When, Where and Who

The Long 1950s:

Popular Culture and the (Un)Making of Italian Identity


1945, World War II ends, a new era begins. A very common description of the postwar period, shared by many different countries. Yet, Italy enters in one of its most interesting and debated period of its history. On the one hand, its past, with all its contradictions and traumas linked to the Fascist regime. On the other hand, its present and its future, split between two political forces, Communists and Christian Democrats, that since 1948 reveal that the war is not really over. In this context, what happens to the people and its culture?

The “Long 1950s: Popular Culture and the (Un)Making of Italian Identity” is the title of a series of conferences that want to investigate critically Italian past. Italian popular culture of the 1950s will be the protagonist of these talks, the same culture that many Italian immigrants will take around the world. Especially in Canada, especially in Montréal.

Scholars, filmmakers, architects and writers from all over the world will wonder how we can re-think this long decade, often described as silent, and make it speak more loudly. The 1950s have many things to say about both the Italian past, when Italians chose how to remember what they had been, fascists, partisans or just and stereotypically “brava gente”, and the Italian present, where the tendency to forget and disregard the troublesome is still alive. Against this hiding trend, our aim is to open popular culture to a critical analysis made of personal and social memories, media and objects that populated Italy at that time and whose stories are not to be misinterpreted anymore.

Italians’ private and collective memory, affected by this “respectability-making” amnesia, would be deprived, in Paul Ricoeur’s words, of “the salutary identity crisis that permits a lucid re-appropriation of the past and of its traumatic charge”. This is why we need to remember, this is why we need to revisit the process by which Italians both made and unmade their own identity.

Professor Eugenio Bolongaro, McGill University

Professor Giuliana Minghelli, McGill University

Paolo Saporito, PhD student, McGill University


October 5 & 6, 2016

Censoring Comedy in 1950s Italy

Giacomo Lichtner, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ


November 9 & 10, 2016

Popular Culture Challenges the Establishment

Damiano Garofalo, University of Padua

Paola Bonifazio, University of Texas, Austin


January 17 & 20 2017

Italian Migration and Modernity in 1950s Montréal

Bruno Ramirez, Université de Montréal

Giovanni Princigalli, Independent filmmaker

Paul Tana, Independent filmmaker


February 7 & 8, 2017

Architectural Theory and Practice in 1950s Italy 

Paolo Scrivano, Xi’An Jiaotong – Liverpool University, China

Mirko Zardini, Director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal


March 29 & 30, 2017

“Back to the Future”: the 1950s in Italian Historical Novels

Maurizio Vito, University of Oklahoma


April 4 & 5, 2017

Censoring Documentary in 1950s Italy

Marco Bertozzi, IUAV University of Venice

Daniele Vicari, Italian filmmaker


All the events are made possible by the generous support of SSHRC, Istituto Italiano di Cultura at Montreal and the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, McGill University.



website curated by Paolo Saporito