As this year’s winner of the Rome Prize, I will spend the 2017-2018 academic year as a postdoctoral fellow in Modern Italian Studies at the American Academy in Rome. I will then join the faculty of the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Oregon as an Assistant Professor of Italian with a focus on Mediterranean Studies in Fall 2018.
During the next academic year, I plan to convert my dissertation into a book manuscript and to conduct research for my second project on the culinary legacies of colonialism and the political significance of African food and foodways in contemporary Europe. The materials for this project address all five senses: I analyze recipes, maps, songs, photographs, and oral histories to connect Fascist-period depictions of East African women’s domestic labor in Italian homesteads in relation with the postcolonial and decolonial narratives that confront these representations. Thanks to the support of the Wolfsonian-FIU Fellowship, I spent November 2016 investigating the museum’s new collection of Ethiopian ephemera.
Following these themes, my Cornell University doctoral dissertation “Feeding Fascism: Tabletop Politics in Italy and Italian East Africa, 1922-1945,” examined the transnational history of Fascism across Italy and Italian East Africa (modern-day Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia). In Fall 2016 I successfully defended my Ph.D. in Italian Studies to complete the requirements of my Romance Studies degree with a certificate in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. For this project, I used food as a lens to examine the daily negotiation of power between East African women and the Italian state, demonstrating how bids for nutrition and taste speak to broader questions of gendered forms of labor, the social construction of race and racism, and what is at stake in the struggle for control over food production and consumption. Fellowships from Oxford, Cornell, AAUW, NSWA, and the CLIR Mellon Foundation have supported my research at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health, and the Barilla Gastronomic Library, as well as thirty additional archives, libraries, and museums.
As part of my commitment to investigating the politicization of women’s health and nutrition across East Africa and Southern Europe, I regularly publish my work to add to current dialogues. My most recent publication, “Singing Truth to Power: Melodic Resistance and Bodily Revolt” (Annali d’Italianistica Fall 2016) won the 2017 WCSA Russo and Linkon Award for Best Published Article. This essay uses women’s work songs to investigate the history of birth control and abortion practices by migrant field workers. Critical Inquiry published my article “Taylorist Breastfeeding in Rationalist Clinics: Constructing Industrial Motherhood in Fascist Italy,” in their Spring 2015 volume. Portions of my second dissertation chapter have been published as invited contributions to the Oxford symposium proceedings Food and Material Culture and will be published in the edited volume Representing Italy through Food. The first of these two essays won the American Folklore Society Sue Samuelson Essay Prize for Foodways Scholarship in 2014. In 2014, my Teagle Fellowship pedagogy research on inclusive teaching techniques for diverse students appeared in the edited volume Doing Research To Improve Teaching And Learning. In another reflection of my engagement with questions of othered bodies, food, and power, I have translated essays from biopolitics theorists Antonio Negri and Roberto Esposito; they have been published by the University of Chicago Press and by Routledge.
To spark interdisciplinary collaboration around the popular and accessible theme of food, I directed the conference, “The Language of Food: Exploring Representations of the Culinary in Culture” at Cornell in 2012. In addition to panels and keynote speakers, this event involved a series of guided tastings, lessons, exhibitions, and film screenings at the Johnson Museum, the Olin Kroch Rare Books Library, and the Cornell Cinema. Prior to my graduate work at Cornell, I taught at the Johns Hopkins SAIS Associazione Italo-Americana in Bologna, Italy, and at the Université François Rabelais in Tours, France. In 2006, I received my A.B. in Romance Studies (Italian, French, Spanish) from Harvard University.
My favorite Italian proverb is “O mangi questa minestra o salti dalla finestra,”
“Eat this soup or jump out the window.”