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Women's History Month honored with lecture series

By William Schmidt
On March 18, 2014

  • Dr. Sara Annunziato gives her lecture Sex, Lies and Stereotypes about the American news coverage on the Amanda Knox case inside Sims Memorial Library. William Schmidt

Tuesday afternoon, the Southeastern Italian Club, led by Dr. Francesco Fiumara, associate professor of Spanish and Italian, hosted a lecture by Dr. Sarah Annunziato called "Sex, Lies and Stereotypes: Images of Italy in American News Coverage Amanda Knox Coverage." It was held in the Sims Memorial Library.

Annunziato is currently a lecturer of Italian at the University of Virginia.

"Annunziato was asked to come speak at Southeastern during her spring break to help share the culture and what was going on with the Knox case in Italy." said Fiumara.  

Annunziato agreed to give the lecture because "it has to do with the transnational studies and the ways in which different countries interact with each other and the way they perceive each other and that is important to have in mind when following a story in the news."

The Knox case began in 2007 following the stabbing of Meredith Kercher, a student living in her Perugia, Italy apartment with her roommate, Amanda Knox. Knox and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were charged with murder and sexual assault in October of 2008. Knox and Sollecito were convicted and sentenced to more than 20 years in prison. During an appeal trial, DNA evidence used in their prosecution was deemed unreliable, and the convictions were overturned. However, the acquittal was overturned in March of 2013, and a retrial was ordered. On Jan. 30, 2014, Knox and Sollecito were again convicted of murder and sentenced to over 28 years in prison.

Annunziato discussed how Americans were shocked at the first verdict that took place, but Italians were shocked by the Americans' reaction to the verdict. Annunziato asserted that America's opinions of the case was largely crafted by biased media outlets.

"Today, media influences American's belief and opinions," said Annunziato.

Annunziato showed graphs and examples of how American media and reports have a biased opinion not only of the court case of Knox but of Italians in general. The statistics show that mainstream media has little favorable opinion when it comes to Italy. She said a good media program should have equal coverage from every perspective of the issue.

"Personally, I liked how she tied the Italian media and the American media together because there is always a translation barrier with that, so for her to cover something like that is very interesting to me, and I thought it was great," said Barbara Fandal, senior communication major. 

Annunziato explained how the stereotypical view of Italians is wrong.  She explained how Italian stereotypes have persisted because of the "Long History of Italianphobia." Because of stereotypes rooted from the classic Italian mafia, many Americans are under the impression that Italian males are corrupt and Italian females are lazy. The long history has helped influence the media into giving Italy a bad name through the Knox case.  

"I didn't think to think that there would be such stereotypical names on Italians to do with someone's murder. I would think that they would just do it nonbiased and what would be the logical explanation and everything, but it's very surprising. But it is difficult because we are not the same cultures. We are in completely different areas of the world," said Aubree Colombo, junior psychology major.

Annunziato advises Americans to utilize critical thinking skills when receiving information from media sources in order to maintain a logical, objective viewpoint.

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