Narratives from North and South Europe

Narratives from North and South Europe

Thursday 16 February 2023

The Experience of International Students: Biographical Narratives and Identities

Abstract. This article presents the findings of a qualitative and comparative study on the cultural experience of international students in North and South Europe. I employ a narrative approach and the focus of the research revolves around the autoethnographies of 25 international students in Helsinki and 25 in Florence. The narratives were prompted by in-depth interviews following a template divided into the three phases of travel conceived as a rite of passage: departure–preliminal, transition–liminal, arrival–postliminal. To explore the meaning of geographical mobility in the lives of these young people, I sketched a series of self-identity types connected to mobility experiences: the Fated, whose biographical premises are all pushing-pulling toward the status of international student; the Academic, who is fascinated by the idea of becoming a worldly intellectual and sees the PhD as a natural step; the Globetrotter, whose mobility is an end in itself: the goal is the next city-country; the Explorer, who is abroad looking for new cultural challenges, with a genuine desire to discover and understand specific places and people; the Runaway, who feels like a stranger at home and is escaping abroad for political or existential reasons. I believe that the interpretation of international students’ sense of self-identity can be fruitfully achieved through the narrative path I have constructed (or a similar one).

Keywords: International students’ mobility, Young adult identity, Biographical narrative,  Autoethnography, Cosmopolitan

Birindelli, P. (2023). The Experience of International Students: Biographical Narratives and Identities. Society, 1–16.


Monday 26 July 2021

International Students’ Narrative Imaginaries: Italy, Finland and the Cosmopolitan Elsewhere

Reinventing Education – II InternationalConference of the Journal Scuola Democratica,  Panel Youth (Not) on the Move.

International Students’ Narrative Imaginaries: Italy, Finland and the Cosmopolitan Elsewhere

Pierluca Birindelli

Abstract: Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, 2020-2021 will probably represent a watershed time in youth educational mobility. Although the individual, collective and institutional meanings of studying abroad seem obvious, in the post-pandemic era the academic mobility axiom needs to be questioned. Through analysis of 50 autoethnographies I interpret international master students’ imaginaries of Italy-Florence, Finland-Helsinki and what can be called "the cosmopolitan elsewhere". The imaginary of Finland-Helsinki is thin, that of Italy-Florence is richer and more varied: media images and narratives shape students’ expectations before their arrival in the host country. The Finland-Helsinki country profile is associated with a vague idea of North Europe, often confused with Scandinavia. The respective autoethnographic passages can be synthetically interpreted as past (Italy) vs. present (Finland). While Italy-Florence’s image is almost embedded in a cultural past, Finland-Helsinki’s image is almost severed from its history and is seen rather as a geographical entity: the deep and mysterious north. Italy represents a culture of the past and is seen more as a holiday destination while Finland is recognized as a culture of the present and a sort of progressive and industrious land for the future. Further, analysis of secondary scholarly and non-scholarly sources connected with studying abroad reveals the absence of a clear-cut narrative of what it means to be an international student, although there is a glimpse of a vague cosmopolitan narrative. This story, constructed on a global scale by different actors and institutions, upholds the generic validity of studying abroad for both instrumental and expressive reasons.

Keywords: International Students, Academic Mobility, Media Images, Cosmopolitan Imaginaries, Young Adult.

Thursday 5 November 2020

Home-worlds and abroad: Exploring students’ identity in academic mobility

Conference of the Polish Sociological Association
Session: Social Change and the International Student Mobility

