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Alberica Bazzoni (Università per Stranieri di Siena), ‘Undoing Italy with Ferrante, Sapienza, Scego, and Lahiri: Transnational Approaches to Contemporary Literature in Italian’
Mariza Avgeri (Open University), ‘Towards a Decolonizing Framework for Centering the Experiences of Trans and Queer Migrants and Refugees’


Alberica Bazzoni (Università per Stranieri di Siena), ‘Undoing Italy with Ferrante, Sapienza, Scego, and Lahiri: Transnational Approaches to Contemporary Literature in Italian’

In this contribution, I start from the global success of Elena Ferrante’s tetralogy The Neapolitan Novels to sketch an alternative configuration of contemporary Italian literaturebased on a transnational approach. I place Ferrante next to three case studies of transnational success (Goliarda Sapienza), postcolonial narrative (Igiaba Scego) and translingual authorship (Jumpa Lahiri) that undo the boundaries of a national canon. Taken together, I argue, these authors reveal and institute difference at the very heart of Italian identity. Reflecting on diverging methodologies and disciplinary confines at play in canon formation in Italian Studies in Italy and in Anglophone academia, I foreground the categories of trauma, gender, translingualism, and narrative pathos (de Rogatis 2023) as central to the definition of a transnational corpus of contemporary literature in Italian.

Dr Alberica Bazzoni is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the University for Foreigners of Siena; Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Oxford; and Affiliated Fellow at the ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry. She completed her PhD at the University of Oxford, and then held Postdoctoral Fellowships at the University of Warwick (British Academy) and the ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry.

She is the author of Writing for Freedom. Body, Identity and Power in Goliarda Sapienza’s Narrative (Peter Lang 2018), recently published in Italian in a revised edition with title Scrivere la libertà. (ETS 2022) and co-editor of ‘The Politics of Translation’, special issue of Comparative Critical Studies (2023), Gender and Authority (Palgrave Macmillan 2020) and Goliarda Sapienza in Context (Fairleigh Dickinson UP 2016). 

Her main research areas are comparative literature, literary theory, sociology of culture, and feminist, queer and decolonial studies, with a focus on temporality, power, embodiment, and subjectivity. Her most recent research is concerned with literary imaginaries of trauma and resistance.

Mariza Avgeri (Open University), ‘Towards a Decolonizing Framework for Centering the Experiences of Trans and Queer Migrants and Refugees’

In this presentation, I reflect on two interviews of transgender/gender nonconforming asylum claimants in Greece, the southern border of Europe. Drawing on the reflections of a non-binary person and a transgender woman, Ilios and Christina, I explore the difficulties of talking about the transgender/gender nonconforming experience as a non-Western migrant given the colonization of the trans and refugee rights discourse with Western human rights meta-narratives. In order to reflect on the experiences of transgender/gender nonconforming asylum applicants and their transition from their country of origin to the West, and to encompass non-Western migrant subjectivities into our current thinking on sexuality/gender, we need a decolonizing intersectional and antiessentialist discourse that is based in Queer and Trans studies. In this context, I explore the decolonization of gender identity/expression in refugee law and the theoretical underpinnings of Trans and Queer studies, and how they complement each other in order to voice and accommodate the subjectivities of trans and queer non-Western migrants and refugees. The critique to queer theory from the field of transgender studies will be outlined, moving to a framework that normalizes non-normative genders and validates their social location and identity position exposing the gender ideology that patholologizes them. Intersectionality perspectives will be presented in order to affirm the multiple identity positions that transgender migrants and refugees occupy and the need for them to belong to a particular category in order to engage in ‘group politics’ beyond the anti-identitarian theorization of queer theory. Furthermore, the argument will be made for a more narrative approach on gender identity construction that encompasses the reflective, culture-specific and interpretative nature of identity building, that can be applied in asylum interviews. Finally, I will problematize the epistemology employed in approaching transgender phaenomena in the context of migration, exploring feminist accounts of knowledge production, namely positionality and antiessentialism which provide tools to better conceptualize truth claims that arise in the study of trans asylum. 

