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Doctoral dissertation project of Saskia Kroonenberg

On the Mother Tongue in a Digitalized World, or Where Read Gramsci Today? (working title)

I intend to give a contemporary postcolonial and new materialist reading of the Italian Language Question. After the national unification in 1861, Italy was deeply fragmented in terms of its cultures, languages and habits. Thus, in order to create cohesion, all of the peninsula’s inhabitants had to learn one and the same language: Italian (fiorentino, the Florentine dialect).

In other words, to become one people, the Italians had to adopt a new ‘mother tongue’. This was not an easy project, and in fact, the attempts to educate all citizens in this language only succeeded one century later with the arrival of mass media (notably the television). Today, language and national identity in Italy is being discussed in new ways and terms, and considering the speed of simultaneous and interrelated digital, ecological and migratory developments, the Language Question, including its implications regarding national identity, is in need of an update.

I thus investigate the relation between (national) language, digitalization and the earth, by tackling the notion of the mother tongue from a postcolonial perspective. I draw a line between the problematic legacy in Italy of the philosopher Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) and contemporary postcolonial/new materialist theories, which redefine relations between nature and culture, and language and matter. To demonstrate the actual possibilities to speak language beyond the mother tongue, I also include so called ‘migrant literature’, i.e. Italophone literature written by people with other-than-Italian roots.

Hence, in my project, I intend to move beyond the European idea that identity equals language, while addressing more fundamental questions on human subjectivity in a globalizing, digitalizing world, and our being embodied and embedded within it.


Short biography

Saskia Kroonenberg is a doctoral fellow in the EU-funded Marie Curie programme of the Graduate School for the Humanities in Cologne. Her dissertation is supervised by Prof. Martin Becker (University of Cologne) and Prof. Rosi Braidotti (Utrecht University). Saskia’s research interests lie at the intersection of Italian Literature, Postcolonial and Gender Studies, and Philosophy of Language, focusing in particular on the role of language in ethically rethinking ‘our’ relation with each other and the world.

Saskia graduated cum laude and with an Honours distinction for a Bachelor in Italian Literature and Culture at the University of Amsterdam. At the same university, she completed a Master in Italian Literary Studies and a Master in Philosophy. Besides having published a number of articles, both in- and outside of academia, she has been a presenter and co-organizer of several international symposia and conferences, and a guest writer for Atria (Dutch Institute on Gender Equality and Women’s History). Moreover, she also performed as a dancer, exhibited her photography and sometimes presents her poetic writings.

Contact: s.kroonenberg(at)



KROONENBERG, Saskia, “La genealogia della madre: Maria Drago e la ‘lingua della mamma’”, in: Carte Italiane, 12, 2019 (forthcoming).

KROONENBERG, Saskia, “Zorgen, koken, wassen: de oplossingen voor onze ecologische automutilatie”, in: Atria, 8 January 2019,

KROONENBERG, Saskia, “De kracht van de verbeelding”, in: Atria, 25 September 2018,

KROONENBERG, Saskia, “De Italiaanse eenwording al femminile. De maatschappelijke rol van de vrouw in Mazzini’s Doveri dell’uomo en de educatie van de taal”, in: Historica, 41, 1, 2018, 7–12.

KROONENBERG, Saskia, “Alessandro Portelli e le memorie delle Fosse Ardeatine”, in: Notiziario della Società di Dante Alighieri Comitato di Utrecht, 27, 2, 2017, 9–10.

KROONENBERG, Saskia, “Lapt Renzi de grondwet aan zijn laars?”, in: DeFusie, 28 November 2016,


Presentations and organised events

KROONENBERG, Saskia, “A Poetic Intervention on Life Before Birth”, 12–14 June 2019, Summer School on Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: “Icone del desiderio”, Palazzo Arese Borromeo, Cesano Maderno, Italy.

KROONENBERG, Saskia, “It’s not Youth, it’s Us. Youth Suicides and Rosi Braidotti’s Posthuman”, 23–25 November 2017, Euroacademia’s 6th International Forum of Critical Studies: “Asking Big Questions Again”, Auditorium of the Agora Cultural Centre, Lucca, Italy.

Organiser of “Ruimtelijk Inzicht: De Ruimte in Perspectief” (Spatial Awareness: Space in Perspective), 12 February 2017, Interdisciplinary symposium, De Ruimte, Amsterdam.

KROONENBERG, Saskia, “Più alto del mare e la responsabilità dell’intellettuale impegnato”, 31 March 2017, Organiser & Presenter of International symposium: La memoria culturale della Resistenza, University of Amsterdam.

KROONENBERG, Saskia, “Toekomst in de Talen (A Future in Languages)”, 25 April 2015, Organiser & Presenter of Symposium on the future and purpose of Language Studies, University of Amsterdam.


Cover photo: Illustration by Chiara De Marco, cover of the volume Future, edited by Igiaba Scego, effequ, 2019 // Portrait photo: Patric Fouad

a.r.t.e.s. EUmanities has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 713600.

Call: H2020-MSCA-COFUND-2015 | Proposal: 713600 – artes EUmanities