A list of the publications I am most proud of, in chronological order and with downloadable papers’ drafts.
Religion, New Media, and Digital Culture
If you follow me and my work, you probably know that there is nothing I like more than writing about digital religion in all of its forms. So, when I was contacted by Oxford University Press for an encyclopaedia article on the topic, I immediately accepted. While it has been challenging to describe a whole field in few pages, I tried my best to analyze examples of digital religion from the beginning of the Internet in the 1990s up to the most recent cases. The result is this article for the Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Religion, which contains also an overview of theories and a list of recommended readings on the topic.
Global Perspectives on Religion, Media and Public Scholarship
In summer 2018, I really wanted to attend the International Society for Media, Religion and Culture conference in Boulder, Colorado. Not only Boulder is one of my favorite places and I have a lot of good memories about the time I lived there, but it’s also the conference where I can meet the smartest scholars in my field. However, sometimes luck (or lack thereof) gets in the way and I got stuck three days at Frankfurt Airport. This made me miss an incredibly good round table about religion and media in different geographical contexts . But the roundtable organizer, Tim Hutchings, collected my reflections and those of scholars Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu and Sam Han and published them in an article on the Journal of Religion, Media, and Digital Culture. Here my draft about religion and media in Europe.
Materiality, Authority, and Digital Religion: The Case of a Neo-Pagan Forum
Being a postdoc at Ruhr University meant that I could use generous funding to organize workshops. Which, of course, I did. I took the occasion to invite all my favorite mentors and scholars and sparkle great discussions about religion and media (I am biased, but it is true: my workshops have been pretty great). The very first workshop, organized with my friend and colleague Jessie Pons in January 2018, was titled “Religion, Media, and Materiality: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Religious Authority“. After it took place we simply decided it was too good to end, and we invited the speakers to submit articles for a special issue of the journal Entangled Religions, a peer-review publication from the Ruhr University Center for Religious Studies. I also published my own article, a study that argues the importance of materiality in the study of digital religion, with a focus on religious authority. I used the case study of the website The Celtic Connection, which is one of the oldest and largest Neo-Pagan websites. The special issue is available open access here, with articles by David Morgan, Birgit Meyer, Sarit Shalev-Eyni, Ines Weinrich, Hanna Stähle.
Anti-Gender Movements in Europe: Unusual Religion and Unconventional Media
Miriam Diez Bosch first mentioned the book “Perplexed Religion” (which she edits with Alberto Melloni and Josep Luís Micó) when I met her at the media and religion conference in Boulder in 2018. I got quickly excited about the project: I loved the title, I am a big fan of the Blanquerna Observatory on Media, Religion and Culture which published the book, and Miriam is such a great scholar&person. I wrote about anti-gender movements in Italy and France. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, these are Catholic-inspired groups mobilized agains the so-called “gender ideology”, a sort of conspiracy theory which states that left-wing academia and LGBTQ+ movements are trying to erase gender differences and destroy traditional family values. These groups, such as Sentinelle in Piedi and La Manif Pour Tous, protest by standing in silence in squares or by waving around flags with the picture of a (very traditional) family. I felt it was a very good example of “perplexed religion” because these are lay movements that take inspiration from Christianity and manage to extensively use social media while criticizing them.
Emotional Politics, Islamophobic Tweets: the Hashtags #Brexit and #chiudiamoiporti
I have been exploring Islamophobia and online hate speech since 2016, when I employed Brexit as a case study. Analyzing the hashtag #Brexit produced so many results that I could continue writing about it for years, but I wanted to look also at different contexts and different political situations. Therefore, when Italian vice Prime Minister Matteo Salvini launched the hashtag #chiudiamoiporti (close the ports) to prevent a ship rescuing migrants from docking in Italian ports, I found it was a good case study of islamophobia. Spoiler alert: it was. Many anti-migrant far-right Twitter narratives revolve around the idea of Islam being somehow incompatible with Italian/ European culture. Therefore, I decided to write an article for Partecipazione e Conflitto (and Italian journal that publishes in English). By analysing #Brexit and #chiudiamoiporti as hashtags that spread what I call “emotional antagonism”, I also offer some reflections of contemporary far-right politicians’ use of social media to affectively engage their voters.