Mariza Avgeri is an Associate Lecturer in Law at the Open University and a qualified lawyer in Greece. She has graduated with a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Political Science from VU Amsterdam. She has completed her PhD in Maynooth University on transgender asylum claims in the context of International and European Law and has published scholarly work on this subject. She has worked as a legal researcher, as well as a case worker at the Greek Asylum Service and a member of the Appels’ Committees. She has participated in civil rights initiatives regarding migrant rights and LGBT rights, both as a lawyer and as a member of the queer community.

All are welcome to attend this free seminar which will be held online via Zoom, starting at 5pm BST (UK time). Please register to receive the zoom link, by clicking Book Now at the top of this page.

In this online seminar series for ILCS's Centre for the Study of Contemporary Women’s Writing, we will venture to explore queerness and its affordances for counterhegemonic critique and resistance within the cultural framework of two countries of the European South, Italy and Greece. Given that the European South has been constructed as a space of gendered, sexualised, racialised, and economic subalternity, the cycle of seminars we suggest endeavours to revisit these epistemologies which fashion and manage subjects and entire populations. More specifically, Italy and Greece have been selected as case studies because of the steady rise of extreme neoliberalism and the far-right in both countries. For us, the intersection of queerness and the European South opens up possibilities to seize and reconfigure key concepts of these (homo)nationalist, capitalist, and patriarchal political agendas: family, trans*ition, antiquity, and crises. At a time when femininity and queerness are subjected to specific processes of construction, control, and annihilation, we aim at an interdisciplinary approach which will result in a toolkit of alternative knowledges and praxes. Instead of a hotbed of intense biopolitical (and necropolitical) management, we envision the queer European South as a positionality for worldmaking critique and solidary community building. Each of these four weekly seminars takes its cue from an assortment of keywords which provide the different strands for discussion. After hearing from our invited speakers, a conversation between the panellists and the public will follow.

The seminar series is conceived and co-curated by Alice Parrinello and Billie Mitsikakos (University of Oxford, co-convenors of Queer Intersections Oxford).


30 April

Massimo Prearo (University of Verona), ‘Anti-Gender Mobilizations, Religion and Politics in Italy’
Dimitris Papanikolaou (University of Oxford), ‘Oxymoronic Family. On the National Production of Double-Binds’

7 May
(De)Colonise Antiquity/Archaeopolitics/Homosexuality

Dimitris Plantzos (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens), ‘We Have Never Been Queer: Ancient Sexualities and Present Archaeosocialities as a Way (Not) to Define the Modern Greek Self’

John Champagne (Pennsylvania State University), ‘The Italian Vice, Rethinking the Role of Italy in the Invention of Modern Male Homosexuality’
Stefano Evangelista (University of Oxford), ‘Blue Love: John Addington Symonds in Venice’

14 May

Alberica Bazzoni (Università per Stranieri di Siena), ‘Undoing Italy with Ferrante, Sapienza, Scego, and Lahiri: Transnational Approaches to Contemporary Literature in Italian’
Mariza Avgeri (Open University), ‘Towards a Decolonizing Framework for Centering the Experiences of Trans and Queer Migrants and Refugees’

21 May
Crises/Critique/Grammars of Resistance

Maria Boletsi (University of Amsterdam / Leiden University), ‘Grammar and/as Infrastructure: Revisiting the Politics of the Middle Voice in “Post-Crisis” Greece’
Vera Gheno (Università degli Studi di Firenze, ‘“Is There a Problem with Italian? ”: The Challenges of a Binary Language Facing a Fluid Reality’

Image: The artwork at the top of the page is courtesy of Martina Martonsky. Martina Martonsky is an Italian artist currently based in the Netherlands. Through illustrations, mini comics and short animations, she explores the connection between femininity, animality and monstrosity, subverting the patriarchal Western canons of beauty. See: