Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Oxford University Press


In this time and on this page, Spivak's island seems an apt place to begin a discussion about storytelling, resistance, and belonging. This chapter documents a conversation originating from two disciplinary perspectives-literature (Ferraro) and music (Dolp). We explore how spoken-word performance in a global context can facilitate social empowerment, craft a cultural past, and invigorate political consciousness. Although our analytical strategies and some of our conclusions differ, we share the assertion that the notion of artistic citizenship as it is defined elsewhere in this collection is considerably complicated, and even requires redefinition, in the context of non-Western cultures. Our present subject is one such case. In the creative work of Gabriella Ghermandi, an author, musician, and performer of the spoken word with roots in the Horn of Africa and Italy, acts of storytelling and music making are synonymous with empowerment, the preservation of living memory, and exposure of political injustices. We are suspicious of the kinds of false assumptions that could accompany the concept of"artistic citizenship" and its framing of Ghermandi's work-a concept born out of anxieties related to the Western dichotomy between "intrinsic value" or "art for art's sake" and "extrinsic value" or "art for people's and society's sake." To apply this concept without giving painstaking care to its meanings would be to easily colonize the very agent seeking decolonization. At the very least, the word citizenship in English is fraught with its own technical connotations. At both the technical and deeply symbolic level, Ghermandi's artistic practice in Italy is informed by a legal context that does not grant citizenship to the children of foreign migrants until they are adults. For Ghermandi's audience, citizenship certainly has other connotations, but its legal reality does not necessarily frame artistic practice such as hers, which is the sole focus of our present conversation. Our solution is to adopt the notion of artistic citizenship as a quality of belonging and a mechanism whereby artists reconfigure culture for the sake of communal interests in a global present. In that context, Ghermandi's example provides a crucial and specific lesson on the agencies of art in the revision of an Italian-Ethiopian past, within an increasingly multiethnic Italian society.

Chapter of

Artistic Citizenship: Artistry, Social Responsibility, and Ethical Praxis


David J. Elliott
Marissa Silverman
Wayne Bowman


"This material was originally published in Artistic Citizenship: Artistry, Social Responsibility, and Ethical Praxis edited by D. J. Elliott, M. Silverman, & W. Bowman, and has been reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. For permission to reuse this material, please visit


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