Invisible Cities: Postcolonial Rome in dialogue with Venice and Palermo

Roundtable with Igiaba Scego, Sandra Ponzanesi, Gabriella Palermo and Shaul Bassi
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This event focuses on revisiting the ideal of Rome as a Caput Mundi through postcolonial eyes. It foregrounds the perspectives of postcolonial intellectuals, writers and artists who have developed new narratives and visions of Rome as an inclusive but also fractured city, where issues of visibilities and invisibilities are connected to questions of belonging, solidarity and justice. The role of the intellectual, in the Gramscian sense, is to speak truth to power and to change that status quo in the cultural public sphere.

We will hear these reflections through the work and engagement of intellectuals such Igiaba Scego, a Somali-Italian award-winning writer, cultural activist and freelance scholar, who has written extensively on the role of colonial memory, multicultural identities and blackness in Italy. Her many successful novels (most recently Cassandra a Mogadiscio, 2023) and critical texts (Roma Negata. Percorsi postcoloniali nella città, 2014; La Linea del Colore, 2020, Africana, 2024) emphasise the gender dimension of migration as always understood within a transnational and cosmopolitan perspective.

“As a modern flâneuse strolling along the busy streets of Rome, Igiaba embodies the figure of an urban spectator, an amateur detective that investigates the secrets and unspoken delusions of the city where she was born to Somali parents who had immigrated to Italy following Siad Barre’s 1969 coup d’état.” (Sarnelli, 2015)[1]

Igiaba Scego will be followed by two leading Italian postcolonial scholars and intellectuals, Gabriella Palermo and Shaul Bassi, who will explore the dimension of postcolonial invisible cities in their own specific contexts, respectively Palermo and Venice. Gabriella Palermo, who has theorized the notion of the Black Mediterranean, will present the idea of Palermo as a place of many civilizations and encounters. Shaul Bassi, an expert on the history of the ghetto, will introduce his African Venice.

The event will consist of a series of interventions and a final conversation and exchange among these postcolonial intellectuals, who are writers, activists and academics, on the future of Italian postcolonial cities and their role in shaping new forms of cosmopolitan belongings, in Italy and beyond.



Sandra Ponzanesi: Professor of Media, Gender and Postcolonial Studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and KNIR Visiting Professor 2024. Author of Paradoxes of Postcolonial Culture: Contemporary Women Writers of the Indian and Afro-Italian Diaspora (Suny Press, 2004)


With interventions by

Igiaba Scego: writer and journalist, born in Rome in 1974 to Somali parents. Author of Roma negata. Percorsi postcoloniali nella città. Text Igiaba Scego, photography Rino Bianchi (Ediesse, 2014).

Gabriella Palermo: Postdoctoral Research Fellow of Geography at the University of Palermo, Italy. She is the author of “Facts and Fabulations: more-than-wet Geographies of the Black Mediterranean” (Franco Angeli, forthcoming)

Shaul Bassi: Professor of English and postcolonial literature at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy, and director of the Center for Humanities and Social Change. He is the author of African Venice (Venice: Wetlands, 2024).


image header: Ruth Gebresus, Cinema Impero. Roma Negata. Percorsi postcoloniali nella città. ©2013RINO BIANCHI -All Rights Reserved