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Meet the Finalists of the 2023 ISSNAF Young Investigator RnB4Culture Award

Established in 2021 by RnB4Culture, this award recognizes the vibrancy of research in Italian culture and its evolving nature expressed in a variety of ways such as innovative uses of technology, or originality of approach, or contribution to wider questions and trends in the Humanities at large.

Join us in congratulating the outstanding finalists of the 2023 edition: Filippo Gianferrari, Angelica Pesarini, and Giancarlo Tursi! You can learn about their interesting work by watching the recording of Symposium on October 17, 2023. . At this webinar they presented their research to the Jury chaired by Prof. Claudio Fogu, UC Santa Barbara.

Filippo Gianferrari

Filippo Gianferrari is Assistant Professor of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is a trained medievalist with a particular interest in the history of education and literacy in the pre-modern West and its impact on the political and social lives of Italian city-states. Gianferrari is originally from Modena, Italy, graduated from the University of Bologna and received a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies from the University of Notre Dame. Before working at UCSC, he taught at Vassar College and Smith College.

Research focus

Filippo's first book, "Dante's Education: Latin SchoolBooks and Vernacular Poetics," studies surviving manuscripts of thirteenth - and fourteenth - century school books in Florence to reconstruct the impact of Latin instruction on the development of Dante's vernacular poetics and argued that the poet engaged with a critical rereading of these texts in his vernacular works to engage with lay readers, with no formal academic training. Dante's goal in revising some of the core precepts of this shared culture of literacy was to advance his own cultural program of instruction in the vernacular for lay readers.

Gianferrari is also a scholar of Primo Levi and has contributed to the first collaborative online commentary on Levi's signature work, "If This Is A Man." His second book project investigates vernacular theories of the common good in late-medieval Italy and Europe, to reconstruct the unique contributions made by lay and politically-engaged intellectuals in the development of this key doctrine of the Western social and political thought. This research project aims to uncover some of the key tensions that were perceived as being at the heart of this influential doctrine. In particular, the key tension between individual (or small groups') freedom and independence and the mandate to sacrifice oneself for the wellbeing of a polity--which at this time begins to be defined as "fatherland." It also aims to explore the key role of language education in the formation and direction of civic conscience.

About Filippo

Filippo is passionate about education and serving his community by teaching better every day. He is irrationally devoted to the discipline of soccer and supporting his Italian soccer team as well as the Santa Cruz local youth team. Other passions he enjoys are mountain biking, outdoor life, and creative writing.

Angelica Pesarini

Angelica Pesarini is an Assistant Professor in Race and Cultural Studies/Race and Diaspora and Italian Studies at the University of Toronto. After obtaining a PhD in Sociology and Gender Studies at the University of Leeds, she worked at Lancaster University and at NYU Florence, where she designed and taught the course "Black Italia". Her work focuses on dynamics of race, gender, identity, and citizenship in colonial and (post)colonial Italy. On this topic, she is currently writing a monograph on the lived experience of Black "mixed race” Italian women born during Italian colonialism in East Africa, and the use of oral sources as forms of counter-narratives. She is interested in the racialization of the political discourse on immigration in Europe, and with The Black Mediterranean Collective, of which she is a founding member, she co-edited "The Black Mediterranean: Bodies, Borders, and Citizenship" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021). Angelica is the author of a short semi-fictional story published in "Future. Il domani narrato dalle voci di oggi" (Future. Tomorrow narrated by today’s voices, 2019), the first anthology written by eleven Italian women of African descent. She also co-translated into Italian "Undercommons. Fugitive Planning and Black Study" (Moten and Harney), and "Blues Legacies and Black feminism" by Angela Y. Davis. As a scholar activist, she is engaged in the Italian anti-racist movement and collaborates with grass-roots organizations focusing on social justice and human rights.

Research focus

Starting from autobiographical accounts, my research investigates phenomenological embodiments of race, gender and identity lived by two generations of women born to white Italian men and East-African women in the former Italian colonies in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. I problematize the notion and function of the Italian colonial “Archive” intended as a locus of power characterized by the invisibilization of certain experiences, and in which whiteness has been historically institutionalized. In contrast, I suggest the idea of the “body- archive, namely the acknowledgment of epidermic and carnal counter-archives of bodies, marked – and scarred – by the histories of colonialism and whiteness. Therefore, the research provides a counter-reading of romanticised visions of Italian colonialism, and it demonstrates how the gaps, the silences, and the unwritten present in the Italian colonial “Archive” can be filled by the voices and memories of (post)colonial subjects whose narratives unveil hidden inscription of (post)colonial violence and strategies of resistance.

About Angelica

My practice is informed by Black feminist epistemologies and anti-racist decolonial pedagogies. As a scholar activist, I am interested in counter-sources excluded and marginalised from what is considered “knowledge”. By focusing on the “small voices of history” to use Ranajit Guha’s words, I consider research and writing tools in service to social justice, and I try to excavate alternative epistemologies in order to dismantle dominant and oppressive master narratives embedded in mainstream processes of knowledge production.

Giancarlo Tursi

I am Assistant Professor of Translation Studies and Translation Theory in the French and Italian department at the University of California Santa Barbara. I earned my PhD in Comparative Literature from NYU in 2022 and my Masters, also in Comparative Literature, from the Sorbonne Nouvelle in 2015. My doctoral dissertation, entitled “Dialectal Dante: The Politics of Translation in Risorgimento Italy,” explored the phenomenon of dialectal translations of Dante's Divine Comedy in nineteenth-century, unification-era Italy, drawing on archival research conducted in the National Library of Florence. I am currently at work turning this dissertation into a book. A comparatist by training, I work across the languages I was either raised with or have acquired: Italian, French, and Spanish. I also speak my native Italian dialect of Martinese, a branch of the Neapolitan language family, which allows me to work with a number of other Italian dialects. I have recently started learning the Mayan language of Kaqchikel, a branch of the Mam-Quichean family, spoken by roughly 400,000 people in Central Guatemala. My articles have been published by La Fusta, The King’s Review, and La Società Editrice Fiorentina.

Research Focus

My academic work sits at the intersection of literary studies, translation theory, and language politics. By drawing attention to the literary activity of minoritized languages within and across national circumscriptions, I seek to challenge the pernicious premises of nationalist monolingualism, often bound up with acts of ethnic discrimination. While my doctoral dissertation, which I am currently working on turning into a book, focused on the case of Italian dialects in nineteenth-century, unification-era Italy, my broader academic work engages with the gamut of languages in my repertoire (Italian, French, Spanish, the Mayan language Kaqchikel). In general, the case of Italian dialects has functioned for me as a portal into a host of philosophical, political, and linguistic questions concerning the nature of language. The opposite has also proven true: looking at cases of minor languages across the globe has deepened and invigorated my reflections on the Italian case. I thus believe the most innovative aspect of my research lies in its comparative, transnational approach: the local and the national, the national and the global interanimating each other at an almost molecular level.

About Giancarlo

I was raised in Martina Franca, Italy, until the age of 8, when my family and I moved to Los Angeles. I did not know any English until then but was young enough to pick it well enough to become bilingual. Thanks to yearly summer trips to Italy, I was able to maintain contact with Italian culture. In fact, I have never been away from Italy for more than two years in all my life. My interest in Italian dialects stems from having been exposed to my hometown dialect of Martinese through family members and friends.



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