The veil and its materiality: Muslim women’s digital narratives about the burkini ban
In summer 2016 I started reading newspaper articles about some French cities banning the “burkini.” I knew that the so-called burkini is a swimwear that covers body and head and is generally used by Muslim women, but I did not know that some people had a problem with it. Therefore, I started to look at the news stories and I discovered that the ban was rooted in the French idea of laicité, but also motivated by the assumptions that the burkini is somehow “unsafe” or against gender equality. The debates didn’t leave much space for Muslim women, who should be the ones talking about this in the first place. So I analyzed blogs and vlogs in French and English of Muslim women who wore the burkini and found out what were the reasons for them to wear and protect it. The results are in an article published by the Journal of Contemporary Religion, and they discuss how the Internet can help people negotiate the materiality of religious symbols and clothing.
Contextualizing current digital religion research on emerging technologies
When Heidi Campbell asked me if I wanted to write an article with her I got really excited. Heidi is an extremely smart professor and her work shaped my (and that of most of my colleagues’) understanding of digital religion. Plus, I met her at conferences and invited her in Bochum and she is a very pleasant person to work with (and she’s based in Texas, so she starts her presentations with “Howdy”, which I like very much). The article is a summary of the trends in digital religion research, which explores theories (mediation, mediatization, religious-social shaping of technology, hypermediation), prominent works in relation to identity, authority, and community, and future directions in the field. We published it in Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, a recently-created journal that seems very promising. Hopeful this will be useful for people wanting to know more or to teach about the field of digital religion.
#NousSommesUnis: Muslim Youth, Hypermediated Internet Spaces, and European Islam
The hashtag #NousSommesUnis (we are united) was created on Twitter by French interfaith association Coexister to mourn the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015. I found the hashtag very interesting because it seeks to promote social cohesion among members of different religions (and atheists), instead of blaming all Muslims for the attacks. In addition, it spread very quickly on the Internet. The association Étudiants Musulmans de France (French Muslim students) created a video that was widely shared also by national and international media outlets. #NousSommesUnis was printed on sign and pins displayed during public manifestations of mourning. Therefore, I felt it was the perfect example to explain my theory of hypermediated religious spaces, which is about the circulation of messages in various media platforms as well as physical spaces. When I started analysing the hashtag, I came to know that Katharina Limacher, Astrid Mattes and Christoph Novak from the University of Vienna were editing a volume called “Prayer, Pop and Politics: Researching Religious Youth in Migration Society.” The title was just too catchy not to publish a chapter, especially after I realised that my article was fundamentally about hypermediation being a characteristic of European religious youth.
Hate in a Tweet: Exploring Internet-based Islamophobic Discourses
As I see more and more people become abusive and racist against Muslims on social networks, I ask myself some questions: is Internet Islamophobia different from other forms of racism? If yes, what are the differences? And what can we do to counteract it? By using the definition of Islamophobia elaborated by the Runnymede Trust, I looked at anti-Muslim tweets sent after the British Referendum. I discovered that online Islamophobia follows the same patterns of offline racism, but it is worsened by fake news, trolls, bots, and the possibility of getting in contact with other racist people all over the world. Therefore, the media scholar in me advises that we need to pay more attention to media literacy. The article is a spin-off of “#Islamexit: Inter-Group Antagonism on Twitter” here below, and was published by Religions as part of the special issue “Anti Muslim Racism and the media”
Habemus Papam: Pope Francis’ Election as a Religious Media Event
When Pope Benedict XVI resigned, I followed the election of the new Pope with great interest. I was in the first year of my Ph.D. in religion and media and I felt very lucky to witness such a great religious media event. It doesn’t happen very often that a Pope resigns, and to tell the truth I was convinced it could only happen in Dante’s Inferno. It is also very uncommon for a Latin American (even if he has Italian origins) Pope to be elected. Therefore, I start closely following the media reporting of Pope Francis’ elections (and believe me, in Italy media can become VERY obsessed with the Pope) and wrote a chapter for the book Spiritual News: Reporting Religion Around the World, edited by Yoel Cohen (New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc. New York, 2018).
