The World of Women

by Dina Juan, NYU Florence, Class of 2018

In Prayers for the Stolen, Jennifer Clement takes her reader by the hand and leads them to the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, into the adobe two-room home of Ladydi Garcia Martinez. Ladydi lives in a “land of women”. Men chase opportunities and futures down the highway while mothers and daughters are left in an isolated community, their survival dependent on sharpened senses and hardened mentalities.

Jennifer Clement

Clement drew inspiration for the novel from conversations with actual women of Guerrero who spoke of digging holes in corn fields to hide their daughters from traffickers. In the novel, Ladydi and her friends learn to listen for the roars of the drug lords’ SUVs. They hide in holes dug in their backyards and wait for the the jungle to breathe again. Through Ladydi’s eyes we peek into the world of the women of Guerrero: we run with her to escape the herbicide showers from government helicopters sent to kill poppy fields, we watch her mother drink her sadness in beer and tequila. When her astonishingly beautiful friend, Paula, is stolen, we feel in our chests a stinging certainty of what is going to happen to her.

Fear and trouble loom over Ladydi’s world like the vultures that prey on carcasses discarded on her lonely mountain. In Prayers for the Stolen, we find ourselves in the middle of an ongoing struggle to survive, but along the way we familiarize ourselves with the reality of women’s unbreakable spirit and strength.

A Few Words on Last Night’s Dialogue: The History of the EU

Last night NYU Florence Professor Davide Lombardo provided NYU Florence students an overview of the history of the European Union and challenged the progressive view of EU history as a linear process that has led to ever deeper unity and stability on the continent since World War II, emphasizing the shifting nature of borders and the conflicts and ruptures (the war in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s served as a prime example), that have characterized recent European history.

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Raising a recent case in point, NYU student Carmen Ataman-Plasencia, in the question and answer session, asked Professor Lombardo about a recent statement by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Brey that Scottland, if it votes for independence from the UK, would have to reapply for membership in the European Union.

The EU in Focus: The History of the EU from La Pietra Dialogues NYU on Vimeo.

Check back soon for the full video of last night’s Dialogue. Follow the results of today’s vote in Scottland here.

The Power of The European Union

By Allison Reid, NYU Florence student, Class of 2016

September 10th Professor Nicolò Conti gave the first talk in La Pietra Dialogues’ annual EU in Focus series: EU Institutions and Decision-Making Processes. Conti, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University Unitelma Sapienza of Rome and Professor of Comparative Politics at NYU Florence, focused much of the discussion on the structure of the European Union and how each body within the institution affects interactions among its member states and within the larger international community.

Professor Conti began by explaining that the European Union does not compare to any other institution in the world. One key aspect in the EU’s continued success is the fact that the institution is a voluntary process that promotes unity. Unlike most nation-building processes which resort to force to achieve political power, the EU ensures peace among member states by offering both protection and stability. Consequently, since the creation of the European Union, war has not broken out within or between its member countries.

During the presentation a student raised the following question: How do all of the different ideologies and policies of each nation work cohesively to achieve common objectives? In response, Professor Conti noted the principle of cooperation inherent in the EU, which often requires ministers and lawmakers  to prioritize EU interests above national interests for the benefit of  all member states. This concept is fundamental in developing a culture of consensus within the European Union. The EU’s principle of collective responsibility encourages each member to accept, adopt, and defend policies regardless of national objections.

Despite the international stature of the European Union, however, a student questioned the extent of the EU’s involvement in international crises. According to Professor Conti, foreign policy is arguably the least-integrated policy within the EU. Whereas many of the member states share a currency – thus making trade and the economy main priorities for the EU agenda – the diverse array of foreign relations, nested interests, political backgrounds, and histories inherent in each member state makes it extremely difficult to create a functional and cohesive foreign policy at the supranational level. Therefore, despite it being seen as a unified actor comprised of multiple nations, the EU is not represented as a single entity in any other international body, such as the United Nations.

Professor Conti left his audience with one final question: What should the EU move toward: an intergovernmental or supranational organization? He asked students to consider the possibility of states maintaining separate policies while simultaneously adopting the policies of the EU, or, antithetically, states conceding much of their reserved powers to a centralized supranational organization. The general consensus was  that only time would tell the direction that the European Union will take.

