Summer/Fall 2007





​Salvatore Bancheri - Building on the Concept of Community



by Venera Fazio


When Salvatore Bancheri talks about his position as Director of the Frank Iacobucci Centre for Italian Canadian Studies at the University of Toronto, his voice radiates enthusiasm and intensity. He is sure about his vision and what he wants to accomplish. “Italian Canadiana is a new field, and it’s important to document not only our past, but our present,” he says. “We need to tell the story of our community for future generations. Knowing the past will help us understand the present.”


Bancheri was seventeen when he immigrated from Delia, Sicily, to Canada in 1972. He came with his parents and two of his siblings. “The five of us came as tourists to attend my older brother’s wedding, but we immediately applied for landed immigrant status. Three of my brothers and two sisters had already moved to Toronto,” he recounts. “We wanted to be together again as a family.” He finished his formal education in Canada, earning a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. Today, he lives in Mississauga with his wife, Christina, their two daughters, Andria and Monica, and his mother-in-law, Angelina.


On the surface, he may have been an unlikely choice for the position of director. Bancheri is an Associate Professor with an impressive résumé, but he does not have a strong background in Italian Canadian Studies. His publishing credits include four language textbooks. He has worked at McMaster University in Hamilton, the University of Ottawa, and at the Italian School of Middlebury College in Vermont. Teaching credits include undergraduate Italian language and culture courses, eighteenth-century literature, Renaissance literature, and theatre and performance courses. At the graduate level, he has been a professor of Computer Assisted  Research, post-neoclassical and pre- romantic literature, post-tridentine (pertaining to the city of Trent) religious drama, and seventeenth- and eighteenth-century drama. 

  Accenti PROFILE Salvatore Bancheri - Building on the Concept of Community Venera Fazio


“Given my background, I was a little surprised when I was appointed as director,” he says. He was acting director for one year and then two years ago, he accepted the position on a permanent basis. “I suppose the chairman of the Department of Italian Studies, Domenico Pietropaolo, saw something in me,” he muses. “Perhaps, it’s that when I take on something, it’s important to me to give  it my all, to do my very best. What could also have helped me was my connection with the Italian community. It’s a community I know very well.”


The concept of community is essential to Bancheri’s vision for the Iacobucci Centre. For example, as an editor, Bancheri has extended the scope of Italian Canadiana, the official journal of the Centre. In the past, the journal published primarily academic essays. Now, it also includes three additional sections: “Interviews,” “Community Profiles” and “Creative Writings and Social Commentaries.” The most recent volume includes a selection of poetry by current Toronto Poet Laureate Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, an interview with Joe Fiorito, author of the acclaimed memoir The Closer We Are to Dying, and a profile of the Centre’s namesake, former Justice Frank Iacobucci, the first Canadian of Italian origin appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Other volumes have included short stories by John Calabro and a profile of the late Johnny Lombardy, founder of CHIN Radio, Toronto’s Italian-language radio station.


In January of 2006, with the help of volunteers, Bancheri organized the Digital Archives, a major resource of information on Italian Canadian studies in Canada. Not only is access to the archives open to the public, but he encourages interested Italian Canadians, scholars and non-scholars, to con tribute book reviews, articles, historical documents, letters, postcards, photo- graphs, homemade films, and diaries. Bancheri has plans for two additional on-line databases: one database will profile Italian Canadian communities, and the other will be an Italian Canadian dictionary.


His interest in reaching a broad audience is also reflected in his choice of guest speakers for the regular Lecture Series sponsored by the Centre. During a January 2005 session, CBC Radio Arts & Entertainment launched their Radio Drama Series, Little Italies. Topics and speakers have been varied and informative, ranging from poetry readings to discussing Italian Canadian cinema, the internment of Italian Canadians during World War II, and discrimination against immigrants during Prohibition. Participants have been writers, television and radio personalities, university professors, and community leaders.


Positive and upbeat, Salvatore Bancheri is resolute in his pursuit of a more inclusive community that celebrates, bears witness, and records our shared heritage.


Information on Italian Canadiana, upcoming lectures and presentations at the Frank Iacobucci Centre for Italian Canadian Studies, and access to the digital archives are available on line. 



Editor’s Note: As of July 1st, Salvatore Bancheri is acting Chair of the Department of Italian Studies at U of T.



Venera Fazio is co-editor of the collections Sweet Lemons: Writings with a Sicilian Accent (2004), Writing Beyond History (2006) and Strange Peregrinations: Italian Canadian Literary Landscapes (2007). Her prose and poetry has been published in several anthologies and in literary magazines in Canada and the United States. 



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