Home-worlds and abroad: Exploring students’ identity in academic mobility
Pierluca Birindelli
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, 2020 will probably represent a watershed, a liminal time. Is this a turning point towards the decline of academic mobility? Is it a temporary pause? In this paper the key question is not a quantitative one: it is not about the “how much” of the trend, but the “what” and the “who”. What will decline or resurge? What is the individual, collective and institutional significance of studying abroad, and how does it relate to the transit to adulthood? Although such meanings appear to be obvious, almost given, academic mobility is an axiom that needs to be questioned, now more than ever. To discover the real social and cultural meanings of academic mobility we need to hear students’ stories and explore the implications of educational travel within the broader context of their lives.
This paper presents the research itinerary and some key findings of the qualitative and comparative study The Cultural Experience of International Students: Narratives from North and South Europe. I have employed a narrative approach and the focus of the research revolves around the autoethnographies of 25 international students in Helsinki and 25 in Florence. The narratives were prompted by in-depth interviews following a template divided into the three phases of travel conceived as a rite of passage: departure–preliminal, transition–liminal, arrival–postliminal. Here I focus more on the departure-preliminal phase that reconstructs the social and cultural background against which the decision to study and live abroad took place. Students’ biographical past is often neglected, but a deeper understanding of their overall experience abroad and its significance in the transit to adulthood, demands an authentically narrative approach. 
To explore the meaning of geographical mobility in the lives of these young people, their attitudes towards their particular home-worlds and the wider cosmopolitan elsewhere, I sketched a series of Self-Identity types connected to mobility experiences. For example, the Fated, where all the biographical premises are pushing-pulling towards the status of international student. As one student writes “I almost had no choice but to study abroad”. Or the Academic, who is fascinated by the idea of becoming a worldly intellectual and sees the PhD as a natural step. For the Globetrotter being mobile is an end it itself: the goal is the next city-country. The Explorer is abroad with a goal and cultivates a genuine desire to discover and understand specific places and people, always looking for new cultural challenges. The Runaway is escaping abroad for political or existential reasons: they feel like strangers at home. 
I believe that the meta- (quest of) “self-identity abroad” can be fruitfully achieved through the narrative -hodos (path) I have constructed (or a similar one). While discussing the choice made at each study turn, I will anticipate possible lines of interpretation: the praxis for those adopting a grounded approach. I believe the researcher engaged in this field of study can benefit from a detailed description of this hermeneutic itinerary. 

Keywords: International students, academic mobility, narratives, cultural experience, transit to adulthood.

Thursday 16 January 2020

Cultural Experiences in Florence and Italy: The Grand Tour Narrative in the 21st Century

Birindelli, P. (2020). Cultural Experiences in Florence and Italy: The Grand Tour Narrative in the 21st Century. SocietàMutamentoPolitica, 10(20), 191–205.  LINK  

Abstract. In this article I explore various current myths that lead foreigners, especially North Europeans and North Americans, to choose to visit/live in Florence or Tuscany for a while or forever. Is it possible to discern any shared, collective representations? If so, how do such myths fit into the contemporary everyday life of the city? Can we identify a pathway from the aesthetic quest for “authentic” Italian life to cultural encounters with Italians in the flesh? My hypothesis is that one of the leitmotifs of foreigners’ experiences is a romantic, and to a lesser degree, intellectual approach towards “Florence without Florentines”. If so, there is nothing new “Under the Tuscan Sun”: the Grand Tour narrative is alive and kicking. Contemporary experiences of Florence and Tuscany continue to be shaped by the social imaginary inherited from the early nineteenth century. Travellers and sojourners come to Florence with a set of expectations shaped through filmic and literary representations and see what they expect to see, not least because the Italians are equally complicit in performing their part in this ritualised experience.

Keywords: Grand Tour; narrative; culture; travel; experience, romantic myth, Florence and Italy. 


There is perhaps no other city [than Florence] in which the overall impression, vividness and memory, and in which nature and culture working in unison, create in the viewer so strong an impression of a work of art, even from the most superficial point of view (George Simmel [1906] 2007: 39, emphasis mine).
One of the many acquisitions sprouting from the Renaissance cultural recast is the revolution of the human conception of space: from heaven to the landscape beyond. We might ponder this as a major shift toward anthropocentric representations in the arts (such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man) and an imaginable turning point for modern scientific thought: the “observer/observed” distinction (Francis Bacon 1620 [1889]). Or, to extend the speculation, as the beginning of the “disenchantment of the world” (Friedrich Schiller 1794 [1910]; Max Weber 1904–1905 [1930]); which is exactly the opposite of the ongoing “re-enchantment” dynamic sustaining foreigners’ experience of Florence.
I venture to formulate the hypothesis that these are not common interpretative frameworks for the typical foreigner, especially North American and North European, visiting Florence nowadays; intellectual travellers probably have other ideas in mind too. I believe, instead, that Florence ‒ Tuscany, Italy and potentially Southern Europe in general ‒ is experienced and interpreted through the eyes of Frances, the protagonist of the bestselling book and successful movie Under the Tuscan Sun. If this is the case, as I will try to argue, there is nothing new under the Tuscan sun.

If instead of Frances-Under-the-Tuscan-Sun ‒ or Elizabeth and Robert Barrett Browning, D.H. Lawrence, Henry James, James Joyce, Ezra Pound18 ‒ you take as literary guide Marco Polo, the protagonist of Italo Calvino’ Invisible Cities (1972), the cultural and imaginative perspective will change a lot. Marco Polo will indeed lead you nowhere ‒ let me repeat this: nowhere!
Marco Polo in his conversation with the Kublai Khan describes 55 cities, or, better, the imaginative potential of those cities. At one point of the story Kublai Khan starts to notice that all Marco Polo’s cities look alike. Kublai interrupts Marco and asks for more precision, more adherence to reality: “Where is it? What is its name?”
Marco Polo replies: 
It has neither name nor place. I shall repeat the reason why I was describing it to you: from the number of imaginable cities we must exclude those whose elements are assembled without a connecting thread, an inner rule, a perspective, a discourse. With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else (Calvino 1972: 43, emphasis added). 
“I have neither desires nor fears,” the Khan answered, “and my dreams are composed either by my
mind or by chance.” And Marco: 
Cities also believe they are the work of the mind or of chance, but neither the one nor the other suffices to hold up their walls… You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours… Or the question it asks you, forcing you to answer, like Thebes through the mouth of the Sphinx (Calvino 1972: 44, emphasis added). 
Italo Calvino brings back to the centre of the discourse the traveller’s self-identity, his/her biography and the subjective-existential questions posed to the visited city-country. Thus, in a certain sense, Calvino gives more autonomy and freedom to the traveller. He can get off the beaten track, paved with the city’s “seven or seventy wonders” – that is: anything that is supposed to be worth seeing – and freely ask whatever he/she wants. Nevertheless, the city (life, reality) cannot be at one’s disposal. The city has its own identity, story and autonomy. You can ask the city anything you want, but you may not receive the expected answers nor can you expect the city to mirror your narcissistic projections.
The Sphinx guarded the entrance to the Greek city of Thebes and in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex before allowing travellers to pass she set them a riddle. Oedipus can be seen as a threshold figure not only in the transition between the old religious practices, represented by the death of the Sphinx and the rise of the new Olympian deities, but as a character in a liminal transition. The Oedipus-traveller undergoes a trial attempting to change his alien status. We could imagine the riddle as the narrative, the myth that consciously or unconsciously is guiding foreigners’ cultural explorations in Florence. The riddle needs to be unravelled in order to acquire a critical awareness of the ongoing experience of otherness.
Therefore, a critical warning is required for those attempting to experience the city in an autonomous and active way. The city-museum of Florence is probably not the best place in the world for those seeking a vital turning-point, an existential change. It is worth recalling again George Simmel’s interpretation: “Florence is the good fortune of those fully mature human beings who have achieved or renounced what is essential in life, and who for this possession or renunciation are seeking only its form” (Simmel, 1906 [2007]: 41).

Simmel, G. (1906 [2007]), Florence, in “Theory Culture & Society”, 24(7–8): 38–41.
Bacon, F. (1620 [1889]), Novum Organum, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
Schiller, F. (1794 [1910]), Letters upon the aesthetic education of man, Collier, New York.
Weber, M. (1904–1905 [1930]), The protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, Allen & Unwin, London.
Calvino, I. (1972), Invisible cities, Harcourt, New York.

