Thursday, August 8, 2013

What is Italian America? A Report on the 2012 Italian American Studies Association Conference, by George Guida

The forty-fifth annual Italian American Studies Association conference, “E Pluribus: What Is Italian America?” opened at Hofstra University on Thursday, November 29, 2012. The conference was dedicated to recently deceased executive council member Paul Giaimo. Opening-day events included a meeting of IASA’s executive council, two sets of concurrent scholarly and creative sessions, and an evening reception. The reception honored IASA’s founders, one of whom, Salvatore LaGumina, delivered remarks on the association’s founding and first years of life as the American Italian Historical Association. IASA presented LaGumina with an award commemorating his decades of dedicated service. 

The second day of the conference featured four sets of concurrent sessions, two plenary sessions, and the annual banquet, all held at Hofstra’s Student Center and Axinn Library. Among the concurrent sessions were such offerings as “Italian American Women’s Lives,” “Robert Viscusi: A Life in Italian American Studies,” “Lavender Paesans: Italian American Gay and Lesbian Identities,” “What is an Italian American Poet?,” “Taboo Topics in Italian American Culture,” “Eternally Remembered: Death and Mourning Amongst Italian Americans,” and a screening and discussion of the documentary film All That Lies Between Us: Maria Mazziotti Gillan. Following the concurrent sessions, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, poet, and featured presenter Richard Vetere addressed the question “What is an Italian American writer?” The day concluded with Donna Gabaccia’s provocative talk, “Italian American Studies: A Little History,” which analyzed the disciplinary content of the sessions and argued for an increase in the number of interdisciplinary sessions.

This year’s banquet featured remarks by the conference’s co-directors, Queensboro UNICO Distinguished Professor Stanislao Pugliese of Hofstra University, and IASA President George Guida, professor at New York City College of Technology, CUNY; along with remarks by Queensboro UNICO President Frank Maccio. In addition, IASA dissertation awards and travel stipends were presented by Scholarship Committee Chair Roseanne Giannini Quinn to several deserving graduate students.

The third and final day of the conference included another four sets of concurrent sessions. Among the sessions were “Icons in the Public Eye,” “What Do We Look for in Italian American Identity?” and “Not Just Sunday Gravy: Italian Americanization of Authors and Creative Writing.” The itinerary also included presentations of the anthology Italoamericana (Mondadori 2011) and the volume Essays on Italian American Literature and Culture (Bordighera 2011), as well as a screening and discussion of the documentary film La Mia Strada. The day concluded with IASA’s annual business meeting and nominations for IASA offices and executive council seats.

The 2012 conference comprised more than forty sessions and ninety participants and brought its mission of sharing, enriching, and promulgating Italian-American history and culture to an area with one of the largest Italian-American populations in the nation. The success of the conference was achieved with great thanks to its participants as well as dynamic co-director Stanislao Pugliese, the support staff of Hofstra University—Athelene Collins, Natalie Datlof, Deborah Lom, Carol Mallison, and Jeannine Rinaldi—and its sponsors: Hofstra University, Hofstra Cultural Italian American Organization, Salvatore Mendoglia, Queensboro UNICO, Il Villaggio Restaurant of Malverne, and the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute. 

Published in, il Bollettino Vol 6.1

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