Derek Egerton Duncan

Professor of Italian Cultural Studies, Prof

  • KY16 9AL

    United Kingdom

  • KY16 9PH

    United Kingdom

Personal profile

Research interests

Transnational Italian Studies; Migration and Mobility Studies; Queer Theory and Cultures

Research overview

I took up the post of Professor of Italian at St Andrews in 2012 before which I was Professor of Italian Cultural Studies at the University of Bristol. I grew up in Dundee and attended a local comprehensive school before studying French and Italian at Aberdeen University and completing doctoral studies at Edinburgh.

My research and teaching focus on intersections of sexuality/gender and of race/ethnicity in modern Italian culture which I explore through the interdisciplinary frameworks of queer and critical race theory. Honours modules such as ‘Black Italians’ ‘Fascist Italy’ and ‘Cultures of Migration’ draw on these frameworks to encourage students to research creatively across a wide range of cultural forms.

My current research project was funded by a three-year Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship. Provisionally called Diasporic Displacements: The Mediterranean Afterlives of the Arandora Star, it draws on a diverse body of creative work about the sinking of two vessels almost seventy-five years apart in very different places and circumstances to invoke the complex, transcolonial histories of the Italian diaspora. The sinking off the Irish coast in 1940 of the Arandora Star, a requisitioned liner transporting Italian and German internees and prisoners of war as well as Jewish refugees from Liverpool to Canada is entangled in the more recent sinkings in the Mediterranean, particularly that of 3 October 2013, when a boat carrying mostly migrants from Eritrea, Italy’s former colony in East Africa, sank just off the shores of the island of Lampedusa. My analysis doesn’t see these two shipwrecks as singular historical occurrences but, as cardinal points in an investigation of the transversal geopolitical spaces of Italian colonial occupation.

In many ways this project grew out of the large AHRC-funded project Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Mobility Identity and Translation in Modern Italian Cultures and its follow-on Global Challenges project in Namibia on which I was one of the lead investigators. Through my work on this collective project I became increasingly interested in the field of Creative Humanities and the link between artistic practice and academic research and co-organised Press Play, an integrated conference and exhibition in Rome in 2019. In 2021 I published Italy is out (LUP) in collaboration photographer Mario Badagliacca. The book contains Mario’s portraits of Italians in the global diaspora and the things that connect them to Italy. I am currently collaborating with the Italian artist Davide D’Elia on an extension of ‘Tiepido Cool’, his ongoing exploration of visualisations of temperature. Here is the link to the project flip book and there is more information about our collaboration on the website of the School’s Centre for Poetic Innovation.

I am a founding editor of two influential book series with Liverpool University Press Transnational Italian Cultures and Transnational Modern Languages for which I co-edited  the open access core text, Transnational Modern Languages: A Handbook, a collection of more than 30 essays written by an international team of researchers exploring key aspects of Modern Languages from a cross-cultural perspective. Aim primarily at a student readership, the collection affirms the importance of teaching and research in a transnational frame.

Profile Keywords

Italian Transnational Studies; Migration and Mobility; Queer Studies; Colonial and Postcolonial Italy 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

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