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Dr. Elena Benelli

Senior Lecturer, Honours Advisor and Coordinator, Classics, Modern Languages and Linguistics

Dr. Elena Benelli

My current research explores the representation of migrants and refugees in Italian documentaries and focuses on how borders are constructed in the cinematic representation of migrancy. In order to counterbalance the negative tone the media used to portray contemporary migrations, new discourses and narratives coming from documentaries have challenged these stereotypical images. Documentary filmmaking has seen a resurgence in Italy and has become a creative site of production, both for its forms and its subjects. Militant in nature, with a peculiar attention towards minor and marginalized subjectivities excluded from any official form of discourse, documentaries have engaged in different socio-political issues in order to facilitate the public debate around them, and this on many topics (migration but also women’s rights, waste management, ecological crisis, and many more).

I also study Italian migrant writers and the representation of migrants in contemporary Italian fiction. In Italy migrations are a relatively new phenomenon, as the peninsula has exported over the last century millions of citizens all over the world, but was totally unprepared when, at the turn of this millennium, it became for the first time in its history a destination country for many immigrants trying to reach a better life in Europe. If, as has been noted by Stephen Castels, we live in the “age of migration,” then issues related to it, such as identity, integration, migrants’ representation just to name a few, are at the core of the political, sociological and intellectual life of the country.

Teaching activities

Recent courses


ITAL 240 Intermediate Italian Intensive (Winter 2022, 6 credits)

ITAL398 Italian Foodways (in English, Fall 2022, 3 credits, new course)

ITAL 240 Intermediate Italian Intensive (Fall 2022, 6 credits)



Sabbatical leave

ITAL 351 Dramatic Representations of Contemporary Italian Culture (in English, Summer 2020, online)

ITAL 490 Honours Essay in Italian (Summer 2020, 3 credits)

ITAL 240 Intermediate Italian Intensive (Fall 2020, 6 credits)

ITAL 240 Intermediate Italian Intensive (Winter 2020, 6 credits)


ITAL 201 Introductory Italian 1 (Winter 2020, 3 credits)

ITAL 446 Cultural Expressions in Italy: from Neo-Realism to the Present (Winter 2020, in Italian)

ITAL 240 Intermediate Italian Intensive (Fall 2019, 6 credits)

ITAL 367 Cultural Views of Italy (Fall 2019, in English)

Selected publications


Shifting and Shaping a National Identity. Transnational Writers and Pluriculturalism in Italy Today.

Selected publications

“Through Water and Mountains: Interzones in Andrea Segre’s Io sono Li and La prima neve,Quaderni d’Italianistica, forthcoming.

"Ripensare i confini, perturbare l’ordine delle cose: bio-potere e resistenza in Andrea Segre e Gabriele Del Grande.” Migrazioni, cittadinanza, inclusività. Narrazioni dell’Italia plurale, tra immaginario e politiche per la diversità. Ed. Leonardo de Franceschi, Tab edizioni, 2022, pp. 281-293.

Come diventare italiani in 24 ore: Reconfiguring Italian Identity in LailaWadia’s Narrative.” Shifting and Shaping a National Identity:Transnational Writers and Pluriculturalism in Italy Today. Eds. Elena Benelli and GraceRusso-Bullaro. Leicester: Troubador Italian Studies, 2014. 85-110. Print.

“Mediterranean Seafarings: PelagicEncounters of Otherness in Contemporary Italian Cinema.” Europe in Its Own Eyes, Europe in the Eyes of the Other. Eds. Mary DeCoste and David B. MacDonald. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2014.342-363. Print.

“Migrant Discourses in ContemporaryItaly.” Conserveries Mémorielles 13.Numéro special: Frontières, barrières,horizons. Réinterroger l'histoire et les mémoires de la migration.Université Laval, Laval/Institut Historique du Temps Présent, Paris. (2013):March 2013.


Plenary Speaker (selected)

  • “Mapping Migrations in Italian Literature and Cinema” Department of French and Italian, St. Jerome’s University, February 25, 2020. 

·     “Facing the Migration Crisis: Migrant Representations in Contemporary Italian Cinema” School of Languages and European Studies, University of Guelph, Guelph, November 15,2017.

·     “Documenting Italy: Migrations in Italian Literature,Cinema and Documentary.” University of British Columbia, Vancouver, March 1,2016.

Conferences (refereed)

“Migrancy, Exclusion and Belatedness in Dagmawi Yimer’s Waiting” Italian cinema and media: Past and present, continuity and change, expectations for the future, American University of Rome organized by the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies, June 16, 2022.

Mapping the Colour Line in Igiaba Scego’s La mia casa è dove sono, Adua and La linea del colore” May 13, 2022. AAIS (Virtual) Annual congress (American Association for Italian Studies)

The Order of Things: Borderscapes and Biopower in Italian Postcolonial Cinema” Postcolonial Italian Cinema. International Conference. 16-17 September 2021. La Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome.

“Rethinking Borderscapes, Disrupting Border Europe
” XXVI International Conference of Film Studies. Migrations, Citizenship and Inclusivity. Narratives of Plural Italy, between Imaginary and Diversity Politics. May 6-8, 2021. Università degli studi Roma 3, Rome.

“B/orders, b/ordering and borderscapes in Contemporary Italian Cinema”
NeMLA, Boston, March 7, 2020.

“Italian Cinema and Migrations: The Work of AndreaSegre.” Canadian Association for ItalianStudies, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, May 11-13, 2018.

Respondent for the conference Geopolitics of Italian Cinema: Expanding Postcolonial Approaches,Concordia University, October 27-28, 2017.

 “B/orders, b/ordering and borderscapes inContemporary Italian Documentary.” PostcolonialStudies Association ConventionSchool of AdvancedStudy, Senate House, University of London, September 18-20 2017.

·       DocumentingMigrations: Border Crossings in Italian Documentary.” Canadian Association for Italian Studies, University of Toronto,May 13, 2016.

·     “Shattered Belongings: Postcolonial Spaces inIgiaba Scego’s narrative.” NeMLA, Toronto, April 30-May 3, 2015.

·      Through Water and Mountains: Ecocritical Representations of Migration in Contemporary Italian Cinema.” Society for Cinema and Media Studies, Montreal, March 25-29,2015.

Recent conferences activity

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