Rome Exchange

The University of Kentucky Appalachian Center and the University of Rome La Sapienza have enjoyed the academic benefits of over 20 years of scholarly exchanges between faculty and graduate students from the two institutions. The exchange has resulted in the positive presentation of American culture, and particularly Appalachian culture to an Italian audience increasingly skeptical of America as it is presented in the mainstream media. Kentucky is now on the academic map in Italy. Scholars visiting UK from La Sapienza have been able to access field sites, archives and other research support and this has resulted in a rich bibliography of scholarly work on Appalachian and related topics.
Creative and Scholarly Activities
The following examples are intended to provide some idea of the kind of projects exchange scholars have pursued in the past. This is not intended to limit the imagination, but to help in the development of exchange proposals. In addition to the following, Gurney Norman, one of the founders of the exchange, credits his time in Italy as significant to the completion of many of his creative works.
Joanna Badaliacco (Sociology): “Understanding the Conceptions of Family: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Impoverished Mothers in Appalachia and Italy”. During her time in Italy, Dr. Badaliacco met with faculty and scholars at the University of Rome, visited a number of rural
Italian communities (near Rome and in Sicily), met rural families and homeless Zingari (gypsy) families and aid workers, and visited public agencies to get a better understanding of how poor families are defined and discussed and how poverty is measured in Italy.
Joanna describes the importance of the exchange relationship to her research, “...we can no longer expect to understand Kentucky rural families without placing them in a global paradigm that examines how gender and family relationships affects and is affected by the political economy worldwide.”
Jane Jensen (Educational Policy Studies): “After Bologna: an Exploration of Italian Post-secondary Reforms and Student Services.” During her time in Italy, Dr. Jensen met with graduate students at the University of Rome to learn about their pathways to university and eventually to Rome. She then travelled to the Salerno region to attend a work group on educational achievement, sharing her research on college aspirations among Appalachian students with a group of researchers working on high school drop-out in the Naples region. Dr. Jensen has returned with students from the University of Kentucky twice more, each time touching base with these colleagues.
Dwight Billings (Sociology): Presentation on Appalachia’s “road to poverty”. Dr. Billings met with Drs. Portelli, Scanavini, and Arcardo of the American Studies department. They shared ideas of using Appalachian fiction which Dr. Billings uses in APP200 Introduction to Appalachian Studies. He benefited from their literary perspectives on these works derived from the distinct cultural context of Italian scholarship. He also met with scholars in the social sciences at the University of Rome to share research interests on rural development an inequality, especially the impacts of globalization. Dr. Billings was subsequently a host to Dr. Arcardo when she visited Lexington as part of the exchange. Dwight highlights the impact of the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural benefits of the Rome Exchange:
“The Italian scholars at the University of Rome share our passionate interest in Appalachia but, working in distinct intellectual traditions as they do and not taking for granted some of the things American scholars assume about American culture, they offer a valuable, critically distanced point of view on the study of the region that I believe is extremely beneficial. In sum, I found the opportunity to step outside the normal range of contacts, yet still meaningfully discussing Appalachian Studies research and pedagogy with bright and generous colleagues at the University of Rome, to be a truly engaging and renewing experience.”

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