By all accounts, the culminating event of my fellowship, the talk “Two Sardinians in the World: Grazia Deledda and Antonio Gramsci” that took place on 12 July 2017 was a success. The rather large main salon at the Italian Institute of Culture in Belgrave Square was standing room only and from my vantage point on the stage, I could see that everyone generously offered their full attention throughout. I took the applause to be for Deledda and Gramsci’s inspiring words. Many, and many different, people came up and spoke to me afterwards. The light Sardinian dinner (food, wine, and dessert) was such a pleasant and lovely coda to the evening.
This last blog post for the fellowship returns to the question I raised at the end of the previous one. Is presentation of minoritised subjects inevitably or invariably advocacy? I had written about positionality, about nearness and distance, and about launching a conversation. The first two would appear, in retrospect, to be about my being (identity, existence) and the penultimate, along with this last post, about doing (the implications of my actions). Being and doing are, of course, connected.
So, I reflect on what I believe are the questions I raised by presenting on Deledda and Gramsci. Given that Sardinia has been relatively under-represented in feminist studies, cultural studies, and even Gramscian studies, my study would seem to be a form of advocacy through re-presentation. In other words, by focusing on Sardinia, by juxtaposing two major Sardinians who have been studied separately, and by discussing the relationship of Sardinia to the Italian continent, my work would seem to be arguing for a different approach to these subjects, and making a case for their relevance.
Advocacy? Yes, to the degree that my research and presentation make a case for the significance of Deledda, Gramsci, and Sardinia. Advocacy, no, if one means speaking on behalf of, whether self-claimed or elected by the community, if one means advocacy in the closer sense of making a case for change in the material conditions of Sardinians. I mean, one has to ask, who is doing the advocating, on what basis, and for what purpose? Only then can the nuances of the word and the degrees of its applicability be more amply presented. Otherwise an unquestioned and easy use of that word might make it appear that my work is doing more than it actually is, and that I am claiming for myself a grander position than I actually have.
I have been fully engaged and have fully enjoyed my three-month fellowship, and am sad that it is coming to an end. I have been fortunate to have had warm experiences with people and places, and have been especially heartened and gratified by the reception of colleagues as well as the general public. The public talk on the 12th of July was very, very congenial, judging from the responses of the audience.
I am especially pleased to have had this opportunity to reflect on aspects of my fellowship in these blog posts, a kind of meditation that was only possible in this venue.
Thank you for reading! I wish you the best in your own work. See you again on another journey. Arrivederci or, as they say in Sardo, ASIBIRI !!
Professor Sonita Sarker, 2017 Luisa Selis Visiting Fellow