Italian Ecomedia: Archaeologies, Theories, Perspectives

Special Issue: ‘Italian Ecomedia: Archaeologies, Theories, Perspectives’

Please, submit a 500-word proposal in English of original and unpublished research outlining the topic, approach and theoretical bases, together with a filmography and bibliography, and a bio-note of about 150 words with a detailed list of publications to Prof. Alessia Cervini ( and Prof. Giacomo Tagliani (, by 5 September 2022. The outcome of the selection process will be communicated by 15 September 2022. Authors of the selected proposals will be invited to submit full-length articles by 8 January 2023for doubleblind peer-review. Authors will be notified of the results of the peer-review by 15 March 2023.

In the last 25 years, the environmental humanities have gained a prominent position in academic research. Their core consists in providing historical, political and critical perspectives on topics traditionally pertaining to the STEM disciplines, such as extinction, species resurrection, biodiversity, rewilding, urban-wildland interfaces, land development and resource use (Hubbel and Ryan 2022), as specific questions emerging from the Anthropocene (Iovino and Opperman 2016; Emmet and Nye 2017). Reflecting on such topics from a humanities point of view means investigating their social and cultural implications (Morton 2010; Malm 2021), the narratives behind them, their political and semiotic effects and the imaginaries they elicit. It also creates beneficial interactions between established disciplinary domains such as philosophy, geography, history, literary and visual studies. Cinema and media studies are profoundly affected by this environmental turn, mainly from a thematic or a production studies perspective (Ingram 2000; Ivakhiv 2013). However, reflecting on the potentialities of images to create, broaden and develop specific aesthetic trajectories is a compelling task in understanding how the environmental question is transforming present audio-visual language and, in turn, how this very language could influence the environmental debate (Cubitt, Monani and Rust 2013).

This Special Issue of the Journal of Italian Cinema & Media Studiesaims to foster a transdisciplinary dialogue about the different forms through which the vast domain of ‘green discourse’ has been tackled by Italian cinema and media from a critical–aesthetic perspective. Despite its alternate fortunes, the environmental question has a long history in national audio-visual production, beginning with the ‘miracolo economico’ (‘economic miracle’, 1958–63) as evidenced for instance by Ivens’s TV film L’Italia non è un paese povero (‘Italy is not a poor country’) (1960). It was developed in subsequent decades in both fiction and non-fiction productions, such as Ferreri’s Il seme dell’uomo (The Seed of Man) (1973), De Seta’s In Calabria (1993), and Vicari’s documentary Il mio paese (My Country) (2006). Recently, some important scholarly contributions have started to consistently investigate this history (Past 2019), which, however, remains to be fully explored in terms of its aesthetic, political, theoretical and critical implications.

From this point of view, the Italian case can be considered exemplary for several reasons (Iovino, Cesaretti and Past 2018). First, Italian cinema has developed a long and original tradition in the depiction of and reflection on landscape, at least since neorealism (Bernardi 2002), as evidenced by films such as Rossellini’s Paisà (Paisan) (1946), Antonioni’s Il deserto rosso (Red Desert) (1964), and Frammartino’s Il buco (The Hole) (2021). Second, from at least the 1960s, Italy has conferred great yet ambivalent relevance to the environment, something that is both praised as a key asset due to its unique conditions and irremediably wasted, making it a place generating categories for investigating other experiences in other places (Iovino 2016). Media have widely contributed to this relevance, as testified by Ghirri’s Paesaggio italiano (‘Italian landscape’) (1980–89), Quilici’s L’Italia vista dal cielo (‘Italy seen from the sky’) (1966–78) or TV programmes such as Geo (1984–present). Third, as a result of specific historical, geographical and cultural conditions (e.g. ‘failed modernity’ or the north–south divide), Italy has developed an inner diversity that has shaped the relationship between subjects and environment in ways that are different from other countries (Armiero 2021). This diversity has been a recurrent issue for audio-visual objects dealing with the Italian landscape, as demonstrated for instance by the TV programme Meraviglie: La penisola dei tesori (‘Wonders: Treasure peninsula’) (2018–22) or by the recent editorial project Paesaggio Italia (‘Landscape Italy’) (2022) by National Geographic and la Repubblica.

