News & Media

May 15, 2018

Ravagnoli Awarded Whiting Fellowship to Study Link between Food and Immigrant Identity in a Glocal Perspective

Assistant Professor of History Violetta Ravagnoli was recently awarded a fellowship by the Marion & Jasper Whiting Foundation to investigate the link between foodways, festivities and immigrant identities in a glocal (reflecting both global and local) perspective.

Assistant Professor of History Violetta Ravagnoli Assistant Professor of History Violetta Ravagnoli

"My research concentrates on the role of food in America from the perspective of immigrant groups," Ravagnoli writes in her project proposal. "It studies transnational connections and culinary encounters in America, and the ensuing ethnicization of aliments, recipes, restaurants and identities. The research is based on transnational linkages and it employs a glocal approach; that is the analysis of the history of eating habits, beliefs and diets not only within the immigrant communities, but also in their countries of origin."

Ravagnoli's areas of specialization comprise Italian and Chinese cuisines, and she use these cuisines, their ancient traditions and the developments in America as main symbols of immigrant-negotiated ethnic identities.  

"I am interested in a comparative analysis of the emplacement of the two ethnic groups in Boston," she says. "I use foodways as a major variable for both research and teaching. Hence, to apply a glocal approach it is fundamental to study traditions, food and often the festivities linked to specific culinary traditions in both the receiving and sending communities."  

Ravagnoli will use the funding from the Whiting Foundation to visit Italy for a total of four weeks this summer. While abroad, she will visit Gustolab International-Institute of Food Studies in Rome, meeting with the center's director to discuss developing experiences abroad for students that take her newly-approved course, Immigrant Kitchens: A Glocal Perspective on Identity, Ethnicity and Foodways. Ravagnoli also plans to visit Sciacca on the west coast of Sicily, which represents one of the key sending communities of late nineteenth-century Italian immigration to Boston. In Sciacca, she will connect with a local family that has emigrated from Sciacca both domestically and internationally and is "a symbol of close ties with the native place, which extends beyond national border."

Ravagnoli will also work with Sciacca's Pro Loco office, an association linked to the local administration that promotes the development of cultural, gastronomic, artistic traditions of the area, as well as the historical and architectural patrimony of the town. She will also participate in the Madonna del Soccorso Feast, which is reenacted every summer within the Italian-American community of Boston's North End.  

The Marion & Jasper Whiting Foundation provides grants to university and college professors to study abroad and "improve and enhance the quality of their instruction." In recent years, several Emmanuel professors have received grants and fellowships from the organization. 

Recent recipients of Marion & Jasper Whiting Foundation grants include: Kimberly Smirles, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, to investigate the views of Japanese women on issues of gender and leadership; Rebecca Moryl, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics, to study environmental economic policy in South Africa; Faina Ryvkin, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, to research the history of Soviet science and technology; Jonathon Paul Sydnor, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology and religious studies, to study Hinduism and interreligious relations in Trinidad; and William C. Leonard, Ph.D., associate professor of history, to research Charles Lenox Remond, a black abolitionist from Boston, who traveled to Ireland to speak about slavery in the US.