The Alfonse M. D’Amato Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies was instituted at Stony Brook University, NY, in 2008. As the first holder of the Chair, I am committed to develop and expand on the work done by past and present members of these two communities by promoting a number of academic, cultural, and social activities across a host of disciplines and constituencies. At bottom, however, a central concern is Critical Thinking. It is for this reason that I started a series of annual conferences with the underlying intention of fostering dialogue and discussion across a very wide spectrum of research and creativity.
Though Italian Studies are faring relatively well in North America, Italian American Studies are still considered by many an academic “minority.” Yet if we consider the output of the last two decades of the XX century, we are hardly “marginal.” Italian American Studies have made great strides at all levels, from increased archival work to the publication of rare or forgotten materials, from growth in college course offerings to the establishment of new academic lines, from far ranging writings about both Italy and the Americas to the production of translations and the staging of international conferences.
The Forum in Italian American Criticism – FIAC – aims at going beyond the well-established rhetoric of ethnicity, identity and mainstream incorporation, and ponder whether the issues of race, gender, and class, which spearheaded much professional and intellectual work for the past wenty years, have the same value or cogency in a post-9/11 era. We need to redraw the map, we need a new lexicon, and new strategies. Above all, we need to go back and re-examine what is now no longer compelling and what left undeveloped or unthought.
It is in this light that FIAC intends to raise the critical and philosophical stakes. And to do so the first first item on the agenda was to take a hard look at the very foundation of the discipline and recalibrate the methods of investigation. The object of the first FIAC conference was precisely to see what the status quaestionis of criticism is with regard to the above fields in order to map out where we stand, and where we might choose to go in the future. And as can be seen from the titles of the conferences we have organized since 2008 — see flyers below, — the number of topics explored speaks to a desire to rethink the foundation and the mission of a XXI century cultural enterprise in which there is no room for exclusive domains or guarded communities. The second conference, for instance, was dedicated to the new generations of young people who produce a hybrid electronic music which is changing the worn out associations with anything resembling “typical” Italian or Italian American performance. The third conference turned to poetics and the possibilities of a socially-conscious art aimed at fending off the fragmentation and alienation of disembodied performances. The fourth conference was built around discourse, boundaries and creativity, and dedicated to one particular figure in our profession. The fifth on whether Italian American history should not be rethought, now that the “classic’ migration saga is effectively over.
Finally, FIAC intends to work whenever possible with other departments, institutes, and even other universities, in an effort to widen the sphere of interaction with experts and ideas from other domains, expanding, in other words, the very presence of the Italian experience, strong in the belief that as we gain new or different insights form other groups and constituencies, these latter will likely learn about and from us.
Here below are the links to the first three volumes of Proceedings from these annual conferences.