by Sandy Pyer, OLLI member

As a cultural anthropologist, Mia Fuller is drawn to the puzzles that are part of inter-disciplinary cultures and the work which takes her on extensive travel that zig-zags across many international borders. Prior to this interview, she had just returned from a 79-day trip to Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, and Turkey doing research and gathering material from many archival and field sites.

Ms. Fuller is currently an associate professor in the Italian Studies Department at UC Berkeley. Her undergraduate work was at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and her formative years were spent living in Rome, Paris, and southern France as well as New York City. Upon graduation from college, she moved to Rome. It was while living there that her interest in Italian colonialism was initially sparked. She returned to the United States to continue her graduate studies at UC Berkeley and received both her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Anthropology.

During our conversation for this interview, it quickly became evident that her arena of cultural anthropology draws upon seemingly divergent elements and weaves it all into a tapestry of a country's history and heritage. Examples such as buildings and architectural forms, urban planning and life patterns, historical sites, and even cemeteries are but a few elements that become the fabric for a story...in this instance Italy. The idea of colonialism is not usually at the top of the list when one thinks of Italy...it's more like mouth-watering food, famous art and museums, and breath-taking landscapes. However, Italian colonialism in the North and parts of East Africa date from about 1869. Also adding to Italy's fascinating history is the impact of Benito Mussolini from the 1930s and on. His effect on the world political stage, which was set in motion during World War II, still continues in Italy today.

As a casual visitor to Italy, fascism and the effects of dictatorship may not be front and center, but Dr. Fuller points out that, "what you see is framed by what fascists want [...] to see, the remains of totalitarianism." Through artful probing, she is able to uncover an on-going loyalty to family ancestors and the heritage of the Mussolini era. These and many other intriguing perspectives are just the beginning of what is sure to be revealed during Dr. Fuller's upcoming course.

When asked what she does for fun, Mia replied that, besides travel and scuba diving, she likes to "hunt down cemeteries!"