Conference report - Milan crossroad of cultures
On 22 and 23 September 2016 Milan hosted a major international conference, Milan, Crossroad of Cultures.
As the result of a partnership between the University of Birmingham, the University of Warwick and the University of Milan, 36 speakers discussed the role of Milan as a hub which has attracted professionals and artists, a crossroad of migratory fluxes and a fertile environment for exchanges between the arts. Organised by Marco Bellardi (University of Birmingham), Maria Belova, Sara Boezio and Giulia Brecciaroli (University of Warwick), with the assistance of Sara Sullam (University of Milan), and jointly funded by the Society for Italian Studies and by research funds offered by Dr Stefano Ghidinelli (University of Milan), the conference developed a series of themes emerging from the research seminars led by Fabio Camilletti at the University of Warwick, and it explored theories and artistic practices currently being investigated within the AHRC-funded project Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2020, led by Dr Clodagh Brook, Dr Emanuela Patti (University of Birmingham), Professor Giuliana Pieri (Royal Holloway London) and Dr Florian Mussgnug (UCL).
The two conference days opened with Professor John Foot’s (University of Bristol) and Professor Giovanna Rosa’s (University of Milan) keynote speeches. Foot focused on the outskirts of Milan from the 1950s to the 1970s, with a special focus on the areas of Pero and Bovisa. He also compared the ‘Coree’, with their unplanned expansion of self-made houses built by Southern migrants, to the later planning of the Comasina area. Foot addressed both the problem of the definition of such areas and their legacy. What emerged was a diversified approach to migration and the planning of the outskirts across the two decades. Rosa explored the paradox of Milan as a ‘Capital which wasn’t’ in opposition to Rome. Milan stood out as a city which has substantially neglected central politics to focus instead on its own administration. Still, in spite of its decentred position, Milan has stimulated, if not catalysed, the modern dynamics of cultural innovation in Italy thanks to its financial, industrial and publishing power, paving the way for a more democratic access to cultural products. Rosa focused part of her discourse on the key role played by Feltrinelli among others.
The two-day conference included a range of panels on literature, publishing, cinema, art, urban planning, architecture, photography, history, with particular attention to the multifaceted composition of the social-economic background of the city as well as its pioneering role in addressing modernity by means of innovative approaches. At the same time, several issues related to cultural negotiation emerged and gave account of Milan’s complexity. Overall, the definition of Milan’s role in orienting cultural transformations was the key question of the debate.
The event also featured an evening roundtable at the Laboratorio Formentini per l’Editoria with guests speakers U. Fiori (musician and poet), G. Biondillo (architect and writer), L. Cerutti (editor Mondadori), M. Zapparoli (Marcos y Marcos) and chaired by B. Pischedda (University of Milan). The very informal and animated discussion revolved around the impact of the city in shaping a bizarre blend of features in its citizens: their elusive ‘Milanesità’, their typical blend of pragmatism and decency, humour and indignation.
Marco Bellardi is a Doctoral Researcher in the Department of Modern Languages. His research aims to fill a gap in studies concerning the relation between cinema and literature.