NYU Florence student interviews from 2013-2014

NYU Florence students and University of Florence students on the Role of Women in Politics

A group of NYU Florence students, led by Antonio Corrado, an MA candidate in Italian Studies at NYU Florence, went to the University of Florence to find out what Italian university students think about the role of women in politics. NYU Junior Kayla Malone also shares her reflections. The film was shown at La Pietra Dialogues’ fall Era of Political Sea-Change: From the Transformation of Parties to the Role of Women Dialogue on October 11-12, 2013

Role of Women in Politics as seen by University of Florence and NYU Florence students from La Pietra Dialogues NYU on Vimeo.

NYU Florence students’ interview with Florence’s No Dump Collective

NYU Florence students Katrina Chua and Jay Saltik interviewed Florence’s No Dump collective following the Dialogue Street Art in Florence: Politics and Practice at NYU Florence on December 5, 2013 at Villa Sassetti.

NYU Florence students interview No Dump from La Pietra Dialogues NYU on Vimeo.

Jackson Pollock – Michelangelo at Palazzo Vecchio

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The City of Florence is hosting the exhibition Jackson Pollock. La figura della furia at Florence’s town hall, Palazzo Vecchio, through July 27, 2014.

For the first time the work of American artist Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) will be shown next to that of Florentine artist Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564).

Pollock and Michelangelo used two distinct, even ‘antithetical’ languages: ‘one based on a design that respects the order of nature and the divine and the other based on a phenomenology of the unconscious and geometric mysticism’ (presentation of the exhibition). The display of six drawings by a young Pollock, loaned by the Metropolitan Museum of New York, show ‘irrefutable proof’ of Michelangelo’s influence on Pollock.

Michelangelo and Pollock share the ‘fury’ of the creative act, which assumes a mystical quality in its search for beauty as an absolute and the infinite as the limit and scope of artistic creation. Pollock introduced a completely new way of painting, taking his understanding of Michelangelo and the sublime tragic dimension of his work as a point of departure. (Mus.e website)

What is La Pietra Dialogues?

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What is La Pietra Dialogues?

La Pietra Dialogues at NYU Florence provides a forum for the exploration of critical issues of contemporary society through engagement with some of the world’s most prominent experts, intellectuals, artists, and scholars at the unique place that is NYU Florence’s La Pietra campus.

Students are an integral part of LPD, involved at every step of the way in the Dialogues’ development and realization. Students work with our communications team to create graphic design and communications materials for events and social media and outreach strategies; they cover Dialogues as photographers, videographers, and reporters; work on original projects like interviewing special guests, students at the University of Florence, or members of the wider Florentine community; and realize documentary film projects on current issues. Student leaders have organized Dialogues on the topics that matter to them most. Advanced Italian speakers work with a recent graduate of the University of Florence on LPD’s Italian Politics Daily blog, which features a daily press review in English of the political coverage of the main national Italian newspapers. The LPD social media and web platforms feature the best student work.

In short, LPD is a laboratory where students can cultivate an international perspective on some of today’s most pressing issues, develop skills useful for their academic and budding professional careers, and contribute their voice to the global conversation about what is going on in the world.

What is coming up this year?

We have an exciting program coming up during the 2014-2015 academic year. In LPD’s How the World Works series experts and practitioners will come to campus to discuss the current political situation in Italy and the US and to provide an inside look at what is going on behind the scenes. LPD’s European Union series will introduce students to the European Union and show a group of students selected through a competitive process how it works on the ground during a trip to Brussels to visit the EU institutions.

LPD’s What is the Contemporary? series will build on the work initiated by 2013-2014 NYU Florence students in their exploration of the contemporary reality of this multi-layered city where the past and present interact in a very special way. The NYU Provost’s Global Research Initiatives and La Pietra Dialogues will organize a Dialogue on the Contemporary Museum in Italy since the 1990s. LPD will continue its investigation of contemporary multicultural Italy through the tentatively titled ‘Black Italia’ project, which will explore the complexity of Italian immigration and how Italian identity is changing in response to the country’s shifting demographics. This summer NYU Florence will host a major international conference on Villa La Pietra’s Blackamoors collection (which students must see when they get here). LPD’s ‘Mapping Contemporary Florence’ project will invite students to explore the city, locate contemporary culture and share it with the community on a dedicated website (and, hopefully, app). The details of this project will be announced soon. (If any incoming students have special skills in web design or app development please get in touch with us – we need you!)

