Sep 12, 2015

Cosmopolitan Cultural and Aesthetic Experiences: The Grand Tour Narrative in the 21st Century

Differences, Inequalities and the Sociological Imagination
12th Conference of the European Sociological Association
Prague, Czech Republic, 25–28 August 2015

Cosmopolitan Cultural and Aesthetic Experiences 
The Grand Tour Narrative in the 21st Century 
Pierluca Birindelli 
People all over the world cling fondly to the Florentine myth that spells Renaissance and all its legacy. Visitors’ expectations and their encounter with the edifying reality appear to be guided largely by the aesthetic appreciation of art. This leaves out of count many other cultural, social, political and philosophical aspects, and their contemporary ramifications, which could transform the epithet of “Cradle of the Renaissance” into “Museum of the Renaissance”. In this paper I wish to explore various current myths that lead foreigners to choose to visit/live in Florence for a while or forever. Is it possible to discern any shared, collective representations of Florence (and Tuscany)? Do they differ from other typical “Made in Italy” images? If so, how do such myths fit into the contemporary everyday life of the city? Can we arrive at a set of typical (or archetypical) biographical motives leading foreigners to Florence and distinguish certain identity traits? Is it possible to observe signs of a Cosmopolitan Spirit? And if so, can we identify a pathway from the aesthetic quest for the “authentic” Italian life to cultural encounters with Italians in the flesh? I hypothesize that one of the leading motifs of foreigners’ experiences is a romantic, and to a lesser degree, intellectual approach towards “Florence without Florentines”. The outlanders’ romantic coup d'oeil may induce a deceptive vision of Italian life and social reality. If so, there is nothing new “Under the Tuscan Sun”: the Grand Tour archetype and narrative is alive and kicking.

Keywords: Culture, Cosmopolitan, Narrative, Florence, