The Association’s purpose is to conduct study, training and researchprogrammes related to the cultures and countries of Asia and Africa and their interactions with the Mediterranean basin. To this end, it promotes and develops cultural and scientific contacts and collaboration with individual institutions and national and international organizations. In particular, ISMEO prepares and carries out study and research programmes; promotes cultural and scientific collaboration initiatives with the exchange of information, experience and knowledge between researchers and experts, also through the organization of conferences, meetings and presentations; prepares cooperation, consultancy and assistance projects, with particular reference to the conservation and enhancement of the cultural and environmental heritage of the countries mentioned above – and in this context conduct missions, study trips and archaeological campaigns in these countries; acquires and preserves all types of documents and evidence regarding the historical, artistic, cultural and environmental heritage of these countries; conducts publishing activities on its own or in collaboration with other agencies or publishers; organizes schools for teaching the languages and cultures related to the countries mentioned; promotes, designs, organizes, and also manages (to order or on the basis of specific funding) training and specialized instruction courses and seminars in its specialist disciplines; signs conventions and concludes agreements for shared activities with universities, academies, and cultural and research institutions both in Italy and abroad, as well as with international entities and other Italian or overseas bodies, associations and organizations involved in such activities; provides cultural assistance for the integration of immigrants into Italian society, offering appropriate collaboration to the local authorities responsible for this task; awards prizes and scholarships; establishes branch offices in Italy and abroad.
The idea of creating an institute dedicated largely to cultural relations between Italy and Asian countries, with an initial focus on India, came from talks held by Giuseppe Tucci with various interlocutors during his stay as a teacher in the universities of Shantiniketan, Dhaka and Kolkata, between 1925 and 1931. The proposal found fertile ground in the Italian government, and thanks also to support from philosopher Giovanni Gentile the Italian Institute for the Middle and Far East opened its doors at the end of 1933. In February 1934 Tucci, who was one of the two vice-presidents, gave a speech entitled “The East in contemporary culture” in which he presented the institute’s political programme. Tucci emphasized the need to adopt a completely new attitude towards Eastern peoples, criticizing the standard academic approach to oriental studies and proposing mutual understanding as the only possible foundation for economic and political relations.
Until the outbreak of the World War II, IsMEO mainly organized language courses and teaching exchanges, awarded scholarships, and edited periodicals aimed at educated but not specialist audiences, such as the organizations Asiatica and Yamato. A small oriental art museum was also opened; it closed in 1944, when the institute’s activities were suspended. When the institute reopened in 1947, with Tucci as president, it rapidly expanded its field of action, organizing expeditions to Tibet (1948) and Nepal (1952 and 1954); from 1955 onwards agreements were made with the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran for the conduction of archaeological excavations and restoration of monuments in several historically important locations, such as the Swat Valley, Ghazni, Isfahan and Persepolis. In the following years similar accords were reached with other countries, including Nepal, Thailand, Oman, Yemen and Turkmenistan, making the institute an essential reference point for Italian research activities in Asia. With the backing of the Ministry of Public Education, the National Museum of Oriental Art was instituted in 1957 to house the finds from excavations. For reasons of funding, in 1995 the institute was merged with the Italian-African Institute, giving rise to the Italian Institute for Africa and the East.
The origins of the Italian-African Institute date back to 1906, when the Italian Colonial Institute was created; in 1947 it became the Italian Institute for Africa. After it became the Italian-African Institute in 1971, this organization conducted basic research in all sectors of African studies, with a particular focus on humanities and social sciences. The prestigious institute offices in Via Aldrovandi, Rome – equipped with well-stocked library – were the centre of intense cultural activity. Close contacts and frequent exchanges with African countries were maintained through study missions, as well as language courses at the Rome headquarters. Thanks to this activity, the institute was for many years the reference point for researchers of African nationality present in Rome for periods of study. The institute was particularly effective during the presidency of Tullia Carettoni, who directed it until it merged with a new body, IsIAO, established in 1995 (under Law n° 505).
Under Carettoni’s directorship, “Africa Day” was celebrated at the Via Aldrovandi headquarters, with the participation of the President of the Italian Republic and the ambassadors of African countries. The Italian-African Institute’s wide spectrum of activities was reflected in “Africa”, an international periodical aimed at promoting research and practical collaboration between Italian and African scholars, with contributions from the foremost Italian and overseas African studies scholars, ranging from history to political and juridical institutions, ethnology, archaeology and anthropology.
The Italian Institute for Africa and the East was established by Law n° 505 (1995) to maximize national initiatives and resources in the fields previously covered by the Italian Institute for the Middle and Far East and the Italian-African Institute. Its work followed the path traced by the two institutes which merged to create it, promoting Italy’s cultural relations with the countries of these two continents by means of international conferences, exhibitions, publications, archaeological excavations, restoration work and historical, linguistic and philological research projects. Notwithstanding difficulties posed by the changed international situation, the institute strived to keep Italian research activities alive in areas such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as extending archaeological initiatives to various Central Asian and Caucasian states in ex-Soviet Union territories. New research was encouraged in Africa, especially in Mediterranean African countries – Egypt and Libya – and in Ethiopia, while study and training activities continued in West Africa. However, the institute suffered from a changed national political attitude compared to previous decades, which no longer saw culture as a useful tool for the pursuit of diplomatic and/or economic aims. Thus – following a significant progressive decrease in public contributions – it was closed in November 2011.