Thursday 5 September 2019

14th Conference of the European Sociological Association “Europe and Beyond: Boundaries, Barriers and Belonging”. RN 15 “Global, Transnational and Cosmopolitan Sociology”, Session: "Cosmopolitan Experiences". Manchester, UK, 2023.08.

Academic Experience abroad: Autonomy and Sociability, Southern and Northern Style 
Pierluca Birindelli 
(Gonzaga University / International Studies Institute)

Globalization studies underline the transnational standardization of education, in terms of both methods and curricular content. Comparative analysis of autoethnographical essays written by international master students at the University of Helsinki (North Europe) and the University of Florence (South Europe) permits detailed reconstruction of their academic experience. The two institutions share three crucial structural features: public, no tuition fees (at the time of the field work), non-English speaking countries. They also share the cultural emphasis on fostering students’ autonomy. However, within a similar Bologna-type institutional organization, students’ narrative accounts reveal sharp differences in their academic experiences precisely vis-à-vis the cultural value of autonomy. In Helsinki, it is up to the students to find all the relevant information and construct an autonomous learning itinerary; however, administrative staff and professors are ready to respond to students’ queries. In Florence, autonomy is accompanied by chaotic academic organization. International students rely on peers and professors to find their way in the academic bureaucratic jungle. Here the lack of English proficiency is a key factor; the apparent linguistic glue of global academe is differently declined locally.  Another marked difference is the organisation of students’ sociability. The University of Helsinki fosters academic and social engagement through international students’ associations, which act as an important bridge with city life and highly ritualistic Finnish society. Students’ associations are totally absent in Florence. The thought/unthought interpenetration between university and social life produces a profoundly diverse academic experience that transcends obvious social and cultural differences between the two cities. 

Key words: International students, academic life, autonomy, sociability, English language.

Thursday 30 May 2019

Culture, politics and the de-centred self (by Ricca Edmondson)

Sociologists have struggled since the nineteenth century to express the shared, relational, joint features of social thought and behaviour, and to resist the image of the individual self as encapsulated, largely self-contained. Not only Marx, then Durkheim, with his exploration of ‘social facts’, but writers in the twentieth-century tradition of the sociology of knowledge have emphasised this key facet of sociality. Their efforts include Mannheim’s attempts, however flawed, to encompass the ways we think in terms that are afforded to us by our cultural circumstances and marked by patterns of power. Also in the 1930s, the scholars of the city studies in America were brought, among other places, to Ireland: Lloyd Warner’s students, Conrad Arensberg and Solon Kimball, had been taught that ‘the unit of analysis is the relation’, not the individual. This goes along with recognising that individual people are not generally self-contained and rational, but in many ways incoherent and often inconsistent, as Schütz pointed out in ‘The Stranger’ in 1944. It ought also to be accompanied by an appropriately holistic grasp of thought that eschews the artificially cognitive, and accepts emotions as part of thinking and reasoning rather than contrasting them with ‘rationality’. This part of appreciating sociality remains in some ways the hardest: the rhetorical force of contrasting emotion with reason, misguided as the dichotomy is, continues to present itself as irresistibly sensible through much of the sociological world.
This idea of the decentred self needs perpetually to be reinvented in sociological theory, as it was, not least, by Foucault, but it can be hard to reconcile with telling stories. Foucault was not alone in pointing out that through most of human history the notion of the individual was experienced in ways that were less encapsulated than those that may seem natural to us now. Nonetheless, old stories still concentrate on heroes and dragons rather than the social settings within which their actions could be located. However adeptly we feel we are conceptualising and evoking this shared realm, when it comes to describing concrete actions, like the ancients we find it hard to write and read empirical work in its terms.
The articles in this issue can all be read as contributions to understanding both this joint realm and the tensions inherent in discussing it. (137)
The concluding article of the issue takes a very different approach to self-representation: Italians’ interpretations of their own collective identity. The attribution of familism and particularism to Italians may be partly imaginary, but it has real consequences nonetheless – as do the other forms of imagining dealt with in this issue. Edward Banfield’s much-criticised, but highly persistent, account of ‘amoral familism’ has been argued (not least in these pages, by Antonella Coco (2016)) to be a simplification. But Pierluca Birindelli takes a different approach, examining literary sources for the ‘familism-particularism’ pairing, going back to the fifteenth century and the work of the Florentine humanist Alberti – who attributed this feature to central Italy, with no sign of the North–South cleavage that later became notorious in the literature. Francesco Guicciardini was then the first to use the term ‘particulare’, in the sixteenth century. Italians, Birindelli argues, adopted this self-image very early, and it later became embedded in outsiders’ perceptions during the eighteenth century, the age of the Grand Tour, where Italians became the beloved and despised ‘others’ of Northern Europeans. It is this long literary acceptance that made ‘familism-particularism’ – whether or not in those exact terms – such a persistent topos. It became to some extent a self-fulfilling prophecy: Italians themselves expect it to be true and act as if it were true.
Birindelli reconstructs the image of ‘passionate, rebellious and decadent Italy’ in the novels of Stendhal and de Staël, together with the import of the notion of ‘national character’ from the same literary milieu. Soon after, Leopardi wrote on the supposedly exteriorising impacts of climate (apparently, living so much outside makes people more conscious of their appearances). Also, Birindelli notes, ‘Leopardi also anticipated the crucial key to the sociological interpretation of Italian society: the absence of a ruling class conscious of its own historical role.’ However, it was the notion of ‘a structural lack of civic sense’, Biridelli argues, that Italians ‘pinned on themselves.’ Of course, commentators such as Alessandro Pizzorno have pointed out rightly that in conditions of long-term poverty and marginality, it is perfectly reasonable to seek certain and immediate advantages rather than an ideal of public good postulated for the future; it was the overall political structure of the national setting that shaped the cultures of small, impoverished communities. But the idea of amoral familism became so rhetorically convincing that its power remained. Birindelli develops this hermeneutic exploration of the impact of a stereotype in connection with older and newer theories of how Italy is thought to work – and how hard Banfield’s ghost is to banish. (141-142)

