Queer Italia Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Languages Cultures Art History & Music

Abstract

Until the 1990s, 'queer' was largely understood as a term of abuse for homosexuals. Since then, it has been reclaimed by activists and scholars seeking to validate identities and sexualities that trouble or transgress social norms: these include the notion that monogomous, reproductive heterosexuality is the standard, and that any other forms of desire or sexual practice are 'deviations'. 'Queer' is often taken to mean any way of being that is at odds with what is considered 'normal'. Research on queer experiences in the Italian context is urgently required for three reasons: 1) In Italy, there is still no national legislation to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual/transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals, and campaigns to combat discrimination, to tackle homophobic bullying in schools, to protect LGBTQ asylum seekers, and to challenge prejudice are under attack from groups such as the 'Sentinelle in piedi' (Standing Sentinels) who oppose initiatives that seek to protect the rights of LGBTQ individuals. This situation means that discrimination is widespread, and victims have no recourse to the law to protect them. 2) Very little research on queer lives and phenomena has been carried out in Italy, partly because the Italian academy is generally resistant to queer theories and methodologies, including critical and interdisciplinary analyses of social and cultural constructions of race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender. Despite this, the Italian context offers a wealth of queer thought and activism that demands critical attention in order to understand more fully the changing expressions and experiences of sexuality. This project will also analyse important dissenting voices that denounce sexual and racial discrimination, for example, including amongst communities of LGBTQ immigrants and refugees seeking asylum due to sexual discrimination. This will reinvigorate debate on a crucial aspect of human experience and will contribute in important ways to multiple academic disciplines (including Literary Studies, History of Sexuality, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Human Geography, Sociology, Cultural and Media Studies), as well as to policy (the Project Team (PT) will write a paper making research recommendations on issues of LGBTQ rights). 3) While many established scholars have called for wider engagement with queer ideas and perspectives that have emerged in different linguistic contexts, queer theories continue to remain focussed on the Anglophone world, and have not yet entered into dialogue with Italian thought on sexual and other forms of dissidence. However, as mentioned, the Italian tradition offers a rich array of theoretical positions and cultural interventions, including activism and contemporary performance art, that might contextualize, challenge and reshape existing Anglophone theories. Dialogue with contemporary and historical radical Italian thought on sexuality, as well as with cultural practitioners who tackle this and other queer subjects through art or theatre, may also enable queer studies scholars to overcome what some see as stumbling blocks in current thinking.

The project will focus on the following questions:
1) Theories and Practices: How have Anglophone queer theories been received in Italy and what queer perspectives and practices have developed in Italian culture? How might transnational dialogues foster larger academic and social investigations and understanding of both the Anglophone and Italian queer contexts?
2) Representation and Reappropriation: How are queer lives, moments and politics represented in Italian media and culture, and how do queer perspectives impact on and provide alternatives to dominant contemporary and historical media forms?
3) Interstitial Spaces/Temporalities: What insights can be gained from queer theoretical and creative explorations of class, sex, gender, race, and migration that focus on intersectionality and inbetweenness?

Planned Impact

Four main groups will benefit from the research: 1) artists, performers and festival organisers; 2) the general public; 3) local and global LGBTQ communities; 4) policy makers.
1)selected artists, performers and festival organisers will participate in the workshops and will be involved in the performances and exhibition that will run alongside these events. They will gain insights into cutting-edge academic discussions of queer cultures, politics and representation, as well as contributing to these discussions. The workshops will offer a unique opportunity to share and debate practice and ideas with a highly-specialised group of scholars, artists and practitioners, both during the workshops and for the duration of the project, via the interactive website, blog and twitter feed. Any performers or festival organisers who do not attend the workshops will be able to become involved via the interactive website and social media. The network will enable them to broaden their own contacts and audiences, and to develop new ideas together with other network members.
2)members of the general public will be able to attend the free public performances and exhibition, as well as get involved in discussion via the website and social media. Engagement with the research will lead to critical reflection on queer cultures and issues, and has the potential to broaden attitudes, and increase tolerance and acceptance of difference, as well as the social integration of LGBTQ individuals. This has proven socio-cultural and economic benefits since it promotes social and cultural cohesion and engagement, and decreases isolation and potential mental health problems (Badgett et al. 2014).
3)local and global LGBTQ communities: these communities can include isolated and marginalised individuals, and in Italy (as well as elsewhere in the world) LGBTQ rights are not protected by law. Therefore these communities will benefit specifically from attending the free public events, from engaging with debates via social media and the website and from the very presence of a queer focussed event: research has shown that even knowing that such events are taking place can improve the well-being and mental health of LGBTQ individuals (Jones and Kempton 2011). While not all LGBTQ-identified individuals have access to the internet, there is a large global LGBTQ community that does make significant use of it, making it relatively straightforward to contact and begin to establish dialogue with communities at global and local level. Websites for LGBTQ associations provide an excellent point of contact, as do online discussion forums. Given the lack of legislation proecting LGBTQ individuals in Italy, there is a significant Italian LGBTQ diasporic population, part of which has already been identified and reached by the association Archivio Queer Italia, with which we will be collaborating. In their view, this population is keen to engage in the kinds of dialogue and initiatives proposed by this project.
4)policy makers will benefit from the policy recommendations drafted by the PT at the end of the project, together with input from experienced campaigners and lobbyists involved in Arcigay/Arcilesbica. The recommendations have the potential to impact on the lack of legislation regarding LGBTQ rights in Italy, as well as on support for cultural activities that represent queer lives and experiences. The PT will target Ministers for Equal Opportunities and Culture in particular.

