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Vico Lecture

The annual Vico lecture promotes themes of city-building, urban development, and cultural evolution, and Toronto and its outskirts have been shaped by immigration. The series features speakers whose work address principles related to how immigrant and minority groups have affected the development of the Greater Toronto Area, including via culture, labour, business, and more. The Vico lecture honours the cultural and historic contributions of minority communities to civil society and the development of urban space.

2023 Vico Lecture

Italy and the Black Mediterranean: Race, identity and citizenship

Angelica Pesarini

Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Dr. Angelica Pesarini's lecture explored the presence of Italy within the Black Mediterranean, considered a racialised physical and symbolic space marked by histories of colonialism and diasporic memories.

Angelica Pesarini is an Assistant Professor in Race and Cultural Studies/ Race and Diaspora and Italian Studies at the University of Toronto. Her work seeks to expand the field of Black Italia focusing on dynamics of race, gender, identity, and citizenship in colonial and (post)colonial Italy.

Interested in the racialization of the political discourse on immigration, she is among the co-founders of The Black Mediterranean Collective, which published in 2021 "The Black Mediterranean: Bodies, Borders, and Citizenship". Dr Pesarini is the author of several essays and articles on issues of race in Italy and she co-translated into Italian "Undercommons. Fugitive Planning and Black Study" (Fred Moten and Stefano Harney) and "Blues Legacies and Black feminism" (Angela Y. Davis).

She’s active in the Italian anti-racist movement, and she is interested in the impacts of the Black Lives Matter movement in Italy. She is currently writing a monograph on the negotiations of race, gender and identity in former Italia colonies in East Africa.

Why Vico?

The Vico lecture fosters exchange between York University and the wider community, in particular the Italian-Canadian community. The settlement of Italian immigrants fundamentally shaped the nature and development of Toronto and its suburbs over that last 100 years. The Vico lecture’s themes are a nod to these contributions and aim to engage other minority groups, descendants of these groups, and the public in a conversation about space, place, culture, and so much more.

In 2000, Canadian Senator Jerry Grafstein donated two rare Italian volumes of Vico’s works, initially published in 1746, to York University. Senator Grafstein garnered the support of Elvio DelZotto (LLB Osgoode and senior partner of DelZotto, Zorzi), who rallied Italian-Canadian business leaders to fund an annual lecture at York in memory of his law partner Fred Zorzi.  

Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) was an Italian philosopher and author. Vico’s writings sought to understand human history and knowledge and are considered the predecessors of many Enlightenment thinkers. He has been referred to as the father of social science and the first modern historian.  The Vico Lecture is organized in collaboration with the Mariano A. Elia Chair in Italian-Canadian Studies.

Past Events

Vico & Marx: Comparing two interpretations of history

January 27, 2022

Professor Marcello Musto’s engaging talk, covered Giambattista Vico’s and Karl Marx’ personal histories and their influence on their times; it encapsulated and expanded on each philosophers’ concepts of history and society, including humanity’s role in construction of history, ideas of providence, colonization, and nation.

Read more about the event.

Amore in the City: A purpose driven approach to public life

November 7, 2019

2019's keynote address was given by Mayor of Vaughan, Maurizio Bevilacqua. During this lecture, he discussed his commitment to public service and the role of political leaders in shaping society. Over his 30-year career in politics, Bevilacqua has occupied several prominent positions at the federal level and municipal level, which gives him a unique perspective on public life, and political philosophy in action.

Matters of the Heart: Is there hope?

September 25, 2017

York University welcomed internationally renowned cardiac surgeon, Dr. Robert James “RJ” Cusimano, for his special lecture on life, death, faith and the wonders of the living, beating human heart. Dr. Cusimano’s engaging talk looks the importance of hope and compassion while engaging patients and their families. The full lecture can be viewed on YouTube.

Read more about the event in YFile.

Democratic Deficit: Universities and the Future of Democracy

February 15, 2011

Universities can play a critical role in confronting the democratic deficit pervading politics at every level, York’s George Fallis argued in the 2011 Giambattista Vico Lecture.

During his presentation, he argued that the problem must be confronted not just by political parties and parliaments but by universities. Universities are not just institutions of teaching and books, not just institutions of the economy, but institutions of democracy.

Watch the Video

Marketization, Social Protection, Emancipation: Toward a Neo-Polanyian Conception of Capitalist Crisis

November 19, 2009

During her lecture, Nancy Fraser advocated for a reconceptualization of academic analyses of capitalist economies and how society – or, more specifically, her intellectual contemporaries – should engage in critical discussions of this subject.

As a launching-off point for her talk, she referred to the classic 1944 book by Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, which she characterized as an account of capitalist crisis, an intricate, historical process beginning with the laws of enclosure and the Industrial Revolution in Britain that, over the course of a century, transformed the entire world.

Read more about the event in YFile.

Watch the Video

Political Psychology, American Myth and Hollywood Westerns: Politics and Truth in John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

November 5, 2008

The 2008 Vico Lecture was delivered by Robert Pippen, the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor of Social Thought, Philosophy, at the University of Chicago.

Pippin suggested that the deception in Ford’s classic western was necessary in order for the new order to supplant the old. He characterized the conflict in the movie as typical of great westerns, a struggle between heroic and marshal virtues, and bourgeois virtues – especially the domestic ones – of compromise, peace and security.

Read more about this event in YFile.

Vico and The New Science

November 1, 2006

The 2006 Vico Lecture was delivered by Giuseppe Mazzotta, Sterling Professor in the Humanities for Italian at Yale University. Author of groundbreaking books on Dante, Boccaccio, Vico and other literary figures of the Renaissance, Mazzotta's passion and enthusiasm were unmistakable as he delivered his presentation. Guests listened carefully as Mazzotta brought them back in time into the mind of this great 18th-century author. The lecture was followed by some engaging discussions that took place during the concluding question and answer period.

Read more about the event in YFile.