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Doctoral dissertation project of Saskia Kroonenberg

Illustration by Chiara De Marco, cover of the volume Future, edited by Igiaba Scego, effequ, 2019

The Mother Tongue as Immanent Grammar: Or, Where Read Postcolonial Gramsci Today?

In my project I 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’.

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) criticized the national imposition of the Italian language, which went hand in hand with the domination of the southern part of the peninsula. By building on Gramsci’s analysis of this ‘internal colony’ of Italy, I investigate the relation between (national) language and territory from a postcolonial perspective, today. I draw a line between the thoughts of Gramsci, his international postcolonial legacy, and contemporary postcolonial/new materialist theories which redefine relations between language and matter. In order to ground the theories, demonstrating the actual need and possibilities to speak beyond the mother tongue, I also include so called ‘migrant literature’, i.e. Italophone literature written by people with other-than-Italian roots.

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

Keywords: Italian studies, postcolonial theory, immanence, mother tongue, new materialist philosophies


Short biography

Saskia Kroonenberg is currently a teacher at Radboud University in Nijmegen. She was a doctoral fellow in the EU-funded Marie Curie programme of the Graduate School for the Humanities in Cologne from 2019 to 2022. Her dissertation was supervised by Prof. Martin Becker (University of Cologne), Prof. Rosi Braidotti (Utrecht University) and Prof. Tatiana Crivelli (University of Zürich). Saskia’s research interests lie at the intersection of Italian literature, postcolonial and gender studies, and new materialism, 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 two Masters: one in Italian Literary Studies and one 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)uni-koeln.de







- Kroonenberg, S. (2023) Gramsci’s Writing Body. On Embodiment and Subaltern Knowledge, Interventions: Journal of Postcolonial Studies, DOI: 10.1080/1369801X.2023.2191861.

- Kroonenberg, S. (2022) Mentoring in Times of a Pandemic – Some Personal Experiences, a.r.t.e.s. Yearbook 2021-2022, University of Cologne, 26-27. https://artes.phil-fak.uni-koeln.de/sites/artesGS/Presse/022_artesJahrbuch_final.pdf

- Kroonenberg, S. (2020) Herdenk: Vrouwen en Fascisme, Atria, 4 May, https://atria.nl/nieuws-publicaties/herdenk-vrouwen-en-fascisme/

- Kroonenberg, S. (2019) La genealogia della madre: Maria Drago e la ‘lingua della mamma’, Carte Italiane, 12 (1), 35-50 (peer-reviewed). https://escholarship.org/uc/item/2bq1j688#main

- Kroonenberg, S. (2019) Zorgen, koken, wassen: de oplossingen voor onze ecologische automutilatie, Atria, 8 January, https://atria.nl/nieuws-publicaties/feminisme/feminisme-21ste-eeuw/zorgen-koken-wassen-de-oplossingen-voor-onze-ecologische-automutilatie/

- Kroonenberg, S. (2018) De Italiaanse eenwording al femminile. De maatschappelijke rol van de vrouw in Mazzini’s Doveri dell’uomo en de educatie van de taal, Historica, 41 (1), 7-12 (peer-reviewed).

- Kroonenberg, S. (2018) De kracht van de verbeelding, Atria, 25 September, https://atria.nl/nieuws-publicaties/feminisme/feminisme-20e-eeuw/de-kracht-van-de-verbeelding/

- Kroonenberg, S. (2017) Alessandro Portelli e le memorie delle Fosse Ardeatine, Notiziario della Società di Dante Alighieri Comitato di Utrecht, 27 (2), 9-10.

- Kroonenberg, S. (2016) Lapt Renzi de grondwet aan zijn laars?, DeFusie, 28 November, http://defusie.net/lapt-renzi-de-grondwet-aan-zijn-laars/


Review Articles

- Cinzia Sartini Blum and Deborah L. Contrada, eds. and trans. New Italian Voices: Transcultural Writing in Contemporary Italy. New York: Italica Press, 2020. In Annali D’Italianistica 38 (2020): 599-601.

- Roberto M. Dainotto and Frederic Jameson, eds. Gramsci in the World. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020. In Annali D’Italianistica 39 (2021): 642-644.



