Famiglia / sfamiglia: queering the ‘natural’ family

When and Where

Thursday, February 16, 2023 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Father Madden Hall
Carr Hall
100 St. Joseph Street, Toronto


Charlotte Ross ~ Goggio Visiting Professor


The 1948 Italian constitution recognises the family, based on (heterosexual) marriage, as the ‘natural’ bedrock of society. In recent years, political and socio-cultural debates in Italy have been quite preoccupied with some apparent threats to the ‘natural’ family, with associations and movements such as ‘Family Day’ and the ‘Sentinelle in piedi’, as well as many political figures speaking out in its defence, and against same-sex parenting, amongst other issues. The current Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, has loudly proclaimed herself a woman, mother and Christian, reinforcing religious and essentialist ideas about women’s socio-cultural role within a cis-heteronormative model of the family. This lecture critiques the deeply problematic logic that underpins these positions, and explores the alternative, multifaceted phenomenon of the ‘sfamiglia’, which is already well-established in Italy (as elsewhere). As I will discuss, the ‘sfamiglia’ might be understood in many ways, including as a queer kinship network of choice for LGBTQ+ individuals who choose or are forced to break ties with their families of origin, or as a family that includes a same-sex couple. The lecture will explore emerging narratives of ‘sfamiglie’, in novels, media discourse, and activism, and reflect on what is at stake in these debates.


Charlotte Ross studied Combined Honours English and Modern Languages at Newnham College, Cambridge and for a Master of Studies in Modern Languages at Balliol College, Oxford before completing a PhD at the University of Warwick. She is currently Reader in Gender, Sexuality and Cultural studies at the University of Birmingham, UK, where she is also Head of the Department of Modern Languages. Her research focuses on how bodies, gender and sexuality are understood, constructed and represented in socio-cultural contexts. She is author of two monographs, Primo Levi's Narratives of Embodiment: Containing the Human (Routledge, 2011) and Eccentricity and Sameness. Discourses on Lesbianism and Desire between Women in Italy, 1870s-1930s (Peter Lang, 2015). She has also published numerous articles and chapters, and co-edited several books and journal issues, including the volume In corpore: Bodies in Post-Unification Italy, edited with Loredana Polezzi (Fairleigh Dickinson, 2007) and the special issue of gender/sexuality/Italy on 'Queer Italian Cultures' (2019), edited with SA Smythe and Julia Heim. Her work has been funded by the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. She is Senior Co-editor of the journal Italian Studies. Her current research project, in collaboration with Silvia Antosa, is entitled ‘Cultural Discourses on Desire between Women. A Queer Comparative Analysis’, and explores literary narratives of queer women in Italy, France and the UK in the 1920s-30s. 

To attend this lecture in person, please register at this link.  

This lecture will be livestreamed on the Department's YouTube channel.

All times stated in Eastern time.

Contact Information


Emilio Goggio Chair in Italian Studies - University of Toronto