By Dane S. Claussen, Ph.D., MBA
Manager of University Relations
Athena Study Abroad
“Mediterranean Nero” is one of three captivating and interdisciplinary cultural studies courses offered to study abroad students at Athena’s program in Sorrento, Italy hosted at Sant’Anna Institute. “Nero” is, as its syllabus says, about the “repressed and hidden histories of a largely silenced Black Mediterranean” and its “unsuspected dialogue” with the “Black Atlantic”—Haiti and other parts of the New World.
Course instructor Dr. Alessandro Buffa says in his syllabus that the course uses primary historical documents to discuss the “Masaniello revolt of 1648 in Naples; the Haitian Revolution of 1799; the international dimension of Black Power; the racialization of urban space and contemporary migration from Africa towards the Mediterranean” and much more.
Buffa explained to Athena’s Passport that the course is ideally suited for the Sant’Anna Institute because “Sorrento and the bay of Naples in general are key points in discussing and analyzing the history of a Black and creolized Mediterranean.”
He said the course’s title comes from it being “inspired by the work of scholars such as Cedric Robinson, Iain Chambers, Paul Gilroy, Robin Kelley and Abu Lughod. Each of these authors helped us to make critical connections between the Black Atlantic and the Black Mediterranean and to explore the subterranean history of modernity. To put it simply, the Black Mediterranean refers to a form of globalization that preceded European hegemony. A Black and creolized Mediterranean existed before the Black Atlantic. Only later, with the expansion of Europe and the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade in the sixteenth century, was the history of the black Mediterranean repressed and silenced.”
Buffa continued, “Before this historical erasure Islamic culture was part of a World System that stretched from India to West Africa and parts of the Mediterranean. Although the idea of a Black Mediterranean was repressed, it has continued underground. Today, it has dramatically returned with the massive migrations from the southern shore of the Mediterranean towards Italy and other European countries. The Black Mediterranean also refers to how the Mediterranean has been perceived by African American intellectuals. For example, the poet Langston Hughes embraced a concept of the blues more as afro-diasporic music than as an exclusively African American expression. He was struck by the similarities between blues and flamenco.”
Likewise, Buffa said that the course