Italian Studies, Public Humanities, and Abolition


What are the luminous potentialities and the pernicious limits of the public humanities, especially when thought together with the field of Italian Studies? Is the so-called ‘public turn’ yet another aleatory trend that wishes to save our endangered disciplines, or can it be embraced as a generative way to bridge the hiatus between the academe and political activism? And lastly: with the scarcity of job opportunities and the proliferation of precarious teaching appointments, is the engagement with the public humanities a privilege for the academic elite, as recently articulated by Feisal G. Mohamed in the Chronicle of Higher Education (“I Love the Public Humanities, But…”, 2021)? Valeria Dani will attempt to answer these and other pressing questions during a conversation that will delve into her current abolitionist work as a Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow for the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison. Throughout this discussion and in light of her experience, we will explore the space of radical politics as young scholars, the constant negotiation between opacity and legibility that arises in activist spaces, and the positionality of Italian Studies within anti-racist, anti-capitalist praxis.

Valeria Dani recently received her Ph.D. in Italian Studies from Cornell University, after previously studying at La Sapienza in Rome and The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Her research, which variously employs hermeneutics and Jewish mysticism, focuses on contemporary poetry with strong interests in critical theory, feminism, and film studies. An active translator of Italian theory (Giorgio Agamben, Where Are We Now?), she is currently carrying out a Mellon/ACLS Public Fellowship (2020-2022).