Maurizio Carbone: Contemporary Italian Politics

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Italian Political Science interviews Maurizio Carbone, Co-Founder and Co-Editor of Contemporary Italian Politics since 2009.

IPS: How would you define internationalization in your field?

MC: The first definition that comes to mind – not least because this is a very prominent issue where I currently work (the University of Glasgow), sees internationalization as “recognizing the power and importance of international collaboration in teaching, scholarship, and service”. First, we are encouraged to boost the profile of the university in international contexts and promote its reputation as a center of excellence. A decent amount of funds is available not only to participate in international conferences, but also to visit potential partners with the view of forging new links for both staff and students. It is important to point out that we are encouraged to internationalize our individual profiles, but without forgetting the common good. So, it is not only about how we, as individuals, engage with colleagues in other parts of the world and how our research can profit from these interactions, but it is also about how all members of the university could potentially benefit from them.

There is also another important aspect to mention: we seek exchange opportunities for our students, which at times has created some problems because we tend to attract a larger number of visiting students than we can actually afford. Finally, we have a good program of lectures, seminars, workshops, which allows us to attract top scholars in the field, and successfully engage with them. Let me also cite a more recent event. In September 2014 we hosted the General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), attracting more than 2,000 scholars, and received very good feedback contributes significantly to the internationalization process of any university.

IPS: How has internationalization impacted your career?

MC: Enormously. Interestingly my specialization when I completed my undergraduate degree was public administration. My aspiration back then was to work in one of the ministries in Rome. I was coming from Ceramida, a small village in Calabria, so Rome was international enough for me. Then I went to the USA and completed my PhD under the supervision of Alberta Sbragia and Guy Peters – everybody knows them as great scholars, but they were also great supervisors and put me in touch with various prominent scholars in the USA and Europe. At Pittsburgh, both the European Union Centre and the Centre for International Studies attracted a large number of scholars coming from all over the world, either for lectures or for longer research periods. We all benefited from their presence.

I was also lucky enough to be in a place with specific budget lines for research travels, so I travelled a lot, for fieldwork and to present my research in various types of international settings. My experience at the University of Glasgow has been similar. I have received great support in my attempts to create partnerships with other universities. In less than ten years I have held official visiting positions at Duke University, European University Institute, University of Cambridge, University of Cologne, Science Po Paris, and have presented my work everywhere in the world (from Norway to Fiji, from Canada to China). Finally, through my service in several learning societies – APSA, PSA, EUSA – and the organization of the 2014 ECPR General Conference I have been able to interact with a vast number of scholars. I have no doubts that both my research outputs and profile has benefited from these opportunities.

IPS: From your experience as general editor of Contemporary Italian Politics, what are the efforts that are necessary to forge the internationalization of a journal?

MC: Well, our journal is by definition internationalized. When Jim Newell and I started this project, now six years ago, we had several objectives, but probably the most important was that of providing a space for scholars working in Italy and for scholars working abroad, mainly in the UK and in the USA. Both Jim and I are members of the executive committees of the Italian Politics Specialist Group (IPSG) of the PSA and the Conference Group on Italian Politics and Society (CONGRIPS) of APSA. First with the Bulletin of Italian Politics, a sort of ‘homemade publication’ appearing both on the website of the University of Glasgow and in print, and now with Contemporary Italian Politics published by Routledge three times a year, we have been able to attract a number of high quality articles. I am happy to say that we have received contributions from both established scholars and junior researchers. I believe that Contemporary Italian Politics has contributed, in a minimal part, to the internationalization of the Italian Academia.

IPS: From your perspective, how internationalized is the Italian Academia? And what are the improvements to be made?

MC: I have been away from Italy for almost twenty years now, so I do not have a full understanding of how the Italian system functions. So, what I say here is rather impressionistic, also because I do not have figures at hand. Let me start with the positive developments which I have noticed since I completed my Laurea in 1996. First, I see a generation of young scholars who draws from a wider range of schools and approaches, goes to international conferences, and publishes in international journals. Second, I am happy to see that the Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica appears in English. This is a great achievement, and I want to congratulate Luca Verzichelli, Fabio Franchino and Amie Kreppel for their efforts in making the journal more international.

Then, two areas where I think there can be some improvements. First, universities could provide more opportunities for international students who want to study in Italy and for international professors who want to spend a research period in Italy. I am sure that both students and researchers living in Italy would find this very beneficial. You do not necessarily need to go abroad to profit from the EU’s mobility programs. Second, a further effort should be made to make the annual meeting of the Società Italiana di Scienza Politica more international (and in some cases to run it more professionally). It is not only about having panels in English if all people in the room are Italians. Section chairs, for example, could do more to attract international scholars. But of course the burden should not be placed only on them, it should be a collective effort.

IPS: What would be your suggestions to a new generation of scholars who want to incorporate an international dimension into their career?

MC: As I have been very fortunate in my academic career: both Pittsburgh, during my PhD programme, and Glasgow, since my arrival as lecturer in 2005, have supported my aspirations. In Italy the situation may be a bit different. The amount of resources available for internationalization is very low when it is compared to most European countries (not to mention the USA). But there are a few little things that can be done easily. I do not want to sound disrespectful, but I’d like to see some young scholars being more emancipated from older professors. In other words, I’d like to see them pursue their own research agenda and find a niche, if possible. Another important issue is to really take full advantage of international conferences: true, we go to conferences to present our work, but we should invest more of our time in networking. I tend to go to any social activity, drinks, dinners because in these contexts people are generally more relaxed, so it is easier to discuss how to forge new links: I do not refuse to go to social activities because I am tired; also I do hang out with colleagues from my university (we actually meet almost once a week in one of the wonderful Glasgow pubs). Finally, there are a number of opportunities for visiting fellowships, international workshops, with grant attached: in my experience Italians do very well, but they need to apply more.

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