Within such a methodological framework, this call for papers invites contributions that can address this topic through two different approaches. First, we welcome examples that can contribute to starting an ‘archaeology’ of environmentalism and sustainability in Italian film and media of the twentieth century. Contributors are invited to submit proposals about specific case studies seeking to identify topics linked to ecocriticism across Italian visual culture. The aim is to start creating an atlas that critically collects the visual signs of the Anthropocene, highlighting the role of these objects in the narratives and society of the period or their relevance for the present collective imaginary. Second, contributors are encouraged to propose broader reflections about the theoretical specificity of Italian film and media for the field of the environmental humanities. In this case, proposals should deal with theoretical and methodological questions addressing the role of Italian visual studies in contributing to a more accurate definition of this new interdisciplinary field of research, as well as the importance of the environmental humanities in redesigning the trajectories, objects and priorities of Italian studies.

The Special Issue is conceived as a first survey of investigations concerning the particular aesthetics of sustainability as developed by audio-visual objects and practices. Given the heterogeneous set of questions and perspectives arising from this topic, the call welcomes proposals from different disciplinary approaches (such as film and media studies, environmental studies, critical theory, postcolonial studies, semiotics, aesthetics), including analyses of different media formats (such as cinema, television, new and digital media, videoart). The guest editors welcome submissions that cover, but are not limited to, the following media, subjects and topics:

• Documentaries dealing with climate change or sustainable practices. How have climate struggles been depicted in non-fiction production? What forms, genres, tropes and narratives have been employed? How have documentary films narrated sustainability and its broader environmental, economic, social, political implications?

• Feature films narrating particular relationships between subjects and environment. What has been the role of the landscape in shaping the Italian audio-visual narratives? Is it possible to detect the signs of a concern for the irreversible transformation of the landscape during and after the economic miracle in Italian cinema?

• TV programmes about nature and the environment. How is nature depicted in television? What rhetoric is employed in conveying a particular image of the environment and the landscape?

• New media and video activist practices representing and disseminating exemplary experiences of resistance and resilience. Can video be a fundamental instrument for climate struggles? Is it something only belonging to the present, or is it possible to trace a history of this relationship? Are forms and formats somehow connected with the topic addressed?

• Ecology and sustainability. Are there specific relationships between media ecology (Postman 1985) and media sustainability (Starosielski and Walker 2016)? To what extent do media help us in connecting the theoretical and political meanings of these two terms?

• Topics of denunciation. Are there recurrent narrative and visual strategies to expose the damage to the environment caused by industrialization or criminality?

• Topics of magnification. How have the beauty of nature and the landscape been portrayed by Italian audio-visual media?

• Imagining of the future. Are there examples within the history of Italian visual culture that attempt to ‘premediate’ (Grusin 2011) future relationship between humans and the environment? What are the most important concerns emerging in these images?

• Authors. Have there been authors in the audio-visual field whose work consistently engages with environmental issues? What are the distinctive aesthetic features of their approach that make them exemplary from any perspective?

• Periods and movements. Are there periods or movements within film and TV history that have specifically dealt with environmental issues? What is their most important heritage for other periods or experiences, in Italy or abroad?

• Genres. Are there privileged genres in the audio-visual field dealing with environmental issues? Is ecocriticism a genre per se?

• Practices. How do media practices affect material conditions of living in terms of social, economic and cultural sustainability within given communities? What is the role of film festivals and exhibitions in spreading a particular idea of sustainability in practical and aesthetic terms?


Alessia Cervini

University of Palermo, Italy

Giacomo Tagliani

University of Palermo, Italy

Principal Editor:

Flavia Laviosa

Wellesley College, USA

(flaviosa /at/