Transnational Italian Studies Summer School, Venice 201525 Jan 2016, by MC Events workshops in
TML’s Summer School in Venice brought together an engaged group of PhD researchers eager to explore with the project team and invited speakers instances of transnationality in their own and others’ research. As an opportunity for discussion and reflection for both the team and participants, the programme allowed for a collaborative exploration of methodological and theoretical approaches.
Interdisciplinarity became a key focus for reflection, with the complexities of transnational experiences demanding a fluidity of disciplinary, as well as national, boundaries. Donna Gabaccia introduced the concept of mobilities, encouraging the group to reflect on how people, objects, texts and ideas travel, and emphasising how diverse disciplinary perspectives are needed to illuminate such movements. Discussion focused on mobility across not just space but also time as a medium of transformation, with Charles Burdett’s lecture on contemporary representations of the Islamic community reflecting on the need to recover historical memories in order to understand the role of Islam in Italian society.
Addressing the mobilities of objects and artworks, Viviana Gravano focused on the processes of (re-)contextualisation in exhibitions, with the assembling of an exhibition understood as itself an act of positioning. Highlighting the role of museums as legitimising contexts often tied to national governments and policies, she drew on examples from the national pavilions of the nearby Venice Biennale. The students were also given time to conduct on-site research at the Biennale, bringing their experiences of of literary and textual analysis, for example, to the exhibition, and encouraging reflections on broadening their own objects of study.
Subjectivities, in relation to ourselves as researchers and those we research, was also a key theme, with Derek Duncan addressing migrant subjectivities in Italian cinema and focusing on the desire for self-representation and the conditions of visibility. A performance and theatre workshop from the multilingual and mixed-nationality theatre company Cantieri Meticci also provided the opportunity to see how these themes were addressed directly in creative practices. The role of voice and language in such representations and practices was discussed, as we reflected on the importance of not just linguistic but also physical expertise which were brought to the performance, as well as how value systems move across languages, bringing new nuances and inflections with these movements.
These discussions gave us the opportunity to reflect on some of the terms we use in our research, highlighting in particular the different understandings brought to the concept of the transnational. The current use of the trans prefix across disciplines, for example in the move from a multilingual to a translanguaging perspective, offered space for reflection on what new understandings and meanings are conveyed in these shifts in academic terms and discourse. Discussions and contributions from the group encouraged further reflection for the team about our own engagements with the concept of the transnational as we move forward with our research.
With thanks to all of the participants and speakers for their valued contributions and reflections.