What brought you to Hood College?
During my first visit to Hood College, I was very impressed by the level of the students. Their level of French was excellent; they showed dynamism and a sense of involvement I was not used to seeing in a large university setting. Very soon, I realized that the same level of interaction and open mindedness excited between the various programs of the college. Being deeply interdisciplinary in my research and my teaching (literature, religious studies, art history), I was very impressed by the spirit of collegiality on the campus.
What Global and International Studies related courses do you teach?
I teach Introduction to Global Studies (GLBS 200), which is required for the major. This course gives students the opportunity to see how history, economics, political science, foreign languages and many other academic disciplines are all necessary to understanding current, complex global issues. In addition to GLBS 200, I also teach a large variety of French classes related to the language, the culture and the literature of France and Francophone cultures. Learning a language as well as the history and the various cultures in which it is spoken is obviously an essential part of becoming an educated and active member of a global community. As a professor of French and Francophone cultures, I dedicated my life to open new horizons for generation of students eager to understand the world with a diverse vision.
What attracted you to the field of global and international studies?
I arrived in the U.S as a foreign student working on y Ph.D. As such, I was amazed by the diversity of the country. It had a deep impact on me. I have always been an avid traveler and discovering the world is essential for me. I have traveled on all continents and experienced both the diversity but also the common ground of the human experience. I can’t imagine myself as a “one citizenship” person. Indeed, today, I have two nationalities and I live regularly in three countries, the US, France and Italy. My main field of research is by essence, global. I am a specialist of the writings of Jesuits who travelled all over Europe and also to Asia and North America. In order to fully appreciate their experiences, I have to understand the world, both in the context of the early modern times, but also in the consequences it has in the world of today.
Please describe three forces that are changing the world.
In the current situation of conflicts and economic challenges, the migrations of population is an event that can’t be ignored. As some see it as a threat, I see it as an opportunity to understand each other and to share knowledge and our common heritage as human beings. Indeed, as primarily a language instructor, I see the importance of knowing and using a foreign language in order to fully integrate information, cultures and people. Indeed, one of my most rewarding - and humbling- experience was to learn English as an adult (I spoke German and Italian, but my level of English was not good enough to function fully in American society); it opened a complete world in front of me. I think that linguistic diversity is an incredible opportunity in this changing world. Indeed, communication is a key issue in order to comprehend the world in all its complexity.
What are the three major global threats in your opinion?
I am very concerned that the current climate of tension, terrorism and international stress could find its way through extremism and the rejection of others in every part of the world. Indeed, the past years, we have seen some resurgence of past ideologies and acts of violence we hoped had disappeared for ever. Only through education, exchange of ideas and direct communication can we look forward a better world.
As a humanist, I am also very concerned by the disappearance of the unique cultural experience each country has to offer. I don’t want to be in Paris and feel that I am in New York or Tokyo. I don’t want to see a poor level of English replacing the riches of languages. This disturbing homogenization has a terrible effect on feeling part of a diverse world and fully integrate the value of being different. And again, the use of a foreign language has a great impact on this need for diversity in an open world.
And finally I am very concerned about the growing disparity between the rich and the poor both within the parameter of our own western cultures but also on a global scale. While globalization could be a formidable push for the repartition of riches, it also could be seen as a dangerous economic trend. We have seen it happen through history and it has been the cause of wars, violence and revolutions. I hope that our future economy and politics will integrate as many people in a growing middle class though education and opportunities.
Please explain why we should care about events outside of the U.S.?
In the extremely close knit world of today, not a single country can wish to stand apart. In doing so, it would suffocate itself, economically, humanly, culturally. It is also the case for the US. Although one of the most powerful and diverse countries in the world, the choice of ignoring the rest of the planet, in its technological discoveries, cultural creativity and economic success but also in its ever growing threats and feuds would certainly mean a weakening of what makes America a land of opportunity, of diversity, of stability. In ignoring the world, the U.S would take the risk of being ignored and lose it role of moderator as well as one of the leading forces of the planet.
Could you describe your top three international experiences?
Traveling in La Réunion Island on the coast of Africa as a teenager; it was my first trip outside Europe. I had traveled to Germany and Italy before but nothing had prepared me for the 19 hour trip ahead of me in a plane, alone! I will always remember the sunset when I landed for a layover of 5 hours in Kenya. I was very young, but that day, I realized that I wanted to know more about the world.
Moving to the US as a young man; I was 24 and ready to experience graduate life in the US. My plane was delayed (of course!) and I missed my connection in New York City. Exhausted, with a very weak level of English, I managed to get some (very basic!) food and a hotel room for the night. Past the first experience of stress and helplessness, I decided to take advantage of the few hours I had before going back to my final destination in the Midwest: I went to Manhattan. It was my first experience in America and I loved it.
Four years ago, I was invited to participate in a very prestigious seminar in Rome at the American Academy in order to share my research. The group of scholars was outstanding, the setting magnificent, but what I will always remember of these 6 weeks of stimulating intellectual exchanges will be the walk from my apartment to the Academy. Every morning and every evening, I walked through the ruins of the Antique forum, the palaces of the Renaissance and the market of the Campo dei fiori. History, beauty and a deep feeling of belonging were my gifts, every day!
Name three books in global studies that you recommend everyone read.
Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies (1999)
Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red (2000), Istanbul-Memory and the City (2005)
Marguerite Yourcenar, The Memoirs of Hadrian ( 1951)