Edmondson, R. (2019) Culture, politics and the de-centred self, European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, 6:2, 137-142. Link:

Birindelli, P. (2018). Collective identity inside and out: Particularism through the looking glass, European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, 6:2, 237-270. 

Friday 21 December 2018

Collective identity inside and out: Particularism through the looking glass

Birindelli, P. (2019) Collective identity inside and out: Particularism through the looking glass, European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, 6:2, 237-260.  DOI: 10.1080/23254823.2018.1551146

This article analyses literary sources that have influenced interpretations of the Italian collective identity, focusing on the conceptual pairing ‘familism-particularism’. In 1958 Edward Banfield coined the term ‘amoral familism’, generating an intense, persistent debate among Italian and foreign scholars. However, by expanding the analytical focus, similar explanations for Italian social, economic and political ‘backwardness’ can be traced much further back: to Alberti’s ‘land of self-interest’ or Guicciardini’s particulare. Representations of the cultural absence of civicness in Italy developed over the centuries, stemming initially from Italians’ own recognition of their self-image. It was only later, through the diaries of travellers on the Grand Tour, that this image was incorporated into the hetero-recognition of Italians by Northern Europeans and North Americans. When an identity feature maintains this ‘dual recognition’ for such a long historical period, it becomes a recurrent cardinal point in individual and collective representation of a people. Attempts to sustain theories conflicting with Banfield’s are confronted by other obstacles: the absence of comparable ethnographic studies translated into English and the rhetorical force of the expression ‘amoral familism’. The symbolic power of Banfield’s interpretation, which might be considered a stereotype, goes beyond its (in)ability to reflect social reality.
This contribution, with its historical perspective and non-‘presentist’ slant (Inglis 2014), can be located within the discussion on the construction of a European post-national sense of collective identity, or identity mix linked with national identities (Kohli 2000, 131). Here I do not address European identity with all its possible articulations and perspectives, but the interpretations of a specific collective identity – the Italian one – constructed by social scientists through the key concept “familism-particularism”, a reading that has led to a hegemonic narrative about Italian society and culture.
The scientific image of a collectivity (with its profound historical, literary and cultural roots) offered by outsiders and insiders is a valuable hermeneutic path. Instead of wondering how the Italians feel about Europe, I speculate on how North European and North American scholars interpreted Italy and the reactions provoked within the Italian scientific community. 
I believe that research on collective identity in the context of Europe, and generalizing from this context, should not be performed only in a “beyond the nation” interpretative framework, as Eder (2009) and others have suggested. The supranational, post-national and transnational European narrative needs to be accompanied by attention to national narratives old and new. The outside and “inside-out” narrative of a collective identity is as important as the cross-boundary one. We can in fact transcend a narrative boundary only by recognizing its existence.
In this article ‘identity’ is conceived as a psychological, sociological and anthropological mechanism whose foundations do not reside in an ‘entity’: identity is a ‘process’ not a ‘thing’. Identity is made up of the relations that the individual – along with the intersubjective inside-outside group recognition – establishes, through memory, between the different and shifting perceptions of him/her Self in relation to the ‘Other’ and to the wider sense of belonging to a (national, regional, transnational, global) collective identity (Birindelli 2008). Thus, identity is a process, a construction of – and through – the individual and collective memory framework (Halbwachs 1980). Substantially, this is the shared meaning of ‘identity’ within social sciences, which speak of identity or of identity crisis depending on the solidity or the fragility of this construction.
Identity is the human capacity – rooted in language – to know ‘who’s who’ (and hence ‘what’s what’). This involves knowing who we are, knowing who others are, them knowing who we are, us knowing who they think we are, and so on: a multi-dimensional classification or mapping of the human world and our places in it, as individuals and as members of collectivities. (Jenkins 2008, 5)
Using ‘identity’ and ‘collective identity’ as heuristic concepts means to partially disagree with those who, like Brubaker and Cooper (Brubaker and Cooper 2000; Brubaker 2004), make the distinction between non-existent groups and real ‘groupness’. According to Jenkins, this distinction does not seem to make much sociological sense because groups are constituted in and by their ‘groupness’: being social constructions doesn’t make groups illusions, and everyday life is full of real encounters with small groups and manifestations of larger groups: “It is the distinction that Brubaker draws between groups and ‘groupness’ that is an illusion, and it does not help us to understand the local realities of the human world” (Jenkins 2008, 12).
What is at stake here is also the question of common sense brought to our attention by Alfred Schutz. Sociological models not only need to be scientifically adequate, they must also be commensurate with common sense (Schutz 1962, 44). When a scholar forces concepts that are too rigid onto the ambivalences and haze of social reality, there is the risk of ending up further away from it, replacing the “reality of the model” with a “model of reality” (Bourdieu 1990, 39).
By seeking unambiguous ‘really real’ analytical categories, Brubaker takes a broadly sensible argument to a logical extreme that is less sensible: attempting to impose theoretical order on a human world in which indeterminacy and ambiguity are the norm. Social scientists must aim for the greatest possible clarity, but their concepts must also reflect the observable realities of the human world (Jenkins 2008, 9-10).
Maleševic´ (2006) also argues that identity – more precisely ethnic identity – is a confusing analytical concept: it means too much and includes too many different dimensions. But the dumping of the term ‘identity’ for the sake of analytical clarity is not an appropriate solution (cf. Ashton et al. 2004, 82). As Jenkins puts it “the genie is already out of the bottle” and not only is ‘identity’ an established concept in sociology, it is also a widely-used construct in common parlance and public discourses, from politics to marketing and self-help (Jenkins 2008, 14).

