Florentine Academic Communities: A Few Reflections from a Recent Experience

By Alessandra De Luca, Researcher in Comparative Law, University of Florence

When I learned that the University of Florence’s Law School was contributing to the organization of a conference in partnership with New York University, Syracuse University in Florence and the European University Institute I was extremely excited. As far as I know, it was the first time such an initiative had taken place. When I graduated from the University of Florence, I wasn’t even aware of the presence of other academic communities in my city, apart from the EUI. Since then, I have been surprised to learn how many American universities have a study abroad campus in Florence. This has been a source of pride for me – they have chosen my city – but also amazement; American universities are in Florence, but it is as if they were not here; our academic lives had been running parallel without ever meeting… until that day at Villa la Pietra. The conference addressed a crucial issue on both sides of the Atlantic: immigration. I must admit, I am interested in immigration first as a citizen, and only secondarily as a scholar, as my present research interests are rather distant. So I approached the conference with some trepidation. I also knew there was the risk of attending something like those blockbusters co-produced by several countries where every one must have its share of stars on stage and universities to promote, which are often pretentious and boring. Needless to say, I approached the conference with a lot of curiosity. I attended the session devoted to the impact of immigration on municipalities on March 23 at NYU. What struck me most was the genuine dialogue that took place. There was a dialogue in a multiple sense: not just between American and European panelists, but also among speakers with very different approaches, and, last but not least, between the panel and the audience. I felt like I was part of a single but diverse community that was endeavoring to cast some light on a very complex real life issue. At the end of the day, probably the most durable lesson I learned is that veritable advances can be reached only by overcoming geographical and disciplinary boundaries. In contemporary society there is a drive toward specialization: acquiring very deep knowledge in restricted areas. However the most enriching and fruitful experiences are those based on an exchange with persons having a different approach. As a comparativist, I have always believed in the importance of overcoming geographical boundaries. Now I am more and more aware that disciplinary boundaries should also be overcome.

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