Cultural Attaché Steve Labensky Remarks at American Studies Initiative Inauguration Event

Cultural Attaché Steve Labensky

Cultural Attaché Steve Labensky Remarks at the “Across the Ocean: Stories and Histories of the Italian Migration to the USA” Event

University of Macerata
October 4, 2017

(as prepared for delivery)

I am extremely glad to join you today for the opening of the new course in American history “Across the Ocean:  Stories and Histories of the Italian Migration to the USA.”  And I want to congratulate Matteo Pretelli, Professor of History of North America – who is here today and will teach the course.

Matteo Pretelli earned his PhD in “Forms of Communication of Historical Knowledge from the Middle Ages to the Contemporary Age” from the University of Trieste.  His PhD dissertation received two prestigious awards from the American Italian Historical Association Memorial Fellowship and from the AltreItalie Center on Italian Migrations.  In 2008, Matteo Pretelli was Fulbright Research Scholar at the Immigration History Research Center (University of Minnesota.)

One of the U.S. Mission Italy’s Public Affairs priorities is supporting and promoting American Studies in Italy.

In the past couple of years, we explored different ways in which the U.S. Mission can assist in reviving American Studies and re-energize its offerings across Italy.

As many of you already know, we decided to grant a special fund to support eight new temporary adjunct professorships, four in American history (one each at the universities of Trento, Macerata, Naples L’Orientale, and Pavia) and four in American literature (one each at the universities of Pisa, Urbino, Genoa, and Bari.)

The first new course in American history was initiated at the University of Trento last February and was the only one established in academic year 2016-2017.  Today, we inaugurate the first course in American history of the current academic year.

The American Studies Initiative, this is how we have called the project, is the result of a successful joint effort among the U.S. Mission to Italy, AISNA, and the Center for American Studies.  AISNA has worked with the universities to establish the teaching positions and incorporate the new courses into the curriculum.  The CSA has administered the funds as the primary grant recipient and amplify the program, in partnership with AISNA.

I would like to take this opportunity to announce you that we have just renewed the grant to fund adjunct professorships in the eight universities for the academic year 2017-2018.  And I am even happier to report that we included two more universities:  the University of Florence for American literature and the University of Cagliari for American history.

The American Studies Initiative, this is how we call the project, has gathered a lot of consensus among the participating universities.  The ultimate aim of our project is that the universities will find their own funds to renew the adjunct professorship positions and hopefully begin to reverse the negative trend.

On this very regard, we recently heard from Professor Donatella Izzo that the University of Naples L’Orientale has approved a new tenure track position in American history and International Relations.  We have high expectations that American Studies teaching positions will soon reopen in Italy.

Beyond the American Studies Initiative, the U.S. Mission will soon launch a new American Studies webpage, featuring useful resources and upcoming events in the field of the American Studies in Italy for both faculty and students.

For this resource to be relevant and updated, we will need your help and contributions: please share with us through Maria Paola Pierini all relevant events and initiatives happening in your area in the realm of the American Studies so that we can have them featured on our new page.

Together with upcoming events, we will feature selected articles, recent speeches, blog posts, and podcasts on American Studies issues (to start with, we will be linking to Sara Antonelli’s series for RadioRai). We are welcoming your suggestions and contributions!

The page will also provide links to U.S. government resources for teachers of American English, links to collections of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and –obviously- links to all universities participating in the American Studies initiative.

And that’s not all about it.  In fact, we are working to a new American Studies project that we call “American Voices.”  During academic year 2017-2018, we plan to engage some American professors affiliated with American study abroad programs and invite them to give lectures on U.S.-centric topics in Italian universities that offer American Studies courses.  We will encourage the professors to bring their American students along with them to meet and interact with the Italian university students and faculty.

The U.S. Mission hopes that the initiatives that I have just mentioned will help American Studies in Italy regain their prestigious academic standing.


Grazie a tutti!