Alberti, L. B. (1433–1441/1972). I libri della famiglia. Torino: Einaudi.
Ashton, R. D., Deaux, K., & McLaughlin-Volpe, T. (2004). An Organizing Framework for Collective Identity: Articulation Significance of Multidimensionality. Psychological Bulletin, 130: 80–114.
Banfield, E. C. (1958). The moral basis of a backward society. Glencoe:  Free Press.
Birindelli, P. (2008). Sé: Concetti e Pratiche. Roma: Aracne.
Bourdieu P. (1990). The Logic of Practice. Cambridge: Polity.
Brubaker, R. & Cooper, F. (2000). Beyond Identity. Theory and Society, 29: 1–47.
Brubaker, R. (2004). Ethnicity without Groups. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Eder, K. (2009). A theory of collective identity: Making sense of the debate on a ‘European Identity’. European Journal of Social Theory, 12, 427–47.
Guicciardini, F. (1530/1933). Scritti politici e Ricordi. Bari: Laterza.
Guicciardini, F. (1576). Consigli et avvertimenti. Paris: Morel.
Halbwachs, M. (1952/1980). The collective memory. New York: Harper & Row.
Jenkins, R. (2008). Social Identity. London: Routledge.
Kohli, M. (2000). The battlegrounds of European identity. European Societies, 2, 113–137.
Leopardi, G. (1824/1995). Discorso sullo stato presente dei costumi degli italiani. Torino: Magnanelli.
Maleševic´, S. (2006). Identity as Ideology: Understanding Ethnicity and Nationalism, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Schutz, A. (1962). Common Sense and Scientific Interpretation of Human Action. In Collected Papers. Vol. 1. The Hague: Nijhoff.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

International Students and the Cosmopolitan Self

The lecture International Students and the Cosmopolitan Self inaugurates the series "Discussions in the Human Sciences" at Gonzaga University in Florence. 

The analysis of autoethnographical essays written by a group of Master’s degree students in Finland (Helsinki, North Europe) and Italy (Florence, South Europe) makes it possible to reconstruct their narrative identity at home, during their period abroad, and in in their attempt to imagine a global "elsewhere." 
The overall purpose of this study is to sketch the Cosmopolitan Self of international students.

Monday 18 June 2018

Progettare il futuro: esperienze di partecipazione a programmi di ricerca

I will share my Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship experience in the seminar “Progettare il futuro: esperienze di partecipazione a programmi di ricerca” (Designing the Future: Experiences of Participation in Research Programs) – XVIII Incontro Giovani Pontignano 2018 (June 22). 
It’s a dialogue between sociologist who have successfully participated in prestigious calls for research funding (FIRB / SIR, Marie Curie and ERC, etc.). The objective of meeting is sharing experiences and giving advices on how to construct a successful interdisciplinary research proposal.
The seminar and roundtable is organized by Davide Arcidiacono, Gianluca Argentin, Linda Lombi, Mariagrazia Santagati. You can find here the program.
On August 31st my fellowship will come to an end:  it’s good timing to pass on the torch.
Certosa di San Pietro, Siena

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Migration, Cosmopolitanism and Everyday Life

I’ve been part of the Local Organizing Committee and Workshop Coordinator for the International Conference “The Challenge of a Global Sociological Imagination”, Midterm conference of the European Sociological Association’s RN15 “Global, Transnational and Cosmopolitan Sociology”, Helsinki 01.09.2017–20.04.2018. The conference was supported by: European Sociological Association (ESA), University of Helsinki’s Swedish School of Social Science (SOCKOM), Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism (CEREN), Migration and Diaspora Studies Research Group (MIDI), Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSC–EU HORIZON 2020). 
You can find here the program  and this is the conference e-book. 
Below the description of Workshop 1 “Migration, Cosmopolitanism and Everyday Life”.