Professor of Iranian Philology at the University of Naples “L’Orientale”and active in Italian research into Iranian languages. He studied the languages, history and civilization of the ancient and modern Near East at the University of Rome under A. Bausani, A. Pagliaro, W. Belardi, G. Cardona, S. Moscati, G. Castellino, M. Liverani, G. Garbini, S. Mazzarinoand G. Pugliese Carratelli, simultaneously acquiring extensive training in classical and philosophical studies. In 1980 he was appointed assistant professor, and in 1983 full professor, of Iranian Linguistics, and then Iranian Philology, at the University of Naples “L’Orientale”. He directed the Asian Lexicography Centre of the Italian Institute for the Middle and Far East (later the Italian Institute for Africa and the East) from 1984.
In connection with his interest in the Balochi language, in the 1980s he was director of a PRIN (Progetto di Rilevante Interesse Nazionale)programme on Iranian Ethnolinguistics, the first of these projects in the field of ethnolinguistics. He directs an international project that aims to print the first etymological dictionary of the Balochi language (Etymological-Comparative Dictionary of the Balochi Language) and is the founder and director of the [Newsletter of] Balochistan Studies. Since 1998 he has directed as Principal Investigator 6 PRIN programmes on topics concerning Iranian linguistics (Balochi etymology and Iranian fables) and ancient Persian epigraphy. He has worked (with over 150 publications) on historical and descriptive (ethno)linguistics (Ancient Persian, Elamite, Parthian, Middle Persian, Sogdian, Kurdish, Balochi, Farsi, Brahui, Urdu) and the political history of the Indian subcontinent and East Asia. Since the early 2000s he has directed the international DARIOSH project (= Digital Achaemenid Royal Inscriptions Open Schema Hypertext) for digital archiving and a new edition with commentary of the royal Achaemenid inscriptions.
He was director of the Asian Studies Department (1987-1988), dean of the Letters and Philosophy Faculty (1990-1992), vice-rector (1987-1988) and rector (1992-1998) of the Naples “Orientale”, where he is currently president of the teaching staff, and where he directs doctoral research on Turkey, Iran and Central Asia. He represented Italy in the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) from its foundation (1997) to 2004. He is a member of the specialist boards of periodicals and monograph series, including Acta Iranica(Leuven, Peeters), Iran & the Caucasus(Leiden, Brill), Ancient Iranian Studies Series(Centre for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia, Tehran),Balochistan Review(Quetta), Middle Persian Dictionary Project(Jerusalem), Annali Serie Orientale (Oriental Series Annals: Asia, Africa and Mediterranean Department, Naples “Orientale”), Scritture di storia (Historical Writings: ESI, Naples) and Mezzogiorno e Europa (Southern Italy and Europe: Naples), as well as specialist academies and societies, among which the Accademia nazionale dei Linceiand the Balochi Academy (honorary member). From 11thMarch 2016 he has been president of ISMEO – International Mediterranean and Oriental Studies Association (Associazione Internazionale di Studi sul Mediterraneo e l’Oriente: the “New ISMEO”), based in Palazzo Baleani, Rome.
Born in Latronico (Province of Potenza). Degree in law from the University of Naples “Federico II”. Professional journalist. Brussels ANSA correspondent from 1967 to 1975, then special foreign policy envoy of the same agency until 1989. From then until 1992, spokesman of the 5-party government (DC, PSI, PSDI, PLI and PRI) led by Giulio Andreotti. Council of Ministers Presidency representative on the board of IsMEO. Member of the IsIAO board of directors, appointed vice-president in 2008. Author of numerous articles and essays, he has published among others Cento punture di spillo, (Rome, Memori 2005) and The Islamic Kaleidoscopeon Islamic fundamentalism (Il caleidoscopio islamico, Rome, IsIAO 2006).
Barbara E. Barich, former Associate Professor of African Prehistoric Ethnography in the Humanities Faculty and Archaeology Specialization School in of the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, conducted field research in North Africa, with a special focus on the origins of the productive economy and the first pottery-using societies in the Sahara and the Nile Valley. She was vice-director of the “Sapienza” Archaeological Mission in the Libyan Sahara (Tadrart Acacus), in the late 1980s she founded the “Italian-Libyan Joint Archaeological Mission to Jebel Gharbi” and the “Italian Archaeological Mission to the Farafra Oasis” with funding from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Universities and Research Ministry (PRIN and FIRB programmes), the CNR and the “Sapienza”. She is the author of numerous publications dealing with various archaeological themes and also involving the discipline’s theoretical basis.