#Islamexit: Inter-Group Antagonism on Twitter
Do you ever wonder why everybody is so racist on Twitter? I did, and I started looking for anti-Islam tweets. I focused on the timeframe after the British Referendum on EU membership (“Brexit”), a sad moment in history where a lot of people suddenly felt entitled to become abusive on social media. In particular, many decided to abuse Muslims, even if Brexit regards mostly visa of Polish, Spanish and Italian dishwashers in London, as well as old retired Brits in Costa Brava. While reading an enormous amount of Islamophobic, verbally violent, and disturbing tweets, I started thinking that the platform was completely failing to create what political theorist Chantal Mouffe calls “agonistic politics”. The result of my reflections is an article published in Information, Communication & Society (0, no. 0 October 20, 2017: 1–16)
Hybrid Muslim Identities in Digital Space: the Italian Blog Yalla
The blog Yalla Italia, which unfortunately closed in 2015, is not only an interesting subject for an academic article, but it is in general an extremely pleasurable reading. It is written by young second-generations, born in Italy by non-Italian parents. They often talk about Islam in an ironic and original way, telling simple but unexpected stories that it is difficult to find on other platforms. I met with the two founders and some of the bloggers, and I genuinely had a pleasurable time with them. Therefore, I was very happy to include this research in my dissertation (and, later, my book), and publish an article in the Social Compass (April 25, 2017, 0037768617697911).
The Social Compass also asked me to take part in the Multilingual project, and I was glad to translate my article in Italian, which became my first (and, so far, only) publication in my native language
Exploring Digital Spaces: Combining Critical Discourse Analysis with Interviews to Study a Muslim Blog
After publishing my article on Yalla Italia, SAGE Publications asked me if I wanted to write a reflection on methods to be used as a teaching tool. I gladly accepted, as I believe that there is a need for case studies that help to understand various approaches to religion and digital media. I am a qualitative person, and therefore I wrote about how I used both Critical Discourse Analysis and interviews to talk about Yalla Italia. I also put some teaching exercises that hopefully would make students feel methodology does not necessarily need to be very boring.
Is the Pope Judging you? Digital Narratives on Religion and Homosexuality in Italy
It was 2015 an I started getting very frustrated because many European countries were approving same-sex marriage and Italy seemed to remain behind. I was also talking about the issue in my dissertation (and, after, in my book) analyzing anti-gender Catholic groups and pro-LGBTQ rights atheist groups. Therefore, I decided to write an article about gender and participate in an interesting project sponsored by the University of Antwerp, in Belgium, which resulted in the book Lgbtqs, Media and Culture in Europe, edited by Alexander Dhoest, Lukasz Szulc, and Bart Eeckhout (S.l.: Routledge, 2016). And, the good news is, I could celebrate the book’s publication together with Italy’s decision to finally approve same-sex unions.
The Myth of Catholic Italy in Post-Fascist Newsreel
While doing my Ph.D., I attended a doctoral seminar on media history. This sparkled my interest in newsreels, which in Italy were often used as a means of Fascist propaganda during the regime. By going through the archive of Istituto Luce, I discovered that newsreels remained popular also in the post-war period, without changing much of their solemn and pompous way of narrating news stories. In particular, I found that they often talked about the Pope and the Vatican, framing Italian identity as substantially Catholic, a discourse that partially still exists. I put my reflection in an article that was published in Media History (July 19, 2016: 1–15).
Media Narratives and the Conceptualization of Tea: A Case Study of Teavana’s Oprah Chai Tea
During my Ph.D., I worked with Professor Shu-Ling Chen Berggreen, who was doing a brilliant project on tea consumption and media narratives. When I heard of it, I immediately started thinking about Oprah Winfrey, who sponsored the Oprah Cinnamon Chai Tea Latte together with Starbucks. Oprah is an extremely fascinating character for people studying religion and media, as she often employs references to god and spirituality to build her media image. I also love Starbucks in a very controversial way, meaning that I spent a very long time wanting to try its drinks because it doesn’t exist in Italy, and an equally long time sipping White Chocolate Mocha knowing it’s expensive and not as good as an espresso. So I proposed to write something on Oprah and her partnership with Starbucks and I did an analysis of her Super Soul Sunday program; it became a part of Professor Berggreen’s article.
I love blogs, and I wrote several posts on various topics. Here a complete list: