Giorno della Memoria (Holocaust Remembrance Day) is today, January 27. At the Italian Consulate, Italians, Italian Americans, Italian Jews and non-Italian Jews, and others gather to read and to hear the names of Jews deported from Italy during World War II and to commemorate all the Holocaust’s victims on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The Institute cosponsors the event every year along with the Consulate, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Centro Primo Levi, Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimó, and the Italian Academy at Columbia University.
The Italian Diaspora Studies Summer Seminar™ is a three-week summer program that takes place at Roma Tre University. It is designed to introduce participants (doctoral students and professors) to cultural studies of the Italian Diaspora from a variety of academic perspectives and to foster development of individual projects responding to the materials covered in the series of seminars in literature, film, and the social sciences. All participants engage in a special research project.
The Italian Diaspora Studies Summer Seminar is open to graduate students (doctorate; advanced MA students may be considered) and professors from colleges and universities worldwide.
This is a collaborative program between the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute / Queens College of The City University of New York and the Roma Tre University. Professors from these two institutions and others will comprise the teaching faculty of the entire three weeks. 2023 will be the seventh year of the Italian Diaspora Studies Summer Seminar.
January 19 is the birth date of the remarkable Italian American poet Pascal D’Angelo. D’Angelo emigrated from Introdacqua at the beginning of the last century with a group of local men to work as manual laborers at various locations in the United States. After a number of years during which he executed grueling and underpaid and underappreciated jobs (building roadways and railways, among others), D’Angelo became intrigued by the idea of learning English well enough to write humorous sketches for his fellow “pick and shovel” men. Having achieved some success in this endeavor, he turned his ambitions in a more lofty direction and began to study to become a Romantic poet in the tradition of Keats and Shelley–and he did it. Although his poems did not appear in a host of publications and whereas he never earned serious money for his writing and died young (in wretched poverty), nonetheless his poetry did gain some favor at the time and is recognized for its quality to this day, particularly in light of the distance he traveled, metaphorically as well as geographically, from shepherd in Abruzzo to architect of sophisticated and beautiful verse in New York City. Click here to see Bordighera Press’s tribute to D’Angelo and to hear one of his poems, “The City,” recited aloud.
January 11, 2023, marked the eightieth anniversary of the murder of activist Carlo Tresca. Tresca was gunned down on the corner of Fifth and 15th St. in 1943 at age sixty-three. To remember this brutal end of a valiant life, Dr. Joseph Sciorra and Stephen Cerulli of the Calandra Institute organized a gathering of Tresca fans on the site of the assassination. Dr. Sciorra welcomed those present and put the event in some historical context, which Cerulli expanded on. They then opened the event up for others to speak, and a handful did so. Calandra’s Dean Anthony J. Tamburri closed the remarks, and the event concluded with the placing of red carnations, Tresca’s favorite flower, on the pavement near where he died.
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On Saturday November 5, 2022, the Institute convened a panel of scholars to discuss the half-century-old legacy of the Mario Puzo novel and the series of films by Francis Ford Coppola. Some topics covered in the presentations included “The Don’s Tuxedo: Fashion and Costume in The Godfather,” by Rebecca Bauman, “No Girls Allowed: Homosociality and the Man Caves of Identity,” by Dr. Donna Chirico, and “From Scratch: Foodways as a Politic of Representation,” by Ryan Calabretta-Sajder, among other paper topics. Dean Anthony Julian Tamburri served as host and moderator. Stay tuned to this space for upcoming videos of the presentations.
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.
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.