Director of ISMEO since 2012. Former director of the Bioarchaeology and Electron Microscopy Unit of the National Museum of Oriental Art “Giuseppe Tucci” and the IsMEO/ISIAO Bioarchaeology Centre. He has held positions of director and research project coordinator in the CNR and the National Museum of Oriental Art “Giuseppe Tucci”. Former director, coordinator and lecturer for the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism palaeontology training course, and contract Bioarchaeology and Prehistoric Ecology professor in various Italian universities. Member of Italian archaeological missions in Iran, Pakistan and Yemen, French missions in Pakistan and the UAE, an American mission in Ukraine and the Italian-Chinese Cooperation Project. Since 2002 he has directed the Italian Archaeological Mission in Iran, Sistan-Baluchistan. He is the author of over 150 scientific publications.
Born in Naples in 1939, lives in Rome. After graduating in law, in 1962 he began a career in diplomacy, reaching the highest grade of ambassador in 1995. In 2006 he was a State Councillor and in 2011 was appointed Honorary Section President of the Council of State. From November 2011 to May 2013 he was advisor to the Minister for International Affairs at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport. His diplomatic missions include the Italian embassies in Iran (1970-1976) and Pakistan (1984-1987). A member of IsMEO since the 1970s and on its board of directors from 1994 to 1998, then a member of IsIAO, he is the author of articles and other publications in the field of Islamic art. He was made Knight of the Grand Cross of the Italian Republic in 1997.
Graduated from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” (supervisor Prof. Luciano Petech) in 1971. She continued in the same university as researcher and then associate professor in Tibetology in the Oriental Studies Department. From 1999 to 2003 she was the specialist director of the Tucci Tibetan Collection at IsIAO in Rome, and in 1994 and 2003 published two volumes cataloguing the texts preserved there. She took part as a philologist in the IsMEO joint expedition with the University of Vienna to Tabo in Spyiti (India) in 1990. She has made study trips to the Tibet Autonomous Region and Ladakh (India), and has participated in and organized conferences on Tibetan studies. She is now in retirement.
Sergio Ferdinandi (Sedan 1963) has a degree in Christian Archaeology and masters in Medieval Archaeology and Topography from the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. General manager in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, during his career he served in the General Defence Staff and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, holding positions in the government’s Legal and Legislative Affairs Department and the cabinet of the Public Function Ministry. Specialist in Crusader and Byzantine oriental archaeology and military architecture, he is the author of numerous publications. He has participated with “La Sapienza” and the Cultural Heritage Ministry in numerous archaeological excavation, investigation and survey projects. A lecturer and frequent speaker at national and international conferences, he is a specialist on the Italian National UNESCO Commission and a member of various international archaeological societies and institutions. He is an honorary inspector of the Special Superintendency for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome, and has long collaborated with the Pontificia Università Antonianum, particularly in research in the Holy Land.
Anna Filigenzi is Associate Professor, Art History and Archaeology of India at the University of Naples “L’Orientale”. Since 1984 she has been a member of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan and since 2003 director of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Afghanistan. She is the author of numerous publications on the archaeology and art history of the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, disciplines which she also teaches. Fields of research: Buddhist iconography and architecture, especially of the Gandharic and post-Gandaric periods; cultural contacts between northern Pakistan, Kashmir, the Western Himalayas and Xinjiang, with particular regard to the development and circulation of forms of visual art and the interconnections between religious culture, politics and civil society.
A specialist in the prehistory and proto-history of Southeast Asia, she studied archaeology at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. In 1992 she received a “Senior Visitor Grant” at the CAL-Smithsonian Institution in Washington. In 1997 she obtained a PhD in Archaeology from the University of Naples “L’Orientale”. She has received research funding (MAECI; American Philosophical Society) for and has participated in and directed archaeological research projects in Italy and Asia. She is vice-director of the Italian-Thai “Lopburi Regional Archaeological Project”, pottery specialist for the Thai-USA project “Thailand Archaeometallurgy Project” and Consulting Scholar at the Asian section – University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. A member of various international academic societies and institutions, she has participated in and organized conferences and seminars. She is the author of numerous specialist publications concerning her research fields.
Antonia Soriente is an associate professor of Indonesian Language and Literature in the Asia, Africa and Mediterranean Department of the University of Naples “L’Orientale”. After graduating in Italy, she continued her academic career in Indonesia where she received her Master’s degree, and later in Malaysia where she obtained a PhD in linguistics on the classification of the Kenyah languages of Borneo. She has previously worked for more than ten years at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and is currently a research fellow at the ILCAA, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and a member of the editorial board of NUSA (Linguistic studies of languages in and around Indonesia). Her research is focussed on the documentation and description of the Kenyah and Punan oral languages and traditions of Borneo, and applied linguistics (bilingualism and children’s acquisition of language), as well as on issues related to contemporary Indonesian literature, of which she has translated a number of works.