Italian Diaspora Studies Writing Seminar — Photography and Writing. Calabria and Basilicata, May 18-31, 2020

Aug 22, 2019 636

BY: Margherita Ganeri

Have you ever wanted to write your history, sifting through childhood memories, digging into your roots and into the past lives of people close to you?  Have you ever started a writing project of any type but could not complete it? Are you intrigued by the study of origins and the phenomenon of mass diaspora in the world? Have ever wanted to explore hidden parts of South Italy and its rich culture and to learn more about the Italian diaspora?

For all of the above, following the successful inaugural launch of 2019, the Italian Diaspora Studies Association, in conjunction with the Department of Humanities at the University of Calabria, is pleased to announce the second two-week residential program, which will be dedicated to the topic of Photography and Writing.

The seminar, from now on referred to as IDs, will be held in the northern part of Calabria, with excursions in Basilicata, from May 18th to May 31rd, 2020.

The first week is held in the city of Cosenza and in Morano Calabro, a hilltop town inside Pollino National Park. The second week in Albidona, on the Ionian Coast of Calabria, at the border with Basilicata, with planned field trips in the surrounding areas. The last day will be in the city of Lamezia Terme.

IDs will again offer a literary tour dedicated to Carlo Levi’s book Christ Stopped at Eboli that will include a day-trip to Matera, European Capital of Culture 2019. 


Building on past activities, IDs 2020 is aimed at establishing a broad transnational perspective on the Italian diaspora through a Community-Engaged Scholarship program characterized by the mission of focusing on the South of Italy and on the importance of material culture and of historical heritage that can be experienced only by visiting the original locales of the diaspora, such as landscapes, spaces, food, music, and dance. Our program is founded on experiential learning and on an intersectional perspective that relies on the interpretative tools of Gender, Class and Ethnicity.

IDs 2020 is dedicated to the influence of locations on writing. We will investigate the experience of traveling as one that changes ourselves and reshapes our interior landscapes. We will focus, in particular, on the relationship between photography and writing. Participants will be asked to take photos of places and people of Calabria and Basilicata and to find in them, through their photos, inspiration to write.


IDs 2020 will offer three workshops in English: 

Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Interior and Exterior Landscapes: New Perspectives in an Ancient Land 

This writing intensive workshop will focus on the way travel enables us to see ourselves and our relationship to landscape in a new way, and to explore our own past and memories through this altered perspective. The writing can take the form of poetry, prose poems, memoir or some combination. What is important is the willingness to tell the truth and to be vulnerable. We will explore our own writing and make connections between ourselves and the other members of the group in an encouraging and supportive atmosphere. Individual courage leads to group courage as well as to a celebration of the places we explore and the discoveries we will make about Calabria and the definitions of home and place.

Mark Hillringhouse

Photographing Calabria, Its People and Places 

This digital photography workshop focuses on helping program participants photograph people and places using the environment to capture moments in the day-in-the-life of an Italian town. Mark Hillringhouse introduces a camera technique that is a time tested, proven approach for making spontaneous and authentic photographs in the Cartier-Bresson spirit of capturing the “decisive moments” in daily life. He helps participants find a sense of purpose in their photography and pushes them to plug into their personal interests and passions to help them better share a visual response to their feelings and perceptions of the world around them.

Participants should have a digital camera, preferably a digital SLR or mirrorless camera, or a good point-and-shoot digital camera, and a way to upload or save their images on a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Margherita Ganeri

Reading to Write on the South of Italy

Reading and writing are mirror activities. A writer is always also a reader. The purpose of this workshop is to show how reading can stimulate inspiration to write. We will walk through a path of close readings of selected pages by two famous Italian novels: The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi and Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi. We will address issues related to southern Italy and to the history of the Italian diaspora, passing through the suggestions of the places described in comparison with the places we will be inhabiting and visiting. The final destination of our literary tour will be Matera, mentioned in the masterpiece by Levi. Reading about, commenting on and visiting the places are three stages of the experiential learning that inspires the philosophy of IDs Writing Seminar, focused on building real and emotional experiences that inform the writing.

IDs 2020 will also offer, on a sign-up basis, two optional group activities held during free time:  

Watercolor Workshop. With Linda Hillringhouse

Impressions of Calabria

This informal workshop is unlimited in scope and style and will include painting from a photograph, from memory, from direct observation of a subject, and more. The subject matter will be dedicated to portraits, family history, scenery, architecture, representations of feelings connected to Calabria. The workshop facilitator will provide a list of possible painting subjects and will encourage participants to play, explore, take some risks. Supportive critiquing will be available, and an informal exhibit will be arranged for the final workshop.

Conversational Italian Classes for Beginners and Intermediate. With Marco Gatto.

A series of guest speakers TBA.

How does it work?

Classes will be held at different times of the days. Walking classes will be an important part of the photography workshop. Some days will be dedicated to field trips. The group will be involved in two local events: the historical Flag Festival (“Festa della bandiera”) in Morano Calabro and a musical event in the town of Albidona. Details TBA.

During the two weeks of full immersion, even moments of leisure are planned to stimulate creativity through the acquired knowledge of local traditions and their context. Participants will be guided in the writing of creative works, be it poetry, short stories, parts of novels or memoirs, and they will read their writings in public in convivial late evening spaces. Some of these will be published in a dedicated book by Rubbettino.

On request it is possible to issue a certificate with a value of six credits from The University of Calabria.  

Who can apply?  

IDs is open to anyone interested in learning about Italy and the Italian diaspora in the world, in writing and in visiting the places of the emigrants’ departures, immersing oneself in an all-encompassing experience, including the sensory, in the actual and cultural spaces of South Italy. 

Why apply? 

IDs promises to be a life-changing experience. It is a cultural endeavor, an occasion to search for roots and identity, and to be connected with the source, while closely interacting with well-known writers and scholars. It is also a great opportunity to visit some areas of Calabria and Basilicata in a not-simply-touristic way and at the lowest possible cost for a quality stay. 

Our program is carried out in the territories, involving local villages, people and institutions, in order to better present their life and their rich history and beauty, and to promote a process of growing awareness through immersion – visual, audible, linguistic, culinary – in the places from which the diaspora began and has left many traces. 

The objective of the program is to construct a pathway of experiential cultural formation, destined to change, in the participants, the image of South Italy and the meaning of Italian origin.

Deadline to apply: November 30, 2019

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