Sexual Violence, Interracial Relations, and Racism During the Allied Occupation of Italy: History and the Politics of Memory

Stephanie Lauren De Paola, Fordham University


In this dissertation, I examine the different types of sexual encounters and relationships that developed between Italian women and black soldiers during the Allied occupation of Italy in World War II and the memory of those interactions in the post-war period in Italy. I argue that a transatlantic discourse of race developed between Italy and the U.S. in the pivotal years before the war, which besides fostering racist attitudes towards people of color (whether African or African American) aimed at enforcing anti-miscegenation policies. This discourse deeply informed the prosecution of sexual violence and discouraged and prevented stable and legally-sanctioned consensual interracial relationships during the occupation. In postwar Italy, the relics of these ideas and policies interacted with political events and influenced the memory of these relationships and encounters. I consider also how gender dynamics inflected American and Italian racial ideologies and how material processes, such as translation, filtered these ideas in foreign contexts. In this way, this dissertation contributes to discussions about anti-black racisms in Italy and the U.S. (including their prewar roots and postwar legacies), the dynamics of military occupations, and the relationship between history and memory through a connected history involving the two countries. Previous studies tend to focus on the victims of the mass rapes perpetrated by the French North African troops in Southern Latium in spring 1944 and the victims’ memories of this violence. I contribute to this body of work by examining the racialization of rape in occupied Italy from a transatlantic perspective and by complicating the history of interracial sexual encounters and the categories of victim and perpetrator. While so far the historiography on this topic has tended to rely primarily on Italian records and sources, especially post-war ego-documents, I draw on archival records from Italy and the U.S., newspaper articles, courts-martial records, ego-documents, films, novels, and travel narratives.

Subject Area

African American Studies|European history|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

De Paola, Stephanie Lauren, "Sexual Violence, Interracial Relations, and Racism During the Allied Occupation of Italy: History and the Politics of Memory" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10846458.