Captivity and Social Justice in Modern Italian Culture


Captivity and Social Justice in Modern Italian Culture

International Conference
26-27 February 2021
University of Rochester – York University


Elena Bellina (University of Rochester), Matteo Brera (York University)

Imprisonment has traditionally been a contested topic and, in the Italian context, the field of Captivity Studies has recently emerged in response to the need of questioning the impact of a variety of forms of imprisonment on the national memory and identity in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Thus, the Italian case is an extremely fruitful testbed to evaluate to what extent the transformations undergone throughout the last century by culturally relevant forms of imprisonment shaped public discourse and were represented in trans-medial context. Bringing together scholars engaged with the theme of captivity across different research areas in the Humanities and the Social Sciences, this conference aims to be a forum for discussing how trans-medial fictional and non-fictional representations of captivity (including e.g. fascist political confinement, WWII internment, political abductions, ransom kidnappings, penitentiaries, asylums and refugee camps), shaped – and shape – public opinion and the legislator, thus helping redefine the genre of testimony within the Italian criminological, literary and philosophical traditions.

This two-day symposium was organized under the aegis and with the support of the Humanities Center (University of Rochester), the Humanities Department (Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester) and the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (York University).

The conference is open to the public and attendance is free of charge. However, please RSVP
to obtain the Zoom meeting link and access credentials.


Program (Day One)

February 26, 2021

10.00 a.m.

Welcome and Opening Remarks

10.30 a.m. – 12.00 p.m.

 Captivity and the War

Ryan Calabretta-Sajder
University of Arkansas, USA

Elena Bellina (University of Rochester, USA)
Captivus Vulgaris Kenyensis: Italian War Captivity in East Africa (1940-1947)

Giovanni Miglianti (Yale University, USA)
Containing Captivity: Of Bodies, Uniforms, and Writing at Auschwitz

Brian Tholl (Duke University, USA)
Kairos and Confino: Mythologizing the Resistance

12.00 p.m. – 12.45 p.m. Coffee Break


12.45 p.m. – 2.15 p.m.

Reforming Captivity in Italy

Maria Bonaria Urban
University of Amsterdam/Royal Dutch Institute, The Netherlands

Matteo Brera (York University, Canada)
Puramente casuale: Italian Prison Films and the 1975 Carceral Reform

Monica Jansen (Utrecht University, The Netherlands)
“Vuotare il mare col secchiello”: Adriano Sofri’s Writings on Captivity in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Stefania Basilisco (Ministry of Justice, Italy)
Il carcere e la detenzione in Italia tra sovraffollamento, pandemia, luoghi comuni ed invarianza: l’irrisolta questione della finalità rieducativa della pena.

End of Day One


Program (Day Two)

February 27, 2021

10.30 a.m. – 12.00 p.m.

Captivity of the Body, Captivity of the Mind

Francesca Billiani
University of Manchester, UK

Marina Guglielmi (University of Cagliari, Italy)
Italian Narratives of the Asylum

Alessandra Montalbano (University of Alabama, USA)
The Trauma of Captivity in Ransom Kidnapping

Giorgia Bordoni (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA)
The “Third Zone” of Captivity. The Impossibility of Dying in Primo Levi and Guido Morselli’s Writings

12.00 p.m. – 12.45 p.m. Coffee Break


12:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.


Captivity, Borders and Race

Moderator and Respondent:
Loredana Polezzi
A.M. D’Amato Endowed Chair in Italian American and Italian Studies
SUNY – Stony Brook University, USA



Antonio Maria Morone (University of Pavia, Italy)
Valeria Castelli (New York University, USA) & Giulia Sbaffi (New York University, USA)
Eleanor Paynter (Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Cornell University, USA)
Francesca Soliman (University of Edinburgh, UK)
Maddalena Tirabassi (Centro Altreitalie, Italy)

The conference is open to the public and attendance is free of charge. However, please RSVP
to obtain the Zoom meeting link and access credentials.