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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28, 2015: Scholars on Fire: Vetri Nathan

[As we near the dog days of summer, a series on a handful of AmericanStudies scholars bringing the fire through their work and voices. I’d love to hear in comments about scholars whose work lights a fire under you!]
Two reasons why an Italian Professor can still be featured on AmericanStudies.
Yeah, okay, Vetri Nathan is Assistant Professor of Italian at UMass Boston, but I’m not going to apologize for featuring him in a series on AmericanStudies scholars. For one thing, I’ve had the chance to work with Vetri for the last year and a half in his role on the Northeast MLA (NeMLA) Board, where he’s the Member-at-Large for Diversity. In that role, Vetri has been instrumental not only in organizing sessinos and special events for our NeMLA conferences, but also and to my mind even more importantly in advocating for the diverse community of scholars, teachers, graduate students, independent scholars, and higher ed professionals who comprise NeMLA. Those questions of academic community and labor are at the heart of 21st century American higher education, and Vetri’s doing great work in advocating for and supporting them.
Even if he weren’t performing that vital organizational role, however, Vetri’s interdisciplinary, transnational scholarly work would more than qualify him for this week’s series. After this year’s NeMLA conference, I kicked off my week of recaps with a post on a wonderful seminar on transnational Italian-American connections, influences, and conversations. Vetri’s work to date has focused more fully on Italian culture and society than did that seminar’s papers; but in his central interests in migration and immigration, globalization and transnational relationships, and cinema (which in and of itself is of course a hugely transnational medium and force), he has modeled a transnational as well as interdisciplinary scholarly approach, one that considers any one 20th and 21st century culture through the lens of those broader but just as complex and analytical frames.  
I know we Americans (and Americanists?) have a tendency to see everything through our own lens, so I should make clear that I’m not trying to claim either Italy or Vetri’s scholarly work on it as a part of the global United States or the like. They deserve and demand to be read and analyzed on their own complex terms to be sure. Instead, I’m trying to make clear that AmericanStudies, both as a scholarly discipline and as my blog, contains multitudes—and that connecting the work that we and I do to scholars like Vetri both reflects that 21st century breadth and can only benefit our own perspectives, analyses, and scholarly identities.
Next scholar tomorrow,
PS. Scholars you’d share?

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