Eh, Paesan!: Being Italian in Toronto


209 pages
Contains Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8099-5
DDC 305.85'010713541




Reviewed by Christine Hughes

Christine Hughes is a policy analyst at the Ontario Native Affairs


Eh, Paesan! is an interesting ethnographic voyage into the culture of
Italian Canadians living in Toronto. Harney’s study, which is based on
fieldwork he conducted between 1992 and 1995, spans a number of Italian
neighborhoods in the Greater Toronto Area and the social, political, and
economic institutions important to their residents. Chapter 1 provides a
short introduction to the theoretical literature on ethnicity, space,
and transnationalism. Subsequent chapters examine the historical context
of Italian migration and settlement in Toronto, the role of gift-giving
and competition between community members for status and prestige, and
the importance of specific institutions or associations within the
Italian community.

The book provides insight into the difficulties of doing urban
anthropology in a large metropolitan centre. Passages quoting the
author’s field notes trace the slow, careful process of developing
informants and gaining their trust and subsequent invitations to
meetings and social gatherings. Harney also draws connections between
his experience of visiting Italy and interviewing people there and his
observations of the Italian community in Toronto.

Toronto is a city known for its ethnic diversity. There are a number of
neighborhoods named for the predominant cultural groups living there
(e.g., Little Portugal, Chinatown, Little Italy). Harney provides the
reader with a fairly complete mental snapshot of the origins, voluntary
associations, and social institutions integral to Toronto’s Italian
communities. His book—which includes several maps and statistical
tables, a glossary of Italian words and phrases, an index, and a
comprehensive list of references—makes an important contribution to
urban anthropological fieldwork studies, ethnicity, and community.


Harney, Nicholas DeMaria., “Eh, Paesan!: Being Italian in Toronto,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 28, 2024,