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MARCELLA BENCIVENNI

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Bio


I was born and raised in Calabria, southern Italy. In 1995, a year after graduating (with honors) from the University of Calabria, I came to New York City to pursue graduate studies in U.S. history. I received my M.A. from New York University in 1997 and my Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2003, specializing in Italian immigration history. I studied under the direction of the late Philip V. Cannistraro, an expert on Italian Fascism and one of the pioneers of Italian American studies, who was a wonderful mentor to me.


About a year after my doctoral defense, in September of 2004, I joined Hostos Community College of the City University of New York, where I am currently Associate Professor of History in the Behavioral and Social Sciences Department.


Besides Italian immigration, my research interests include the history of transnational revolutionary movements, modern U.S. labor history, early twentieth century political, cultural and literary radicalism, Marxist thought, and contemporary social issues. I am particularly interested in the interplay of radical politics and culture and how race, gender and ethnicity shape working-class lives and experiences.


My first book, Italian Immigrant Radical Culture (New York University Press, 2011) delves into the "lost" transnational world of a generation of Italian socialists, anarchists, and communists (collectively called sovversivi) in the United States from the end of the nineteenth century, when the great Italian migration began, to World War II. Using a wide range of sources—from literature, poetry and plays to political pamphlets, letters and newspapers—the book challenges stereotypical conservative views of Italian immigrants revealing the complex and distinctive ways Italian radicals drew upon cultural traditions and political experiences in their homeland to fight economic exploitation, oppression and discrimination in America. (For more information on the book please read the reviews and excerpts included in this website)


In addition to Italian Immigrant Radical Culture, I have co-edited Radical Perspectives on Immigration, a special issue of the journal Socialism and Democrocy which includes nine interdisciplinary essays from both scholars and activists on different immigration issues. I authored the introduction which discusses the general contours of current world migrations and some of the most salient themes that have emerged in recent years in immigration studies—such as assimilation, racialization, transnationalism, and class and ethnic identities. read online >


I have also written numerous articles, book chapters and reviews in both Italian and English on different aspects of the Italian diaspora, U.S. radicalism and current social issues. I have presented my research at national and international conferences, public forums and symposiums, and I recently appeared in the TV series "Who Do You Think You Are" which follows celebrities on a personal journey of self-discovery to trace their family trees. The episode in which I was featured, aired on August 9, 2014, traced the past of Italian American actress Valerie Bertinelli. view short clip >


I am currently working on two new projects: a study on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 in Italian American history and memory and a biography of Carl Marzani (1912-1994), an important but neglected Italian American radical who was employed during WWII by the U.S. government in the Office of Strategic Services (precursor of the CIA) and was consequently sentenced to three years in jail for hiding his past communist affiliations, becoming the first casualty of the Cold War.


I believe deeply in the idea that academics have a responsibility to engage the larger society and my teaching, research and personal interests, are all deeply informed by a commitment to address the challenges of the world we live in. In addition to my duties at Hostos, I am the editor of the Italian American Review, a member of the editorial board of Socialism and Democracy and a delegate of the PSC-CUNY, the union of Faculty and Staff of the City University of New York.


Outside of my academic life, I enjoy cooking (and eating!), reading novels, doing sports (particularly running and swimming), and being outdoors with my son. I live with my husband, Lucien O'Neill, and our son, Philippe, in Brooklyn, New York, but I spend most of my summers in my Calabrese hometown, Soverato, where my parents and most of my relatives reside.



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