Academia, brexit, college, eu, europe, european, european union, grad school, grad student, graduate school, italian, italiano, Italy, nationalism, NYU, politics, separatism, state, supranational, transnationalism, UNT
So, I’m annoyed, y’all.
First, let me tell you a lil’ story. I grew up in Georgia and Hawaii. Two states with a rich history of separatism/self-determination movements (Georgia in the Civil War, obviously, and Hawaii after the overthrow of Queen Lili’uokalani). Growing up in these two states (and with my mom’s family being from Alabama), I was well versed in the idea that people often do not feel represented/enfranchised under the rule of national governments. I remember seeing Mililani Trask on Oceanic public access programming and realizing there were many people in the United States that wanted self-determination and did not particularly feel like a national government satisfied that need. Fast forward 10 years. I went to Spain in 2008. When I got back one of the guys who I went on the trip with changed his Facebook profile picture to the words “Sinn Fein”. I was like, what is that? I found out it’s an Irish political party that advocate(s/d) separation from the U.K. and the establishment of an independent Irish nation. So, I obviously kept researching and realized separatism and dissatisfaction with national governance is a huge issue all over the world. There are separatist political movements everywhere, even in Italy. I went to Italy for the first time in 2006 and I’ve been back three times since. I fell in love. I want to live there and plan on retiring there if I don’t get to live there in my younger years. Anyway, through my research I learned that there was an active culture of separatism in Italy-both Eurosceptic movements and movements which advocate the separation of northern Italy from southern Italy. In 2011, I was accepted to UNT for their M.A. program. I concentrated on Modern European History. I was dead set on studying post-World War II European Political History and specifically the history of regionalism and the rise of separatist, self-determination movements like the Basques, Catalans, Padanians, Irish, etc.
Well, I went into graduate school completely ignorant of the process. I didn’t know anyone that had gone to graduate school for any degree other than for early childhood education. I thought I was going to be taking classes from experts and they were going to lecture me regarding what they knew about historical events and help me explore my interests. I thought it would be several hours of fascinating lectures a week, about different geographic areas and eras and then independent study about my interests. I didn’t realize my studies would be dependent on what area the faculty focused on in their own studies and I also didn’t realize my studies and pursuit of my interests would be dependent upon the faculty’s publication schedule, sabbaticals, conference presentations, travel, etc. I also was unaware I would be expected to digest 300-600 pages of historic texts every week and churn out book reviews about topics that I was not particularly interested in or that I knew little to nothing about previously, with very little lecture time (where my auditory learners at, yo?). So, I wanted to study Contemporary (see also: post-WWII) Italian Political History and it turns out no one in my department focused on that. One professor worked on WWI and WWII Italian Military History, but that was the extent of it. My favorite professor focused on Medieval Italian history and said she could stretch to Early Modern, so that’s what I went with. After writing a really interesting seminar paper about Jews in Venice for a Reformation course (I am going to tell y’all all about it in another post soon) and taking a class about crime in Venice, I decided on Venice for my thesis. I wrote about the decline of Venice leading up to Napoleon’s takeover in 1797, including the importance and decline of the Jewish community in Venice. You can guess what that meant: no study of separatism in post-WWII Europe and no Political History outside of the context of Military History.
I got into the Ph.D. program at UNT but after a few personal issues, a lack of funding (which the University has since remedied for current Ph.D. students, thankfully), and the realization that I wasn’t going to get to study the topic I wanted to study, I left after two semesters. I applied to several other Ph.D. programs but wasn’t accepted to any of them. NYU accepted me to their M.A. program in World History so I took the plunge and moved up here. NYU had tons of classes about Contemporary Italian History and Politics and several other interesting areas like Fascism, Labor History, etc. While schedule conflicts with required courses and my job kept me from taking many of the classes I would have liked (like this kickass Italian History through Film class regarding Fascism w/Dr. Ben-Ghiat), I got to take several fascinating courses. My experience at NYU was much more rewarding in that sense. I still had to read 500+ pages a week and write book reviews about topics I didn’t care about, but I got to spend much more time on topics I liked and had many more resources for studying those topics. I will say, my time at UNT really saved me when I got to NYU! Having a firm grasp of the Habermasian Public Sphere and the importance of the Enlightenment on society and politics in Europe (I was so lucky that this was my first class in graduate school way back in 2011) as well as knowing how to “graduate read” and churn out reading responses was a godsend. My first class at NYU was a Ph.D. level course (unbeknownst to me and the other M.A. student that signed up) and I wrote an end-of-term paper about the failure of transnationalism in Europe and in Italy in particular. This paper became my Masters Essay (a mini-thesis NYU requires for History M.A. students). I took other courses about the ambiguity of the definition of Europe/European, the rise of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, and a seminar course about American Labor History. I wrote several papers about Italian-American Fascism, Fascism in South America, European identity, and many other interesting topics. I again applied to several Ph.D. programs before I left NYU and was not accepted to them, so that was it.
So, why am I annoyed? I got my degrees, I got to move to New York City, I have a job… Well, fast forward a few months more and guess what? Foreign Affairs, Bloomberg.com, Boingboing.net, The New York Times, and The L.A. Times have all published articles about which topics? The history of Jews in Venice, the failure of transnationalism, the coming referendum in Italy, Fascism (both the ambiguity of the definition and Italian-American Fascism), and Brexit (aka the failure of the European transnational project). All things that directly relate to or overlap with what I wanted to study or have studied and written about over the last half decade! I’m annoyed I wasn’t accepted to a Ph.D. Program since the topics I’ve written about all relate to things that are obviously publishable and would have helped advance current discourse. Please be sure to check out those articles because they are all interesting. But, now that I know my interests and ideas are valid and relevant to current discourse (one of my thesis committee members at UNT strongly disagreed, so that L.A. Times article gave me life, haha!), I want to keep writing about them, even though I am no longer a student. In the coming months, I will post links to my original papers from 2011-2016 and then summarize, fix, modify, rehash, and expand upon my theses. All of the papers relate to the current political environment in Europe and Italy specifically or historical events that I find interesting.
So, now that you know about my academic journey in graduate school, join me! Let’s talk about stuff and *things!
*1. I will write in passive voice. 2. As you’ve already noticed, I have issues with comma placement and other thangsss (Hawaii public schools for the win!) so feel free to let me know if I make a grammatical error; know that I am aware of my ignorance and the probability that I’m going to master commas or anything else is pretty slim at this point in my life. 3. I will engage in debates and appreciate corrections. 4. If you attack rather than converse that’s fine and dandy but I won’t respond. 5. These posts will not be on a schedule and I do have another travel series planned which will interrupt this one in December/January!