Black History Month in B’ham

Ibo dance mask. The Danford Collection of West African Art and Artefacts, Research and Cultural Collections, University of Birmingham. All rights reserved: Arts at Birmingham.

October is the Black History Month, and Birmingham is full of interesting initiatives, organized by the University, the City Council and The Drum (the national centre for Black British arts and culture). This week I have visited the beautiful Danford Collection of West African Arts and Artefacts, inside the campus (Arts building). I am not a specialist in African art, but I assure you that you can see some striking pieces there (Ibo and Yoruba masks and textiles are my favourite). You can find the entire UOB program of events here. Next Tuesday, I will also participate in a tour exploring Birmingham’s links with the Atlantic Slave Trade, inside the Birmingham Museum. I’ll tell you!

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What am I doing here?

So how and why does an Italian researcher come to the University of Birmingham to work on Caribbean literature?

The Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship for career development is a major European Research and Training Fellowship for experienced researchers. This prestigious two-year fellowship will be an excellent opportunity for me to carry on the research I started during my PhD and research years in Bologna, Strasbourg and Paris.

This is the University clock tower, aka “The Old Joe”

I chose to apply to work at the University of Birmingham because of the innovative research being undertaken here. I am working under the supervision of my “Scientist in Charge”, Dr Louise Hardwick, who is a specialist on Francophone Caribbean literature and culture based at the University of Birmingham. Louise and other colleagues at Birmingham conduct research into Francophone areas across the world, as explained on the homepage of the University of Birmingham FRANCOPOCO Network.

I am sure that the academic environment and the facilities that this exciting university can offer will provide me with the best environment to develop my research, and that the prestigious Marie Curie fellowship will help me to develop a network of scientific exchanges and improve my skills.

… and this is the Main Library

This blog will also be about my daily life. Most people think that research, mainly in the humanities field, is something completely separated from normal life. It is not. To participate in this project, I decided to revolutionise my life and that of my family, too! We have moved from our town, Bologna (Italy), to Birmingham (England) and I assure you that this is a radical change: from a medieval city to the second largest city in the UK, where new buildings seem to spring up every week!

I will work in three different languages (French, English and Italian) and this blog will reflect this multilingual and intercultural environment that, as you can well imagine, can modify your life very deeply. It is a challenging transition, but I am firmly convinced that this kind of challenge can really improve your work and your life. Research must not be something separated and closed inside the academies and the libraries, but it must change your life and others’ lives, too.

The arcades of Bologna, also called “the red town”

I introduce myself

My name is Dr Alessandro Corio and I am from Italy. For the next two years I will be a Marie Curie Research Fellow working on Caribbean literature with Dr Louise Hardwick in French Studies at the University of Birmingham (UK).

This is me, walking along the Presqu’île de la Caravelle, Martinique, in 2008.

This blog’s purpose is to present my research as a work in progress to other scholars who work on the Caribbean.

I would also like this blog to be a useful and interesting tool for members of the public who are interested in:

  • Caribbean culture and history
  • “Francophone” cultures: the cultures of peoples who speak French throughout the world, particularly in the Caribbean, Africa and Canada
  • Postcolonial Studies
  • The African diaspora and its cultural and political expressions
  • How literature plays an active role in imagining and configuring new strategies for living as individuals and as societies in an increasingly globalized, multicultural and relational world
  • What it means to be a University researcher today

Through this blog, I aim to construct a network of exchanges and relations, because I am firmly convinced that intellectual research, even if it needs a good deal of solitary work, only grows through exchanges! So I’m using this blog to share and receive feedback on my research as it develops.

CARIBIOLIT is the acronym of my research project’s title: “Caribbean Biopolitics of Literature. Shaping Life, History and Community through the Transformative Power of Literature”.