Arancini, identity, and the refugee debate in Sicily
Keywords:Italy, Food, Identity, Refugees, Reception, Sicily, Migrant
In August of 2018, the Italian national government prohibited North African passengers onboard the Diciotti from disembarking in Catania, Sicily. The ship had docked amid an ongoing debate over how Italy should respond to an increasing number of immigrants and refugees arriving to the nation’s shores. Pro-migrant Sicilians came to the dock wielding arancini--fried rice balls--which are emblematic of the island's history and culture, as a way to symbolically welcome the migrants onboard the Diciotti. Nationalist Sicilians came as well to counter-protest the pro-migrant group. This paper asks first, who are the opposing groups (pro-migrant and nationalist Sicilians) and why did they adopt arancini? Second, how does arancini become a symbol of welcome and at the same time inhospitality? Third, how does the encounter become a stage for the larger debate over the meaning of identity in Sicily? By shifting the focus towards the host population and how it contests the meanings of such important local symbols, we capture the complexities of reception and debates over how natives perceive and receive migrants.
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