Timescales: The research has the potential to impact swiftly on groups 1-3, and certainly from around 6 months into the project (when the website and blog will be relatively well-established) and for its entire duration. The website and blog will then remain available after the end of the project, and open access academic publications will also be available from the end of the project onwards. Impact on group 4 will begin after the end of the project.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Through discussion at the Queer Italia Network workshops, and in relation to the research outputs that are in preparation (academic articles, edited volume of essays, special issue of a journal), it has become clear that much more needs to be done to improve our understandings of queer precarity, and to support those concerned. Socio-economic precarity affects large swathes of the Italian population due to high levels of unemployment or the casualization of contracts, however precarity impacts disproportionately on queer people--for example lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer individuals (LGBTQ+), as well as migrants, or those who somehow disrupt normative narratives of the white, able-bodied, cis-gendered, heteronormative subject. These individuals are often subject to discrimination and violence and many are extremely vulnerable. Three key areas emerged as requiring further investigation: 1) Knowledge production. Queer theories enable insightful analyses of social inequalities, discrimination and creative practices, for example, but are not always included on university syllabi; indeed many queer academics report suffering from discrimination as a result of their identities, or of encountering obstacles when attempting to broaden the curriculum to include queer approaches. Beyond academia, many activists are using queer theories to help them develop campaigns and strategies to fight for the rights of queer individuals and communities, but their voices are ignored by mainstream politics. More needs to be done to explore these questions and to establish productive dialogues between queer activists and thinkers within and beyond the university context, to trace how these ideas are developing, where, and to think about how they might be best applied. 2) Art and Performance: several Italian artists are using queer strategies in their work, for example by representing non-normative forms of embodiment, but funding is scarce, and some festivals have suffered from smear campaigns by right-wing media and politicians. Research into the value of such artistic endeavour has shown the benefits it can bring in terms of creating inclusive communities, encouraging critical thinking about prejudice and discrimination, and improving well-being for LGBTQ+ individuals. More research on current artistic practices in Italy is required to better understand the situation. 3) Migration: LGBTQ+ migrants are particularly vulnerable, but all migrants are potentially queer subjects who are seen to trouble normative understandings of Italian identity and the Italian nation. Further research is urgently required to gain deeper insights into the experiences and struggles faced by LGBTQ+ migrants, and to understand some of the creative strategies that have been employed in demonstrations, and in order simply to survive. This research would begin to counterbalance racist perspectives expressed by politicians and in the mainstream media, and would provide crucial insights into current challenges.
Exploitation Route Research on queerness in all three areas (knowledge production; art and performance; migration) needs to be undertaken, in collaboration with stakeholders such as third-sector organisations, artists and queer communities. This would produce informed, rigorous, scholarly work, that would feed into recommendations for local and national government, as well as for third-sector organisations more broadly. It would also lead to the creation of educational materials or exhibitions and performances for the general public. These would have the potential to impact in significant ways on larger sectors of the population, raising awareness and encouraging more progressive engagement with these crucial questions, and attempting to empower vulnerable and marginalised members of society.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.queeritalia.com
 
