community leaves the characteristic Little Italy enclaves or undergoes displacement due to urban renewal projects and the move to the suburbs in the mid-twentieth century, which is sometimes compared to a second migration or diaspora. As a consequence, former urban enclaves come to assume a centrality as lostsanctuaries, which is captured in the trope of the Old Neighbourhood. The article contributes to existing contemporary research on the binomial placeidentity by tracing how key events of US urban history impacted on Italian/American culture. Furthermore, the goal is to offer new critical readings of Paper Fish through the focus on place-making.