LPD’s A Different View series will explore the different ways of seeing and communicating ‘the real’. Photography professor Alessandra Capodacqua will curate the 2nd edition of her well regarded Documentary Photography series, which brings internationally renowned photographers to campus to present their work and to discuss the unique language of photography. A conference on Public Humanities, organized as part of the year long celebration La Pietra and NYU Celebrating 20 Years: Sir Harold’s Vision Realized will look at how scholars can engage with communities and cultural institutions and broaden their reach into the public sphere.

How can students get involved?

The LPD team will present LPD at student orientation in Florence and during the information sessions at Villa Sassetti on the Saturday after orientation. Students interested in learning more, or expressing their interest, can write to lapietra.dialogues@nyu.edu.

Check out the excellent work of the 2013-2014 LPD student team on The LPD 2013-2014 Student Portfolio.

For the latest, follow LPD on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

Spring 2014 LPD speaker Martin Kollar receives the Leica Oskar Barnack Award for photography

Acclaimed Solvakian photographer Martin Kollar received the prestigious 2014 Lecia Oskar Barnack Award for his project Field Trip, a portfolio of photographs taken in Israel.

leica-martin-kollar_1The photos of the Field Trip portfolio were shot in the context of the project entitled »This Place«, a dossier about Israel and the West Bank on which Martin Kollar worked together with 12 other internationally acclaimed photographers. The aim of the project is to portray the diversity of the country and, in turn, to illustrate the complexity of one of the world’s most disputed regions. For Kollar, his time in Israel recalled memories of his own past in communist Czechoslovakia. Random frisking and arrests by the police were a part of everyday life, and the people of the region lived with the fear surveillance and denunciation. With his photographs, Martin Kollar provides a transparent illustration of the current situation of the residents of this region. In this, he has captured everyday scenes as well as absurd and humorous situations. The visual content of his portfolio is diverse and it includes a range of subjects – from documentation of the military presence on the West Bank to landscapes, wildlife photos and portraits of the Israeli population. The scenes he captured are banal, absurd and comical in equal measure – and sometimes tragic. Kollar documents a strange and uneasy normality and, in this, depicts the trauma that prevails in the population. Although each of his photos can stand alone, there is a binding element between them all: an omnipresent tension. The military presence appears to be everywhere, and it is far from clear where militarised zones end and civilian life begins. (From the Leica Oskar Barnack Award website)

For more about Kollar’s work visit his website. NYU Florence 2014-2015 students can look forward to the 2nd edition of Professor Alessandra Capodacqua’s series Documentary Photography over the course of the upcoming academic year.

Jos De Putter: Filmmaker in Focus at Florence’s 2014 Festival dei Popoli in November

Festival dei Popoli, one of Italy’s most important documentary film festivals, which is held in Florence every year, will feature Dutch filmmaker Jos De Putter in the prestigious Retrospective section this Fall.

Jos de Putter is an award-winning Dutch director whose films span across the globe: from the “starlets” of football trying to emerge from the misery of the Brazilian favelas to teen-agers from around the world that compete in the Videogames World Championship in Seoul; from the memories of the survivors of Nagasaki to the Brooklyn baseball team that has never won a championship. De Putter chooses stories from real life and reveals their universal significance. From the Festival Dei Popoli website.

See a clip of his well regarded See No Evil, “a stunning fable that has as protagonists three monkeys who live together with men”.

About Festival Dei Popoli:

Founded in 1959 by a group of scholars in the humanities, anthropology, sociology, ethnology and mass-media studies, the Festival dei Popoli, a not-for-profit organization, has been active for over fifty years in the promotion and study of social documentary cinema.

