Denver, C.O. – Dr. Davide Papotti visited the University of Denver Tuesday, May 10, 2016 to give a lecture on the history of Italy, negotiating historical heritage, and current political challenges.
Dr. Papotti is a professor of geography in the Humanities School at the Universita Degli Studi di Parma located in Parma, Italy. His specific areas of study are Italian geography, the relationship of geography and literature, and the immigration and multiculturalism in Italy. Some of his impressive accomplishments include publishing 70 scientific articles and being part of the research group Projects of National Relevance funded by the Ministry of Education (PRIN). With PRIN he has researched Italian immigration, multiculturalism, and local development.
The reception for this visiting scholar began at 5.30 p.m., and guests were treated to an Italian themed buffet of meatballs, garlic sticks, ravioli, prosciutto, tiramisu, and cannoli. The assortment of Italian treats set the mood for the intellectually stimulating lecture. At 6.30 p.m. guests of all ages proceeded into Lindsay Auditorium located in DU’s Sturm Hall. The audience buzzed with excitement as they took their seats and were heard asking each other questions about Italy. It was almost a full house, for the theatre was packed except for a mere fifteen seats that were unattended on the left-hand side of the auditorium. The audience was comprised primarily of Italian-language students, humanities professors, Reporting News and Journalism students, the speaker’s personal guests, and Italian professors. All were dressed in business casual attire for the occasion.
Professor Roberta Waldbaum, an Italian professor at the University of Denver, introduced Papotti, announcing his various accomplishments and areas of interest. She brought him to the stage at 6.39 p.m. He excitedly walked up the steps toward the podium, and in reverence to the setting and his upcoming professional lecture, he was wearing a black suit and black tie with his silver hair neatly combed back.
Immediately, Papotti took the stage and began with a quote by Prince Klemens Von Metterernich, an Austrian diplomat famous for stating, “ The word ‘Italy’ is a geographical expression, a description which is useful shorthand but has none of the political significance the efforts of the revolutionary ideologues try to put on it, and which is full of dangers for the very existence of the states which make up the peninsula” (April 1847). This quote exemplifies to a “T” Papotti’s main argument that Italy is one country geographically divided by municipalities, and Italy’s citizens identify more with their municipality than as being Italians. To appropriately correct the current state of the country, municipalities need to join forces throughout Italy and adopt a new, cohesive national, cultural, and linguistic identity. This will unify Italy, Papotti says.
To further breakdown and illustrate Italy’s disconnect and severe fragmentation and population discrepancy between various regions and municipalities, Papotti provided a multitude of maps. Maps were of per-capital income, disproportion of territories, current social situations (such as the unequal quality of life), and the unequal partition of regions. Recognizing the surplus of maps included in his slide show, Papotti shared a humorous student evaluation comment with the audience: “Nice course but way too many maps.”
This statement lightened up the mood, and many audience members chuckled to themselves, agreeing with the anonymous student’s evaluation.
Papotti then went on to speak about the pervasive problem with immigration in Italy, stating:
“Beginning in the early 2000’s, there were only 1.3 million immigrants in Italy. Now there are three times that number and account for 8% of Italy’s total population. This influx of immigrants is in part responsible for the unequal population density as a majority of the immigrants reside in the North, leaving the South substantially less populated.”
He explained that this influx of immigrants isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in fact it brought to the surface Italy’s identity issues. Such issues have forced the Italians to question what it means to be Italian and what it takes for one to recognize themselves as a “true” Italian. Such introspective questions are helping Italy unify their local and regional municipalities and provinces. Additionally, the surplus of immigrants over the past couple of years has helped increase the Italy’s birthrate, since it is currently considered an “aging population” with the highest percentage of seniors and one of the lowest birthrates.
To end his lecture on a lighter note, he left us with a joke we all could understand despite our limited knowledge of the subject matter. Papotti said, “The only moment Italians come together, despite municipal and regional differences, and wear the Italian flag with joy, is on the soccer field.” This instilled hope in the audience that Italy has the potential to regain a strong sense of identity, economic success, and national unity.