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Mary Jane Dempsey: Researching Italian Citizenship

Pasta. Opera. Art. These are words most people associate with Italian culture. Last year, Mary Jane Dempsey ‘13 delved beyond stereotypes to learn about the current Italian society. While residing in Siena and studying at the University, Dempsey met people from all over the world; she noted the growing influence of multiculturalism in Italian cities.

Eager to learn more about the faces of Italy, Dempsey read newspapers and journals. She wanted to find more information about immigration. After a discussion with Dr. Simona Wright, a TCNJ Italian professor, Dempsey learned that the children of immigrants, although born and raised in Italy, are not considered Italian. If a person is born in America, he is automatically a citizen due to the law of jus soli. The legal system in Italy, however, defines citizenship base on both the place of birth and on the nationality of the parents through a system known as the law of jus sanguinis. With great interest, Dempsey, while studying in Bolgna in Spring 2012, conducted an independent research with the Spring Hill College Italy Center to better understand how the citizenship law affects second generation Italians. Bolgna offered her the opportunity to attend academic presentations, listen to discussions, appear at debates, and conduct interviews concerning immigration. With support from Dr. Wright, Spring Hill Italy Center Director Todd Waller, and the Roebling Scholarship, Dempsey was given the opportunity to analyze complex legislature and to utilize the Italian language skills she acquired to read primary documents and to conduct interviews.

Although her semester abroad is over, Dempsey hopes to continue research on immigration and to return to Italy soon in order to learn more about Italian society and to perfect her language skills. During her studies in Italy, she has selected three new words to describe this nation: multicultural, change, and home.

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