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'Native Speech'? A three-part workshop on race, coloniality and language

Day one: Native speech, translation and language politics

Add to calendar 2022-05-23 15:00 2022-05-23 17:00 Europe/Rome 'Native Speech'? A three-part workshop on race, coloniality and language Elinor Ostrom Room Buontalenti - Casino Mediceo YYYY-MM-DD


23 May 2022

15:00 - 17:00 CEST


Elinor Ostrom Room

Buontalenti - Casino Mediceo

This is the first session of a workshop in three parts taking place during three half days and dedicated to reflecting on the colonial, discriminatory dimensions of languages both at the EUI and more broadly in academic writing.

Thinking and languages are co-constitutive, one shapes the other. However, too often we are not aware of the racial and colonial baggage of the language we use. Thinking about language(s) is particularly important for us as academics, as words are not only the final outcome of the work we invest into our projects, but also shape our work. Attention to language is especially important here at the EUI, a multilingual institution where research is carried out in scholars’ native and non-native languages.

This is the first session of a workshop in three parts taking place during three half days (23 May pm, 24 May am, 7 June pm). Participants are not obliged but highly encouraged to register to all sessions. One registration per session is required. This is an in person event with limited seats. If you have registered and are not able to attend, please cancel you registration or write to the organizers to let them know.

The keynote speeches of the workshop are open to online participation via Zoom (see the programme for details). In case you would like to attend them online, the Zoom link to each keynote speech is provided in the registration e-mail for each workshop day. You can contact the workshop organizers for additional information.

PROGRAMME DAY 1 - 23 MAY - Native speech, translation and language politics

This workshop considers the problems of racial language used in both academic and non-academic context and how to redress them, especially when doing research that addresses questions of race and particularly with regard to the questions of colonial legacy, migration, conflict, and social in/exclusion.

Mackda Ghebremariam Tesfau’ (Università Iuav di Venezia) is a researcher of migration, critical race, and post/decolonial studies, a translator, and an activist.

15:00: Opening of the workshop

15:15–16:30 Word and Silence: translating Plantation memories (2008/2021) by Grada Kilomba Keynote presentation by Mackda Ghebremariam Tesfau’ (Università Iuav di Venezia)

Chair: Raghavi Viswanath (EUI) | Discussant: TBC

Open to online participation via Zoom 

Kilomba's work focuses on the word/silence dichotomy, revealing how listening is an essential condition for speaking. It is therefore not a dichotomy but a triangulation of actions. In order for a voice to emerge from the silence, however, it is necessary to find words that work on unveiling power relations. Grada Kilomba works on language with the aim of finding words and tools so that this story – the story of the racialisation of blackness – can be heard. 

Translating this work into Italian has therefore meant coming to terms with the coloniality inherent in the Italian vocabulary. During the session, I will talk about Kilomba and the choices of translation, showing the specificity of the Italian context but also the continuities that link it to Europe and the global space.

16:30–17:00 Coffee Break

17:00–19:00: A Fischi per Fiaschi workshop at The Recovery Plan (Piazza San Marco)

Prendere fischi per fiaschi means confusing one thing for another, a phenomenon frequently rooted in listening with specific expectations in mind, or not really listening at all. Today, our theories and aspirations seek transformation from the eloquence of what could be into a practice that fosters stamina in combatting racial injustice and historically cemented imbalance. 

During this discussion, participants will be invited to share their experiences of language politics, acquisition, and exchange. This workshop will be accompanied by a re-purposed Tuscan tradition extending back into the 1300s, l’impagliatura dei fiaschi (covering glass bottles with straw). A tradition employing women’s labor as social exchange, the alleviation of the bottles’ fragility becomes a metaphor for enacting social care. 

Facilitators: Mackda Ghebremariam Tesfau’ and Justin Randolph Thompson. 

20:00 Dinner (restricted to the organisers and the invited speakers)


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