Friday afternoon, September 16, 2022, a group of eminent members of the Italian American community came together at the Calandra Institute for the purpose of discussing the state of Italian American studies and the University as well as to underscore the importance of Italian American participation in humanistic philanthropy—namely, supporting the humanities, social sciences, and the arts.
Invited were those in positions of influence among Italian Americans; those who have engaged in philanthropy either personally or through their organizations; and those engaged in research and the promotion of Italian American and Italian diaspora studies. As a result, in attendance were state legislators, heads of some of the most prominent area organizations, professors, and academic administrators, among others.
Speakers included Dr. Anne M. Prisco, President of Holy Family University; Dr. Katia Passerini, Provost, Seton Hall University; Dr. Donna Chirico, former Dean of Arts and Sciences, York College, CUNY. Consul General Fabrizio Di Michele made opening comments and the Director of the Italian Cultural Institute, Fabio Finotti, offered closing reflections.
The principal topics on the agenda were: the critical importance of Italian American/Italian Diaspora courses as part of the college curriculum; and what academics in positions of influence can do to encourage these studies, especially in collaboration with people from the Italian American population at large. The discussion was focused, frank, and collegial. The meeting was followed by a reception.
Calandra’s inaugural public-programming event, part of this year’s Writers Read series, took place last night, September 15, with Kossi Komla-Ebri presenting from his books EmbarRACEments: Daily Embarrassments in Black and White . . . and Color (Bordighera Press, 2019) and Home (Bordighera Press, 2022). This book talk contributed to larger conversations about racism and its contexts, including contemporary Italy, focusing on issues of inclusivity, identity, and cultural conflict.
La Voce di New York (in partnership with the Calandra Institute, the Co.Mi.Tes from the tristate area, and Gruppo Esponenti Italiani) convened on Friday, September 9, a debate among candidates campaigning for the votes of Italians abroad. Click here to read the article in La Voce di New York in Italian. (Click here for an English translation of the article, and click here to watch the video of the proceedings.)
In the spring of 2022, as the world began to be recalled to life (in Dickens’s phrase), the Calandra Institute decided, after two years, to hold its annual international conference in person again (the 2021 edition was held entirely online; click here for more information about those sessions). The 2022 conference, Eco Italie: Material Landscapes and Environmental Imaginaries, took place at the Institute on April 28–30. As usual, participants came from all over, this time to address ecological, philosophical, and literary matters relating to Italy and the Italian Diaspora. Conference sessions covered topics ranging from gardening in Italy to earthquakes and their aftereffects, waste management, irrigation as a Fascist political tool, and roots of the ecological movement on the peninsula. The conference keynote talk was delivered by Enrico Cesaretti and was titled “Green Traces: Vegetal Imagination in Italian Science Fiction from Gilda Musa to Solarpunk.”
This conference, coming as it did at the end of the most disruptive two years of the pandemic, brought together an unusually focused and determined cohort of young scholars who presented creative and thought-provoking research.
Watch videos of the conference sessions on the Calandra Institute’s YouTube page by clicking here; and you can read the conference program here.
By now you may have already seen that in the Saturday, July 9, edition of the New York Times, Helene Stapinski—best-selling author and freelance journalist—published an article about Dr. Joseph Sciorra, Director of Academic and Cultural Programs, and his quest to procure a headstone for longshoreman Pietro “Pete” Panto. Panto, an Italian American labor activist and foe of the Mafia-run dockworkers union in the 1930s, was murdered in 1939; his body was recovered two years later.
The appearance of such an article is significant for several reasons. First, we are now informed of an important part of our American and Italian American labor history that was not well-known before. Second, the research and subsequent fundraising for the tombstone are part and parcel of an intellectual activism that we all need to do more frequently. Third, given her ability to get things like this accomplished, hats off to Helene Stapinski for informing the public at large of the Panto saga.
Finally, numerous individuals whose names appear on the GoFundMe page donated various sums, often in memory of their dockworker ancestors. Specifically, we wish to thank the trustees of the Francesco and Mary Giambelli Foundation and members of the Italian Heritage and Cultural Committee of New York, who also pledged their financial support.
You can read more about Pete Panto and the effort to mark his grave in the Times article here.
In commemoration of Dante Alighieri’s life and work, many projects were realized on the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death. One of them, which took place at the end of 2021, was a series of conversations, sponsored in part by the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee Inc., including this one with Alessandro Barbero, a professor of history at University of Eastern Piedmont and a famous figure from Italy’s numerous history programs on television. Barbero enjoys an unusual amount of fame in Italy, where it is fair to say that he is almost universally beloved on account of his uncanny ability to explain history in accessible language, as well as his general affability, which is on clear display in this video conversation with Calandra’s dean Anthony Julian Tamburri. Barbero is fluent in many languages, including English, the language of this conversation.
The Tutto Italiano! radio show interviewed Dean Tamburri Sunday, May 15, 2022. Here is the episode description:
“Join us with guest Anthony Julian Tamburri, Dean of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute (Queens College, CUNY) and Distinguished Professor of European Languages and Literatures. His research interests lie in literature, cinema, semiotics, interpretation theory, and cultural studies. Dr. Tamburri has divided his intellectual work evenly between Italian and Italian/American studies, authoring sixteen books and more than one hundred essays on both subject areas in English and Italian.”
Martin Scorsese believes strongly in the need to conserve sheet music from the golden age of Italian song. Scorsese spoke via Zoom at the Center for Italian Modern Art (CIMA) when Calandra’s Dr. Joseph Sciorra gave a short presentation there on the topic.
Click here to watch the video of his full remarks.
In April writer Claudia Durastanti came to the Calandra Institute to give a reading from her acclaimed book Strangers I Know as part of our regular Writers Read series, which has begun again in person for the first time since 2020. Joseph Salvatore interviewed her about the work and her life. Our cable TV show Italics crew were there to tape the event, and now you can watch the entire event here.