Donald Katz, “Tribes: Italy’s Metropolitan Indians Signal the Violent Passage of a New Culture and the First Rebellion of ‘Irregulars’ in Modern Times,” Rolling Stone #252 (1977)

Image from the article

Italy’s ‘Metropolitan Indians’ (Indiani Metropolitani) have only more recently become the subject of English-language scholarship, notably barely getting a mention in Robert Lumley’s important volume States of Emergency: Cultures of Revolt in Italy from 1968 to 1978. Patrick Cuninghame has written a very helpful piece contextualizing and discussing the group(s) (here), and there are other research projects in development. For example, Martina Caruso’s project (here), in which she notes: “In Rome, an extreme left-wing political faction, the Indiani Metropolitani (Metropolitan Indians) sought to imitate Native People’s dress and ways of life as a form of protest. With twenty-first century decolonial hindsight, the imitation of Native Cultures can be considered an unrefined form of cultural appropriation.”

Lumley does a does a good job contextualizing the faction, which we quote at length:

“The novelty the new [youth] movement sprang from its assertion of a ‘youth identity’, which had been repressed or displaced the student and worker politics of the late sixties and early seventies. But that identity was not perceived exclusively in terms of a youth experience or situation; rather it was taken to be emblematic of a situation typical of the modern metropolis. Youth was made to signify exclusion, marginality, and deviance. To be young and working class in a city like Milan meant living in the housing estates of the outskirts and making a living on the margins of the labour market. In official discourse, this situation was described as a ‘social problem’ and a ‘sickness’ that needed to be cured (once, that is, young people began to protest). But, in the language of the movement itself, the identity associated with deviance and marginality was claimed and appropriated by its participants. The ‘Metropolitan Indian’, who wore warpaint and uttered transgressive chants, did not ask to be ‘integrated’; s/he mocked Western ‘civilization’ and its values. The unemployed asked not for the right to work, but for the right to develop their individual capacities to enjoy themselves” (p. 296).

The instant article was published in 1977 in Rolling Stone. We couldn’t locate it online, so we scanned it. Much of the article provides a rather intense depiction of the years of lead, the strategy of tension in real-time, and a contemporaneous account geared toward an English-speaking audience. Emotionally, it is a difficult article to read. As an introduction to the Movement of ’77 and its context, and the Metropolitan Indians, it is recommended. We have uploaded it as a PDF to Libcom, here. The remaining pages are also posted below.

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