- Kroonenberg, S. (2022) Postkoloniale Theorie und die persönliche Inventur, Lehrveranstaltung WiSe 2021-22, Komparatistik, Universität zu Köln. https://komparatistik.uni-koeln.de/sites/faechergruppe6/user_upload/Kroonenberg_Postkoloniale_Theorie_Studienleistungen.pdf


Conferences and Presentations

- Motherhood and Italian Nation Building: On the Correspondence between Maria Drago and Giuseppe Mazzini. LOVA Winterschool 2021: Motherhood: the unfinished business of feminism?, IIRE, Amsterdam, 11/12/2021

- Speaking Like a Plant, Laughing Like a River. Language and Terra in Italian Postcolonial Literature, International Conference: Contemporary Literature and the Environmental Imagination, Ghent University, Belgium, 30/11/2021

- Letteratura «italiana» o «straniera»? Gramsci e l’assenza di una letteratura nazional-popolare in Italia, Dies Turicensis, University of Zurich, 09-10/09/2021

- La mancata eredità postcoloniale di Antonio Gramsci, MasterLanguage Symposium, University of Amsterdam, 23/04/2021

- Gramsci and Postcolonial Literature in Italy: “Foreign” Writers and “Italian” Literature, ACLA American Comparative Literature Association, 8-11 April 2021, online, 10/04/2021

- Invited Speaker on Language and Embodiment at “The Role of the Body! NOW!”, Movementalist, Pleintheater, https://plein-theater.nl/agenda/10134/the-role-of-the-body-now, 05/12/2020

- Forgetting Gramsci, AHRC International Conference, University of Cambridge (online), United Kingdom, 22/09/2020

- Italiaans feminisme en Luisa Muraro’s Symbolische orde van de moeder, Concerning Maternity, University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht, 31/01/2020

- A Poetic Intervention on Life Before Birth, Summer School ‘Icone del desiderio’, Università Vita-Salute SR (Milan), Cesano Maderno, Italy, 12-14/06/2019

- It’s not Youth, it’s Us. Youth Suicides and Rosi Braidotti’s Posthuman, Euroacademia’s 6th International Forum of Critical Studies, Agora Cultural Centre, Lucca, Italy, 23-25/11/2017

- Più alto del mare e la responsabilità dell’intellettuale impegnato, International symposium: La memoria culturale della Resistenza, University of Amsterdam, 31/03/2017


Conferences Organized

- Summer School “Space After Borders. Migration, Literature, Translation / Lo spazio oltre il confine. Migrazione, letteratura, tradizione.” Monte del Verità, University of Zurich, Summer 2022, Funding Bodies: UZH (Graduate Campus, Romanisches Seminar, Comparative Literature Dep.); Repubblica e Cantone Ticino (Dip. dell’educazione, della cultura e dello sport), https://spaceafterborders.com

- Interdisciplinary symposium “Ruimtelijk Inzicht: De Ruimte in Perspectief” (Spatial Awareness: Space in Perspective), De Ruimte, Amsterdam, 12/02/2017

- International symposium: La memoria culturale della Resistenza, University of Amsterdam, 31/03/2017

- Symposium: Toekomst in de Talen (A Future in Languages), University of Amsterdam, 25/04/2015



- Poem: Mijn steen en ik, in: Niet vrijwillig zit ik afgezonderd, edited by Wietse Hummel, Uitgeverij Gopher, 2022.

- Interdisciplinary art project: No Strings Attached? Finding New Ways of Communicating, Digital Exhibition “After Progress,” Goldsmiths College, London, 2022. https://www.afterprogress.com/no-strings-attached-finding-new-ways-of-communicating 

- Performance Installation: Aceleratio. The Art of Slowing Down in Times of a Pandemic, Co-author of a poetic text, NDSM Werf, Amsterdam, 05/2021

- Poetry podcast: Vruchtwater, De Wereld en de Dingen. With Emma Zuiderveen and Tarif El-Fasih, Lebowski, Amsterdam, 01/2021. https://soundcloud.com/lebowskipublishers/de-wereld-en-de-dingen-5-vruchtwater

- Photography Exhibition: Stoelen in kerken (Chairs in Churches), De Ruimte, Amsterdam, 03/2018 – 08/2018

- Performance: Dance yourself clean, Amsterdam Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, Amsterdam, 06/2017


Cover photo: 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
CORDIS: http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/203182_de.html