In this stream, we call for abstracts that aim to establish new understandings of cross-border mobilities and liminalities, along with the inequalities and other unintended consequences they may produce. Indeed, when actors leave their comfort zone, their usual living area, occupational niche or educational environment and migrate to new place, they have to adapt to new norms and customs. The stage of moving from one locality to another can be described as a rite de passage (Van Gennep 1909), where actors become separated from their previous setting, go through a transition process and become aggregated with their new surroundings. These rites de passage can also be understood as a liminal period in which actors are ‘neither here nor there’, feeling ‘betwixt and between’ (Turner 1969: 95), caught between the old and the new.
Questions of interest within this stream are, amongst others, whether it is possible to shed sociological light upon the liminal condition experienced by an immigrant (or expatriate) in a global world? Is it possible to point out and study the liminal spaces that facilitate encounters with alterity in the midst of the diversity of daily life in today’s global cities? 
We welcome both methodological and theoretical papers discussing (im)mobilities, experiences of separation versus attachment, and actors’ adaptations to living within transnational contexts.
Key concepts: Globalization, Cosmopolitanism, Mobility, Liminality, Transnationalism.
- Van Gennep, A. (1909/1960) The Rites of Passage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Turner, V. (1969) The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Chicago: Aldine.
More on 'Liminal' (from Latin limen, limin- ‘threshold’) and 'Limes'...
- Valerie A. Maxfield (2014) “Limes.” In S. Hornblower, A. Spawforth, and E. Eidinow (Eds.) The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization: Oxford University Press.
Originated as a surveyor’s term for the path that simultaneously marked the boundaries of plots of land and gave access between them. It came to be used in a military sense, first of the roads that penetrated into enemy territory (Tac. Ann. 1. 50; Frontin. Str. 1. 3. 10), and thence, as further conquest ceased, of the land boundaries that divided Roman territory from non-Roman (SHA Hadr. 12). At this stage a whole paraphernalia of border control grew up – frontier roads with intermittent watch-towers and forts and fortlets to house the provincial garrisons which moved up to the frontier line. The term limes comes to embrace the totality of the border area and its control system (but note the strictures of B. Isaac, JRS 1988 125-47 on this point).
In Europe, where the frontiers faced onto habitable lands, and where they did not coincide with a river or other clear natural obstacle, the frontier line came to be marked off (usually no earlier than Hadrian) by an artificial running barrier. In Britain this took the form of a stone wall (wall of Hadrian) or one of turf (wall of Antoninus); in Upper Germany (Germania) and in Raetia timber palisades were originally built under Hadrian and Antoninus Pius; these were strengthened in Upper Germany by a rampart and ditch (Pfahlgraben), and replaced in Raetia by a narrow (1.3-m.-/4¼-ft.-wide) stone wall (Teufelsmauer) at an uncertain date in the later 2nd or early 3rd cent. In Europe beyond Raetia (an Alpine province), the frontier ran along the river Danube (Danuvius) except where Dacia (the plateau of Transylvania) projected northwards. Here earthwork barriers were used in discontinuous sectors to the north-west and south-east where there were gaps in the encircling mountain ranges. The Upper German and Raetian frontiers were abandoned under Gallienus (253–68) and the whole of Dacia under Aurelian (270-5), leading to an intensification of military control on the rivers Rhine (Rhenus) and Danube. In the eastern and southern parts of the empire the limites took a different form. They lay at the limits of cultivable land capable of supporting a sedentary population and were concerned with the supervision of trade routes and the control of cross-frontier migration by nomadic peoples whose traditional transhumance routes took them into provincial territory. In the east, military bases were positioned along the major north–south communication line along the edge of the desert (the via nova Traiana), and concentrated on guarding watering-places and points where natural route-ways crossed the frontier line. The threat of raiding Bedouin bands increased in the later Roman period, leading to a considerable build-up of military installations on the desert fringe. The problems were similar in Africa, where the use of intermittent linear barriers such as the Fossatum Africae was designed to channel and control rather than to halt nomadic movements. In Tripolitania troops were based at intervals along the Limes Tripolitanus, a route that led right into the major city, Lepcis Magna, running around the Gebel escarpment which ran through the richest agricultural zone of the province. Three major caravan routes which converged with this road were likewise guarded by the military, with legionaries being outposted in the Severan period to oasis forts at the desert edge. The intermediate area was peppered with fortified settlements, largely of a civilian rather than a military character. The frontiers as a whole were greatly strengthened in the Diocletianic period (284-305) in response to increasing external pressure.