Emotional Ambivalence and the Representation of Cultural Diversity Among Italian Youths

Emotional ambivalence is a psychological constituent of most human relationships,
especially when in these relationships particularly complex aspects of reality
are involved. Across the social sciences, this concept has long been studied with
regard to its psychological implications, and its relation with social and political
strategic action. The specific relationship between emotional ambivalence and individuals'
conceptualization of cultural diversity has not been, to our knowledge,
sufficiently investigated. The paper aims to examine this relationship from an
interdisciplinary perspective. We draw on qualitative research on youths' conceptualizations
about "multiculturalism" in Italy, in particular, on the analysis of anonymous
open-ended essays written by Italian youths (aged 14-18) in some state
high schools in Central Italy, and of some group interviews conducted in their
schools. We present some extracts in which Italian youths express ambivalent
feelings about immigration in Italy, feelings that are inextricably linked to various
conflicting evaluations both about "Italians" and "immigrants". Our suggestion is
that emotional ambivalence can represent a compromise strategy through which
these youths not only try to express personal feelings, but also try to make sense
of different social categories, and to conform to mostly shared and favorable values
of the larger society. Findings demonstrate that different levels of subjective
integration and regulation of ambivalent emotions can lead to different, and at
times more elaborated, representations of cultural diversity. This research contributes
to understanding the interplay between affective, cognitive, and social processes
in migration contexts. Moreover, the construct of "emotional ambivalence"
can contribute to enriching the various conceptualizations regarding "complex
thinking" and complexity theory in general in the social sciences, in particular in
the study of humans' relationship with diversity.

Publication type: 
Contributo in atti di convegno
Author or Creator: 
F & Pagani
Conference of the International Society for Research on Emotion, Geneva, July 8-10 2015, Geneva, 8-10 July 2015
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