Alessandra Di Maio

University of Palermo
IMéRA Aix-Marseille
10 months

Research Interests: migratory, postcolonial, diasporan and black studies

Research Project

The Black Mediterranean: Migratory Routes, Narratives and Artistic Practices from the Contemporary African Diaspora

My book-length project wishes to offer a compendium of state-of-the-art investigations into how the African Diaspora, revived by the recent Mediterranean migratory waves, is represented in contemporary Italian and Black Mediterranean countercultural practices as opposed to mainstream narratives. Since antiquity, Italy has acted as a bridge between Africa and Europe, favoring the exchange of goods, crops, legends, people and gods. In the past years this century-old connection has been brought to the world’s attention by way of the sea routes that have transformed the Mediterranean basin into one of the major crossroads in the global migrant chessboard. Today the Central Mediterranean Route connecting Africa to Europe via Italy is crossed by uncountable migrants. In my formulation of the Black Mediterranean, I demonstrate how today’s global capitalism exploits labor from Africa, reinforcing the power-unbalanced European-African axis, perpetuating and perpetrating violations of basic human rights reminding us of the slave-trade era. The other side of the coin, however, is that Afro-Mediterranean migrations produce cultural practices that shape global culture.

In Italy the history of the Black Mediterranean has been mainly narrated by legal texts and mass-media that have portrayed migrants as narrated objects rather than individual narrating subjects. The goal of my study is the reconstruction of a plural written, visual, and cross-media narrative of Afro-Mediterranean migration through the too-often fragmented visions and voices of those who have experienced it first-hand, or those who have decided to engage with it creatively. The scholarly output will be a monograph, which draws from cultural, literary, and visual studies as well as from an array of sociological texts, including those in migration, diaspora, translation and Mediterranean Studies. I envision that the volume, with the tentative title The Black Mediterranean: Migratory Routes, Narratives and Artistic Practices from the Contemporary African Diaspora, will symbolically and practically initiate an on-going dialogue based on public program initiatives between the port- cities of Palermo (Sicily) and Marseilles through their cultural institutions and associations.


Alessandra Di Maio is Associate Professor at the University of Palermo, Italy. She received her Italian doctorate in Comparative Studies and Literary Sciences from the Universities of Bari and Pavia in 1995. She further specialized in the United States, where she obtained a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and where she taught at different institutions as Assistant Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature. Her area of specialization includes migratory, postcolonial, diasporan and black studies, with a particular attention to how issues of ethnicity, gender, representation, narration, memory and forgetting interact in the formation of national and transnational identities.