Events 2017-2018

All events of 2017-2018 are co-sponsored by the European Institute, Columbia University

Fall 2017

SEPTEMBER 28, THURSDAY, 6 pm, Schapiro Center for Engineering & Physical Science Research, Room 415 

Simone Brioni (Stony Brook University)

What is a 'Minor' Literature? Somali Italian Literature and Beyond

Respondent: Madeleine Dobie (Columbia University)

Moderator: Pier Mattia Tommasino (Columbia University)

My paper analyses to what extent Deleuze and Guattari’s definition of the three main features of ‘minor literature’ – namely ‘the deterritorialization of language, the connection of the individual to a political immediacy, and the collective assemblage of enunciation’ – are relevant in analyzing literature by authors of Somali origins in Italian. Because of Deleuze and Guattari’s abstract reference to gender and race issues and their vague concern for the geographical, linguistic and cultural specificities of literatures by minor authors, I will argue that ‘minor literature’ should not be seen as a rigid framework to be applied in interpreting a specific case study, although its theoretical flexibility might be useful when investigating a literature that strongly refuse categorization. In particular, Deleuze and Guattari’s reference to ‘minor’ ‘literature as a literature ‘in becoming’ helps to identify the position of Somali Italian literature in a transnational context, proposing some changes in how 'Italian' literature has been conceptualized so far.


OCTOBER 19, THURSDAY, 6 pm, International Affairs Building, Room 403

Joseph Viscomi (New York University)

Migrants, criminals and spies in the Italian Mediterranean

Respondent: Silvana Patriarca (Fordham University)

Moderator: Konstantina Zanou (Columbia University)

In what ways do the movements of subversive Italians during the twentieth century challenge historiography of the modern Mediterranean? What socio-political constellations emerge from their itineraries? Which boundaries are inverted or reinforced? I explore these questions through the microhistories of Italians in Egypt who evaded the law –or manipulated its ambiguity in their favor– between 1919 and 1940. Using documents that appeal either to Italian consular courts in Egypt or to Italian political leaders, in this talk I propose that these individual cases help us to understand the overlapping regimes of law, nationalism, and colonialism in what we could articulate as an Italian Mediterranean.


NOVEMBER 17, FRIDAY, 11.30 am, Fayerweather Hall, Room 310

Andrew Arsan (St. John College, Cambridge)

Intervention: An Eastern Mediterranean genealogy

Respondent: Aaron Jakes (New School)

Moderator: Konstantina Zanou (Columbia University)

The times in which we live are rife with interventions - humanitarian, financial, and political - into the inner affairs of sovereign states. Deep incisions into the body politic, they injure even as they seek to heal, upturning conventional understandings of the state as an autonomous entity by inserting foreign elements beneath its skin. This paper sketches out a genealogy for these practices, tracing them back to the nineteenth-century Mediterranean and the particular sovereign arrangements born of the Ottoman empire’s unhappy encounter with Britain and France. From the 1830s onwards, it argues, these two states devised novel ways of organising population, territory, and debt and new understandings of sovereignty. And in doing so, they made of intervention a principle of international life


NOVEMBER 30, THURSDAY, 6 pm, Hamilton Hall, Room 516

Alexander Bevilacqua (Williams College)

The Qur’an in the Enlightenment

Respondent: Sarah Rbin Tyeer (Columbia University)

Moderator: Pier Mattia Tommasino (Columbia University)

The Qur'an was an object of scholarly attention in the eighteenth century, when, in the wake of Lodovico Marracci's philological Latin achievement of 1698, a number of writers attempted a literary translation of the holy book of Islam. In the same period, the Qur'an also served as a multivalent symbol--of revealed religion, of literature, and of law. This paper first examines the scholarly achievements of the period's European translators from Arabic, and then compares them to the Qur'an's reception in the Enlightenment to reveal both the connections and the differences between philological and "philosophical" reception in this formative era of Western intellectual culture.


Spring 2018



Lucy Riall (EUI, Florence)

From the Mediterranean to the Pacific Ocean: Ideas and Agents of Italian Colonisation in South America, c.1840 to c.1880

Moderator: Konstantina Zanou (Columbia University)


Date tba

Jessica Marglin (University of Southern California)

Mediterranean Nationality: Protection, Naturalization, and Citizenship in the Nineteenth century

Nationality has, unsurprisingly, mainly been treated as a national concern, and the histories of nationality largely confine themselves to a single state at a time. More recently, historians have explored nationality in a modern Mediterranean framework, thus breaking the boundaries of the nation-state. Nonetheless, such approaches are dominated by European colonialism; they traverse cultural boundaries, but not political ones. This paper seeks to locate the practice of nationality in the space between “Occident” and “Orient”—and more specifically, in the histories of individuals who were not entirely of one category or the other. I argue that the Mediterranean’s various regimes of national belonging—including, but not limited to, diplomatic protection, colonial subjecthood, nationality, and citizenship—were all essential to the lived experience of nationality, not only in the Middle East but in Europe as well. These competing and often overlapping modes of belonging were not confined to the “Orient”: rather the nature of nationality in Europe was shaped by its manifestations on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, and vice versa.


Guillaume Calafat (Paris 1, La Sorbonne, IAS, Princeton)

The Corsican Connection. Trade and Christian-Muslim Interactions between Italy and the Ottoman world (1550s-1650s) 

This paper devotes particular attention to Corsican converts to Islam during the Early Modern period: the history of trans-regional and trans-religious families can offer precious information on the ways converts could maintain familial and affective links and relationships with their homeland. To this end, it looks to articulate case studies and to employ micro-analytical techniques of historical investigation around a set of questions related to global history, such as “cross-cultural trade” and commercial exchanges across religious, political, and legal boundaries. Through close study of lawsuits in which Corsican traders and sailors were involved in Algiers, Tunis, Livorno, Marseilles, Genoa and Venice, this presentation will follow commercial and maritime disputes from one tribunal to another in several Mediterranean port cities, giving also information on commercial courts in the Early Modern Mediterranean.



Seth Kimmel (Columbia University)

The Disciplines, to Scale: Bibliography between Spain and Italy

When sixteenth-century Iberian humanists such as Juan Páez de Castro, Juan Bautista Cardona, Benito Arias Montano, and Antonio Agustín imaged what King Philip II’s royal library—eventually established during the 1560s and 1570s in San Lorenzo as part of the Escorial monastery complex—ought to look like, they invoked Italian models. Foremost on their minds was the Vatican library, whose decoration, architecture, heating technology, and, especially, bibliographic organization they hoped to imitate. The ceiling frescos of the liberal arts realized in the Escorial’s main reading room by Pellegrino Tibaldi likewise evoked a visual taxonomy of knowledge that was indebted to Italian models. In studying the Escorial’s bibliographic vision across a variety of media and scales, my paper examines the details as well as the limits of this indebtedness.


Date tba

Gabriele Pedullà (Università di Roma Tre)

Studying Italian Literature: a Geographical Approach