Description The focus on queer precarity during the Queer Italia workshops has led to increased understandings of key questions relating to the experiences of LGBTQ+ people in Italy . Academic colleagues, artists and those working for third-sector organisations reported an enhanced sense of the ways in which precarity might impact on LGBTQ+ individuals, and the importance of addressing this, using appropriate language, updated policies, or of representing it, through artistic works.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Film screening NY 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We screened a series of short queer films made by Italian filmmakers at the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo', New York. The screenings were preceded by a talk about the project and about LGBTQ+ rights, politics, cultures and communities in Italy. The audience was primarily made up of the general public, but there were also some UG and PG students from CUNY and NYU. This was a free event. Audience members were very interested in the project and the films and several of them requested to be kept updated about our work. They were advised to look at our website, follow our blog and twitter feed. Many had not seen queer films before, or were not aware of the complexities of the political and legal situation in Italy for LGBTQ+ individuals. They said that the evening had raised their awareness and understanding of such issues.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.facebook.com/events/1972893582956805/
 
Description Performance Egon Botteghi 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Together with Laura Rossi, Egon Botteghi has developed a performance in which he recounts his journey to become a trans man. He performed this at the Teatro Anacoleti in Vercelli on 14 July 2017, as a part of one of the workshops organised by the Queer Italia network. The performance was open to the general public and heavily subsidised, so tickets cost 5 euro. After the performance there was a lively discussion with Egon, which covered complex and sensitive issues connected to trans identity, trans phobia, violence, but also self-realisation and political theatre. Members of the audience reported having learnt a great deal about these topics, and having appreciated the opportunity to hear Egon's story.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.queeritalia.com/vercelli-programme
 
Description Performance Senith 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Senith is a performer, whose work explores gender normativity, drag and queer identities. She performed her show 'BadASSolo' at the Teatro Anacoleti in Vercelli on 13 July 2017, as a part of one of the workshops organised by the Queer Italia network. The performance was open to the general public and heavily subsidised, so tickets cost 5 euro. After the performance there was a lively discussion with Senith, which covered a range of topics, from drag performance, to the reinforcement of binary norms of gender in society, to homo-lesbo-trans-phobias. Audience members commented that Senith's work opened up new ways to think about gender and how we embody our identities, especially given the often hostile socio-cultural climate in Italy towards LGBTQ+ people.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.queeritalia.com/vercelli-programme
 
Description Workshop 1, Verona 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact This workshop, organised by the Queer Italia Network and hosted by the University of Verona, focused on 'Queer(ing) Anglo/Italian Theories and Practices', and sought to address the following questions: 1.How have Anglophone queer theories been received in Italy, and what queer perspectives and practices have developed in Italian culture? 2.How might transnational dialogues foster larger academic, artistic, or social investigations and understandings of both the Anglophone and Italian queer contexts? 3.How does art speak to or otherwise engage with queer theory within the Italian context? 4.Are there intersections between activism and teaching within the Italian context when it comes to issues of queer theory and gender and sexuality studies? It was attended by scholars from Italy, the US, and the UK, by PG students from the surrounding region and by Italian activists and artists. It included two performances, one of which was interactive. There was a very good level of debate, which focussed in particular on where and how queer issues are discussed in Italian universities, and the relationships between academic research and activism. We began to discuss future collaborations, and the emerging ideas have shaped thinking for a further collaborative research project, which is currently in development. They have also led to a 2-day symposium on Queer in the Italian university, that will take place at the university of Verona in June 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.queeritalia.com/verona
 
Description Workshop 2: London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact This workshop, organised by the Queer Italia Network, entitled 'Translating Queer Historicities', took place at the IGRS in London, in June 2017. It addressed the following questions: 1. Historical Queerness: How might we frame our understanding of the possibilities of past/historical Italian queerness? What is at stake when we trace queerness in historical excavations and analyses of dissidence (both sexual and otherwise)? 2. Queerness and the Italian Archive: How do we identify, remember or otherwise engage with the Italian queer archive on the level of form, content, or memory? 3. Queering Time and Language: How have forms of queerness migrated and evolved across time, cultures and languages? What may Italian specific studies contribute to queering temporal-linguistic relations? 4. Time and Translation: What processes of 'translation' are at work when we seek to make sense of queerness in other temporal, cultural and linguistic zones? What are the ways that translation can be queered to understand the relationships between texts and time? 5. Translation as/and Italian Activism: When engaging in LGBTQAI activism in the Italian context, what role might translation play? Can translation be activism? What might queering translation contribute to historical understandings of activism? The workshop was attended by scholars, activists, artists and members of the general public. It included a series of academic work-in-progress papers, as well as presentations of recent work by two artists, and an overview of the activist association 'Archivio Queer Italia'. Discussion centred on questions of queer archives, how and where these are identified, accessed and made available, including through translation. Some of those attending had also been present at the first workshop in Verona, leading to a helpful continuity between events, and a feeling of momentum. We continued to discuss plans for future collaborations, and there was a clear view that the quality and focus of the discussion had enabled colleagues to make new links between their work and other perspectives, and that particular key issues were starting to emerge that require further investigation, such as the question of queer precarity, or the precarity of queer lives, material and practices.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.queeritalia.com/workshop-two
 
