Anthropologist recognized for Italian arts and culture research

KPU instructor Sam Migliore inducted into Vancouver Italian Hall of Fame.

By Samantha Lego
[contributor]

“It’s sort of like you’re out of your element,” says Sam Migliore, cultural anthropologist. “You’re at the university away from your research site, but when people do recognize your work, suddenly you’re feeling transformed.”

The Kwantlen Polytechnic University faculty member was inducted into the Vancouver Italian Cultural Centre Hall of Fame earlier last month, in recognition of the work he’s done among the Italian community in the field of arts and culture.

KPU sociology instructor Sam Migliore. (Samantha Lego/The Runner)

Migliore has been an instructor at KPU since 2000, specializing in visual, medical, aging, and well-being streams of anthropology. His research within the Italian community reaches across Canada and ranges from religion and cultural practices, to immigration and identity.

Acknowledging the recognition, Migliore stressed the importance of the benefits going both ways: “You’re giving the whole community some type of exposure through your work and that makes me feel good – and at the same time, I feel like I have given something back to the community.”

It was during graduate school at McMaster University that Migliore was forced to switch his topic from studying nutritional problems in the Inuit, to an Italian-influenced focus, when the specialist he was studying under left the university.

Born in Italy, his ability to speak the language and connect to people led him back to concentrate on his own cultural roots. His award-winning Masters thesis focused on the large Sicilian-Canadian population in Hamilton, Ontario — and he’s been doing work with the Italian community ever since.

His extensive bibliography includes numerous articles and films, and two published books. The research enabled him to interact with Italian-Canadians throughout British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia. “I’ve been able to maintain friendships with people in all three locations,” he says, “and that’s very special to me.”

Miglore explains that one of his books, Italian Lives, Cape Breton Memories, published in 1999, was almost more of a community project than a research project. “They gave me a plaque when I left, and they were really pleased with the work,” he says. “I’m really proud of that.”

For the book, Migliore worked with the Italian community of Cape Breton Island over a seven-year period, detailing life histories and community events. “[The project] was geared towards producing something they wanted to see done, and in the end it was something that people themselves were really proud of,” he says.

His work continues to contribute to Italian communities across Canada. He recently finished a two-year term on a research advisory board based at the Columbus Centre in Toronto, looking nationally at the internment of Italians during WWII.

Currently Migliore is involved with the Italian Canadians Archives Project group, creating an archive of Italian-Canadian materials. This, he says, includes “everything from getting the material, to getting the word out, to acquiring funds.”

Migliore says that, although rewarding in both instances, the difference between writing articles in a university setting and doing research in the field is that, “Suddenly people value the fact that first of all, you’ve done this research — and sometimes they recognize that it can be helpful to them.”

The work that Migliore has done in this field is certainly extensive, but overall, Migliore credited his success to members of the Italian community. “Without them I couldn’t have done any research at all,” he says. “So in a sense, whatever I have produced is [an effort] to give something back to the community.”

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