Identity - on the Line
Identity - on the Line

Webinar 3

Keynote speaker: Prof. dr. Luisa Passerini:

Date: 8 October 2020, 11-12 AM CEST

Title: «Bodies Across Borders» A research project on visuality, mobility, and intersubjectivity.

This presentation will be based on the research project “Bodies Across Borders: Oral and Visual Memory in Europe and Beyond”, funded by the European Research Council and based at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy. The research was conducted in the years 2013-2018 and its elaboration has continued in 2019-2020, producing a series of multi-media publications (see attachment “Passerini_Useful links”). The project aimed at studying intercultural connections in contemporary Europe and understanding new forms of European identity as they develop in an increasingly diasporic world.

The inspiration for this cultural history research came during the 2010’s from the visual arts, especially photography and video-art. They proved to be more vocal and expressive than political and socio-historical discourses about borders and mobility across and towards Europe, and some examples of such art will be shown during the webinar. The challenge accepted by the research project was to enlarge memory studies from oral and written testimonies to visuality. This effort led to thematizing the cluster of concepts and practices: visuality/corporeality/mobility, a triangle suggested and animated by the processes of memory that we encountered and contributed to stir up. This approach required an intense fieldwork engagement, during which interviews with “migrants” were conducted in schools and public places such as stations, streets, and squares. One of the results of these exchanges was a concern for terminology, as most of the mobile people from all over the world rejected both terms “migrant” and “refugee”.

The interviewees were shown – whenever possible – examples of visual art and were asked for a narration of their journeys in both oral and visual form, in the sense that they were offered drawing tools and sometimes cell phones or cameras for documenting their trips. During this process, the methodology of memory-collecting had to be innovated by reconsidering and developing the concepts of subjectivity and intersubjectivity, enlarged to include the visual. Among the products were “maps” of mobility (examples will be shown), some short videos, and written compositions (for the interviews done in schools). Three exhibitions were organized in Palermo, Turin, and Florence to show part of the results. In the third exhibition, a performance inspired by the oral, written, and visual materials was put into place (see documentary The relationship between the products of visual memory by mobile subjects on the one hand and the constructions of visual memory by artists, on the other hand, turned out to be very complex: hypotheses will be put forward for its interpretation. The questions of European identity; a sense of belonging to a European space; and memories of Europe, were problematized and reformulated by the research project.

All the products of the research (around 1,000 documents from 400 individuals) were deposited at the Historical Archives of the European Union, Florence, where they will be accessible to the public, compatibly with ethical rules concerning privacy and with the type of authorization signed by the interviewees.

Prof. Dr. Luisa Passerini is Professor Emerita at the European University Institute, Florence, and was Principal Investigator of the European Research Council Project “Bodies Across Borders. Oral and Visual Memory in Europe and Beyond” 2013-2018. She has studied the subjects of social and cultural change: the African liberation movements; the movements of workers, students, and women in the twentieth century, and the mobility of migrants to and through Europe in the last decades. Here, she has used memory in its oral, written, and visual forms, developing the concepts of subjectivity and intersubjectivity in historical research.

She has taught as Professor of Cultural History at the University of Turin, Italy, and in many different Universities of various countries in Europe and other continents (Africa, Australia, USA).

More about the project «Bodies Across Borders» can be found here:

Among her books, as author: Conversations on Visual Memory (, 2018); Women and Men in Love. European Identities in the Twentieth Century (2012); Memory and Utopia. The Primacy of Intersubjectivity (2007); Europe in Love, Love in Europe (1999); Autobiography of a Generation. Italy 1968 (1996); Fascism in Popular Memory (1987). As editor: Donne per l’Europa, 2020); Figures d’Europe. Images and Myths of Europe (2003).


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