Description Workshop 3: Vercelli 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The third workshop, organised by the Queer Italia Network, took place at the university of Vercelli, Piedmont, in July 2017, and was entitled 'Queer Transnational Arts and Activism. For this event the focus was on the ways that arts and activism intersect, build upon one another, and use their divergent and/or complementary strengths to create spaces, dialogues, and politics of queerness in an Italian context. Some questions that we sought to address were: 1. Activism and Performance: What is the relationship between queer activism and performance in Italy and how has this developed in recent decades? What kinds of dialogue are in progress and to what effect? 2. Performativity: How might theoretical approaches to performativity inform our understandings of queer performance or queer readings of performance? Might we use these same theoretical lenses when approaching Italian LGBTQAI activist movements? 3. Embodiment: What role has the body or the embodied queer self played in queer activism and performance? 4. Creativity and Collaboration: How significant is creativity in activism? How might this be developed through collaborative initiatives? 5. Transnational approaches: What role can/might transnational relationships and dialogues play in evolving creative and/or activist practices? Participants included international scholars, local activists, local PG students and performers. Indeed, the event included two evening performances (entered as separate events), but the artists also participated actively in the workshop discussion. Questions of precarity again came to the fore, in relation to embodiment, performative identities, socio-economic and political status and cultural events. Participants expressed the view that the event had deepened their understanding of queer theories, and of their potential applicability to a range of situations, and had enabled them to gain crucial insights into other perspectives and experiences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.queeritalia.com/workshop-3
 
Description Workshop 4: New York 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The fourth workshop organised by the Queer Italia Network took place in New York and was hosted by CUNY and NYU. It explored the various relationships between queer theories, LGBTQIA populations, and the Italian media. It provided an opportunity for participants to discuss the ways that queer lives, moments, and politics have been represented in and appropriated by Italian media and culture, as well as an occasion to dialogue about the ways that queer perspectives impact on and provide alternatives to dominant contemporary and historical media forms. Some key questions that were addressed by papers include: 1.Representation: How are LGBTQIA lives depicted in the mainstream Italian media? What are the roots and/or consequences of such portrayals? 2.Queer approaches: Can queer theories lead us to different ways of understanding/reading the dynamics between society and the media in Italy? Can Italian mainstream media be "queered"? 3.Reappropriation: How are grassroots media makers in Italy challenging dominant forms of media production and consumption? 4.Convergence: How might we consider media convergence or new media in relation to queer conceptions of temporality, aesthetics, or historicity? 5.Socio-Political Media Economies: What, if anything, does an Italian national approach to queer media investigations contribute to larger understandings of global media industries? Papers focussed on tv, film, print media and the internet, and although many addressed contemporary issues, there was some very interesting work shared on print media from the 1960s onwards. As a result of this workshop, a co-edited volume is currently being prepared.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.queeritalia.com/workshop-four
 
Description Workshop 5: Naples 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The fifth and final workshop, held at the University of Naples, 'L'Orientale', took place in January 2018 and invited discussion on 'Migrations: Intersectionality, Queerness, and Diaspora: the transcultural and liminal intersections of migrant identities and the politics of migration'. It was attended by scholars from Italy, the UK, the US and Germany, and by activists and representatives from NGOs. Key questions for discussion were: 1) What are the intersections between postcoloniality and queerness? 2) How might queer and antiracist politics inform the concept of "diaspora" in the Italian/Italophone context? 3) How might we promote transnational dialogues that foster deeper academic, artistic, or social investigations and understandings of both the Anglophone and Italian queer contexts? 4) How are concepts like "gender" and "queerness" racialised in the Italian context? How can/does queerness inform antiracist struggles around citizenship and immigration? 5) How can/do the queer, transfeminist, refugee, and G2 movements act in coalition with one another? Is solidarity a viable construct between these groups within and beyond Italy, especially in the context of the Mediterranean's so-called "migrant crisis"? The event consisted of scholarly work-in-progress papers, discussions of political perspectives by queer activists, contributions by representatives of voluntary associations who work to support migrants, and two film screenings. Several participants had already attended previous workshops, ensuring that productive links were made between the different events. This led to a rich concluding discussion in which plans for future collaborative projects began to take a clearer shape. Further themed sessions on queer cultures in Italy will take place at the American Association of Italian Studies conference in June 2018, and the project team for the Queer Italia network is currently developing a follow-up project that will focus on queer precarity in a variety of different contexts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.queeritalia.com/naples