I have worked with the Wana people of Morowali since February 2011. I am one of the very few academics who works with them. I am also the first academic ever to study and document their traditional music, the shamanic ritual molawo and their funeral kayori.
During my time with them, I’ve also collected part of their mythology and I hope to be soon able to translate it and to write it in a book to preserve it forever.
Beyond the material already published, there is still a lot of data that I am still analyzing. Two exemples are the organology of Wana musical instruments and their botanical knowledge.
This website has been created to also be an online museum on Wana culture and to preserve it while also making it acceccible to the Wana.
My interest in death studies began in high school when my dream was to become a thanatologist. While it actually changed into math teacher, music therapist and shamanic expert, I ended up working with Professor Douglas Davies during my PhD and to witness and study the kayori, Wana funeral.
My interest for the field has since expanded to death and mafia, death and humor, death and comic books and many other cultural elements where death has a crucial role.
I am also a supporter of the death positive movement and I truly believe that we must create a positive attitude towards death. As the Wana taught me: Death is part of life and you can’t avoid it, so it is better to transform it into a positive energy.
I started studying shamanism during my BA in Music. I was fascinated by the use of music to reach altered states of consciousness and to help the healing process. I wrote my BA dissertation on the use of the drum in the siberian shamanism and my dream was to go to Mongolia to study local shamanism. Later, during my MA, I discovered The Art and Politics of Wana Seamanship book by Jane Monning Atkinson and I’ve got a scholarship to go to Indonesia. There I met the Wana and fell in love with their culture.
Beyond Wana shamanism, and shamanism in general, I am recently looking at modern forms of shamanism and its representation in popular culture.
Anthropology of Music
I have ethnomusicological training and I played the trumpet in the past. This is my true background but during the years I found it limiting and I gradually moved towards other fields (religious studies, death studies, psychology…) because I felt that the only way to truly understand the shamanic phenomenon, but music in general, was to understand the cultural and religious frame. I am still interested in music, especially in relation to healing, but it isn’t anymore my main focus.
Anthropology of Emotion
More and more, I understood how Emotion is a key element in human culture and behavior, especially when religion, death or illness are involved. In my work I’ve explored the emotional world of the Wana people and, more generally, emotion has become one of the main elements in my work and research. I believe it is impossible to study death without also studying the emotional world of a culture, but I even move forward making emotion one of the main protagonists of my work.
This is both an old love of mine and a new academic interest. I’ve read comic books since I started reading and I am still in love with them, but I started looking at them with an academic eye only during my MA, when I did a module on religion and masks.
Later I started a book on religion, masks and superheroes but it is sadly in pause since 2014, when I started my PhD. I promised to myself to finish it and to work on another book on death and superheroes.
What I find fascinating about superheros is their status of contemporary mythology, and their intrinsic features that make them unique and a perfect key to understand the culture that produced them: long publishing history, strong connection with the “real” world, many mythological topoi, they change over time, influenced by each different author, strong emotional investment from the readers.
I went back to playing video games in 2017 after almost 14 years when my friend and colleague, Dr. Vivian Asimos, gave me her Playstation 3. After 14 years, I found a new an exotic world. The cultural clash was similar to going living in the jungle. The world changed so much and videogames with it. I found new communities and videogames cultures (the obsession for trophies, the lore, fanboys, e-sports, streamers, youtubers…) that fascinated me and convinced me that there is a world out there that must be explored and studied.
Video Game industry is the biggest entertainment industry in the world and it will soon be a common topic of study and teaching in academia.
In my plans, I would like to both study videogames as operas, especially the role of religion and death in video games such as Xenogears, Breath of Fire, Lost Odyssey and Fragile Dreams, and the different gaming culturers existings: e-sports, Soulslike fans and so on.
This is a very recent interest. I am from Palermo, Sicily, and while I spent half of my adult life trying to go as far as possible from it, I recently discovered a strong emotional connection with my native land and its grim history.
Through the lens of death studies I would like to explore the Mafia Phenomena in Palermo and to explore how it shaped the identity of the city and its citizens.
Indeed, I think that the Mafia is not defined by money but by death. To prove this I would like to analysis few key events the Mafia history (the death and funeral of Borsellino, the killing of Giuseppe di Matteo, the similarities between Mafia and Death in Palermo’s culture, the many memorials presents in the city and so on)
My fascination for Humour is very old, it actually goes back to the last year of high school when I wrote my final exam on comedy.
Since then, I have not had the opportunity to explore it in my research but, thanks to the Wana, I am finally writing a chapter on the use of humour in Wana culture.
In the near future, I hope to have the time and opportunity to write about stand up comedians and their takes on death and religion. It is incredible the number of comedians who describe or talk about funerals in their shows.