TITLE: Built with Faith: Place Making and the Religious Imagination in Italian New York
SPEAKER: Joseph Sciorra
EVENT DATE: 09/23/2009
RUNNING TIME: 57 minutes
This presentation examines how Italian Americans create and use vernacular architecture, material culture, and ceremonial display to inscribe meaning on New York City's religious and cultural landscapes. Yard shrines, sidewalk altars, Christmas displays, and other creative productions transform everyday urban space into unique, communal sites of religiosity. Sciorra is especially interested in how people remember, imagine, and interpret the city, as well as people's relationships to the divine at these sites during times of changing, global forces such as de/post-industrialization, suburbanization, migration, and gentrification.
Speaker Biography: Joseph Sciorra is the associate director at Queens College's John D. Calandra Italian American Institute. As a folklorist he has published extensively on religious practices and vernacular spaces in New York City. He is co-editor of the late Sicilian-American poet Vincenzo Ancona's bilingual anthology Malidittu la lingua/Damned Language (Legas, 1990), and the author of R.I.P.: Memorial Wall Art (Thames & Hudson, 1994, 2002) ,a collection of photographs documenting memorial graffiti. In 2003, Dr. Sciorra curated the exhibitions "Sacred Emblems, Community Signs: Historic Flags and Religious Banners from Italian Williamsburg, Brooklyn" and "'Evviva La Madonna Nera!': Italian-American Devotion to the Black Madonna." He successfully nominated the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Grotto on Staten Island and the Lisanti Chapel in the Bronx to the National and New York State Registers of Historical Places.
SERIES: Benjamin Botkin Lecture Series