Sense of Origins

A Study of New York's Young Italian Americans

By Rosemary Serra
Translated by Scott R. Kapuscinski

Subjects: Italian American Studies, Sociology, New York/regional
Series: SUNY series in Italian/American Culture
Paperback : 9781438479187, 380 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438479194, 380 pages, September 2020

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Table of contents

Jerome Krase, Professor Emeritus



Part I: Field Research

1. Theoretical Structure, Methodological Path, Description of the Sample

2. Values, Family, and Primary Socialization

3. Ethnic Identification

4. Different Identity Models of Young Italian Americans: The Significance of Being Italian American Today

5. The Image of Italian Americans

6. Italy and the Italians

7. The Stereotypical Images of Italian Americans

8. Attitudes and Affiliations

9. The Future

10. Knowledge of and Attachment to the Italian and Italian American Cultures

Part II: Identity Profiles

11. The American Identity in Generational Flux

12. Profiles of Young Italian Americans: Sketches in Chiaroscuro

Concluding Reflections


Studies the relationship between young Italian Americans and their Italian cultural and historical heritage.


In Sense of Origins, Rosemary Serra explores the lives of a significant group of self-identified young Italian Americans residing in New York City and its surrounding areas. The book presents and examines the results of a survey she conducted of their values, family relationships, prejudices and stereotypes, affiliations, attitudes and behaviors, and future perspectives of Italian American culture. The core of the study focuses on self-identification with Italian cultural heritage and analyzes it according to five aspects—physical, personality, cultural, psychological, and emotional/affective.

The data provides insights into today's young Italian Americans and the ways their perception of reality in everyday interactions is affected by their heritage, while shedding light on the value and symbolic references that come with an Italian heritage. Through her rendering of relevant facets that emerge from the study, Serra constructs interpretative models useful for outlining the physiognomy and characterization of second, third, fourth, and fifth generations of Italian Americans. In the current climate, questions of ethnicity and migrant identity around the world make Sense of Origins useful not only to the Italian American community but also to the descendants of the innumerable present-day migrants who find themselves living in countries different from those of their ancestors. The book will resonate in future explorations of ethnic identity in the United States.

Rosemary Serra is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Trieste, Italy. She is the author and editor of several Italian-language books in sociology, including Logiche di rete: Dalla teoria all'intervento sociale. Scott R. Kapuscinski teaches English at Queens College, City University of New York.