Having loved both Javier Cercas’ fiction and The Imposter, his recent non-fiction investigation of an historical fraud, I was excited to read his latest book, The Lord of all the Dead. Written somewhat in the style of The Imposter, is a book of two, factual stories; that of Cercas’ great uncle who died in the civil war fighting with Franco, and that of the author’s own investigative journey in piecing together the fragments of his family’s uncomfortable fascist past. Continue reading
Since we have come to the end of an unprecedented four weeks of striking across many UK universities, I thought it was worth setting down some thoughts. Although I was nervous about the strikes as they began, I found that the last few weeks have changed completely how I think about my job. The conversations I’ve had on the picket line would suggest that I’m not alone in this. I think most academics are probably not typical strikers or activists – in order to get to our positions we are more likely to have been typical good students, who are used to working within structures which have mostly worked for us. I have also felt grateful and privileged, considering the very difficult employment climate and the many years I spent myself on insecure fixed term contracts, to have a secure, permanent job doing the work I love. Continue reading
I woke up in Dublin ths morning to the depressing news that Brexit is actually a reality, having flown here in the evening after casting our votes, for remain, as UK residents. I’m been in shock pretty much all day, never quite believing it would come to this. This evening I had dinner in Dublin in one of my favourite Italian restaurants – entirely staffed by Italian staff living in Dublin – with family who had flown from Germany and Turkey as well as ourselves, from the UK. It’s saddening to think that the world we now live in will be a smaller, narrower one than the one we’ve made in the last few decades. Continue reading
I’ve written before about the case of Franca Viola, the 17 year old Sicilian woman who in 1966 made huge steps towards ending the practice of kidnap and forced marriage in southern Italy. Kidnapped by her ex-fiancé Filippo Melodia in December 1965, she was held by him for a week before an extensive police search tracked them down. Melodia made one last desperate attempt to flee onto the rooftops of the adjoining houses with Viola before he was taken into custody. Continue reading
I’m just back from Berlin after an excellent few days attending the ‘Criminal Law and Emotions’ conference at the Max Planck Centre for the History of Emotions. I presented a paper on the case of Franca Viola, the 17 year old Sicilian woman who was kidnapped by her ex-fiancé in 1966 with the intention of forcing her into marriage, and became the first woman to refuse the so-called reparatory marriage offered to her, forcing her kidnapper and rapist Filippo Melodia to be tried and sentenced for his crimes. I’ve written more about her case here. Continue reading
I’ve been thinking about dowries and trousseaus a bit lately. While the dowry was on the decline by the 1950s, most Italian women still married with a corredo or trousseau. Traditionally this was a collection of hand-sewn linens and typically included bed sheets and pillow cases as well as towels, napkins and table cloths. A girl might work steadily on her corredo throughout her adolescence. Sandro lived in a village south of Rome and met his wife in the late 1950s; he knew she was responsible and serious since she worked on her corredo each evening after a day’s work on the farm. This was before she had even met her future husband. In rural Tuscany, Laura listed in meticulous detail the items she had brought with her when she married in 1950; a blue cotton bed cover, four sheets, four pillow cases, one dishcloth, six towels, two night dresses and twelve nappies. The fact that she was able to remember the exact number of each item she brought more than thirty years later, is an indication of the value – practical and sentimental – that the corredo held for her. She had almost certainly sewn everything all herself and in the small sparsely furnished home than she and her husband shared in their first years of marriage, each of the items she brought would have been put to continual use. read more
Despite having probably hundreds of ideas that I meant to blog about I have written barely anything for this blog lately. Partly that’s because I’ve been busily writing up my research and trying to cobble together the first draft of a book manuscript. However as I begin to revise some of those chapters, I’m thinking again about how I approach the people I research and write about.
During the summer I spent some time researching and writing about honour crime and forced marriages in 1960s Sicily. I’m still hoping to blog about that research more soon. However at the moment I’m reflecting more generally on the Sicilian women I encounter in my research and how I can capture their subjective experiences in my writing. read more
I made a brief foray into Irish history, with a review of the BBC documentary Ireland’s Lost Babies for the Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, available to read here.