The association works primarily to organize Italy’s leading International Documentary Film Festival in Florence. From 2008 to 2010 it has also held an edition in New York (NYDFF – New York Documentary Fim Festival). The Institute has created a vast network of collaborations for the diffusion of documentary culture in Italy and abroad.

Simultaneously, the Festival dei Popoli continues to conserve and digitalize its own Archives (which contains over 16,000 titles, from video to film) and make strides in film training, organizing courses and workshops for documentary filmmakers.

To learn more visit their website at: http://www.festivaldeipopoli.org/

My Year in Italian Politics 2013-2014

Caterina IntroducingBy NYU Florence student Caterina Dacy Ariani

While I was born in New York City, I have spent most of my life in Europe, living in Italy, France and Switzerland (speaking their respective languages). I have seen the challenges these countries have faced trying to manage the benefits of being part of the EU (or not in the case of Switzerland) alongside their desire to maintain national identities and control over their destiny. I have witnessed the absurd (Berlusconi explaining why a Dane shouldn’t hold a post related to food) and the dire (Draghi’s speech explaining the ECB will do “whatever is necessary” to support the euro). Italian and EU politics never seem to bore, and this year was no exception. On my arrival in Italy this year, Italy had only had a new government (a grand coalition) for a few months. The grand coalition (the first one in the history of the Republic), was a result of the deadlock 2013 elections, where no party was left with enough of a majority to rule on their own. The coalition was lead by Enrico Letta as the new Prime Minister and member of the Democratic Party and it was unclear how long this government would actually survive.

Although Silvio Berlusconi hadn’t been Prime Minister since November 2011, his name did not go unmentioned in any discussion on current Italian politics. In August 2014, when I came to NYU Florence, his face plastered newspapers accompanying headlines regarding his trials and convictions. Although the list of illegal activity that Berlusconi has been accused of is practically infinite, the main focus was on his tax fraud, and his sexual scandals never failed to be a punchline. Additionally, Berlusconi still had a seat in the Senate at this point, and how a man convicted in court for criminal activity, that would have sent him to jail if it weren’t for his ripe old age, could still have any active and official role in politics was quite confusing. The highlight of this year in Italian politics, however, was when Mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, suddenly became the new Prime Minister of Italy. Renzi had tried to be the candidate for the Democratic Party in the 2013 elections but lost in the primaries, so his desire to build a national political profile beyond his local Florentine one was no secret. That said, his swift rise to power this spring came as a shock to many Italians and the international public. How could someone become the new Prime Minister without elections? What about Letta? It turns out, the President of the Republic, in this case, Giorgio Napolitano, has the right to request a new cabinet. It became public in the aftermath that Napolitano had gone to Renzi, asking him to form a new cabinet, which also led to Letta’s (arguably forced) resignation. Although there are mixed opinions on whether this was the right thing to do, most political experts recognized that Renzi’s move was very well thought out, and that waiting for elections may have jeopardized his opportunity to take the reins of the Italian government.

So, what does this mean for Italy today? Renzi is 39 years old, making him the youngest PM Italy has ever had, in stark contrast to previous PM’s who, like Berlusconi, were still in office in their 70’s. Moreover, Renzi’s cabinet is the first to be gender equal, consisting of eight men (excluding Renzi) and eight women, one of whom was eight months pregnant when appointed. Renzi’s cabinet also stands as the youngest in Italy’s history, with an average age of 47. He immediately presented his 100-day plan, promising one sweeping reform every month. One of his biggest battles will be the electoral reform, which, if successful, would change the dynamics of the Italian political system. So early into his time in office, it is difficult to determine how successful Renzi will actually be, but we can hope that this young face can start bringing progress to Italy’s elderly and male dominated reputation. Also, much of Renzi’s success will depend on the outcome of the EU elections that are taking place at the end of this month (May 2014). With the constant and dramatic changes and surprises occurring in Italian politics, it is difficult to understand what we, as students studying here abroad, should take away with us. NYU Florence politics professor Roberto D’Alimonte suggests, in response to this conundrum, that student take with them the understanding of “the importance of participating in politics” because too often, he says “people don’t participate and end up letting other people make decisions for them”.