Interview by Nicole D´Alessio, NYU Florence student
What does the word ‘dialogue’ mean to you?
I think that a dialogue represents a forum in which individuals of various backgrounds can convene and express their opinions on an array of themes, in order to give way to a consensus that reflects some of the problems that exist in a society, for example, immigration or identity. A dialogue tries to forge a conversation that seeks to bring about a positive change.
How does immigration relate to personal identity?
Now that we live in a globalized world and people are able to travel between states and between continents so easily, we take for granted the historical trajectory of migration in that we are all born through some form of immigration. Because of this, we take for granted our individual identity. What it encompasses is not just one’s ethnicity, but the stories that foreground the story of immigration that transpired for our ancestry and not just our individual life.
Would you describe some of your background that helped you to formulate the idea for this dialogue?
Most of my interest in this dialogue is not just based off of my previous academic experiences. I am very rooted in the promotion of Italian-American studies. But also, because of my individual experiences, I’ve always questioned my own identity. I was always perceived as Italian in the United States, but in Italy I am always perceived as an American. This conference tries to give voice to those who don’t want to be categorized by others, but want to be able to stand on their own feet and give birth to ethnicities or identities that are, in fact, multicultural.
Why did you choose sports as an outlet to express this theme?
One reason would probably be because of my background in sports, which has definitely, kind of, created me both academically and agonistically, in a sense, the way I act socially. I also think sports has the ability—sports figures and sports in general are so visible through the media—I think that they provide examples that allow individuals to aspire to be like the individual stories that they see. The individual stories they see are sometimes presented as very successful, as picturesque, but often times those stories are the roots of other questions such as immigration, citizenship policy, and if we, kind of, digress from the depiction of sports heroes who are self-absorbed or egotistic, and if we look at them as examples of integration as we will try to do in the conference, then maybe we can strategize a way to create a new discourse on social inclusion.
Describe your academic background and thesis.
I am currently an NYU Florence graduate student. I graduated from Lehman College in the Bronx, I had the luxury of being the student of professors who had strong backgrounds in human rights and immigration, so they definitely contributed to my background in human rights and immigration, they definitely contributed to my desire to aspire to this type of discourse. In graduate school, the conference kind of parallels my thesis, in that the title is the same: the title of the dialogue is ‘Italians of a Different Color: Sports, Citizenship, and Identity’, and that reflects my thesis title. But my thesis is going to use contemporary case studies of specific individuals in various periods since the unification of Italy to, kind of, as the conference will highlight, how sports has served as a vehicle to influence images of Italian identity which are not the norm, which people conceive to be the norm.
What do you have in mind for your own future, and the future of Italy in regards to this dialogue?
I will be graduating at the end of May, and I would like to work in politics, but I would also enjoy continuing my studies in a Ph. D. program, so I would like to pursue a doctoral degree. In regards to the question of Italy and how to embrace this multicultural future: I think that one of the most fundamental elements of this discourse, or of this narrative, is that there is a lack of civic education—and what I mean is that there is a lack of courses available to students in high school, and Italian public universities, which focus on the story of immigration that transpired at the turn of the 20th century, when a lot of Italians, predominantly southern Italians, migrated to southern America, and during this period of immigration, these Italian-Americans were perceived, in fact, as “non-white.” What this does is it parallels those who immigrated and the way we perceive and depict the immigrants of Italy’s present and future. I think there has been a lack of scholarly work on this and many other areas are fields of study that I would like to continue after I get my degree here at NYU.
What do you do with your free time?
As an NYU Florence graduate student we joke around and say that if we have one hundred hours of work, we actually have one hundred and twenty hours of work. With the little amount of time that I have, I like to enjoy Florence as much as I can. I like to go for long walks—my favorite place is San Miniato Al Monte. I am a big soccer player and, without going into my personal story, I like to play as much as I can.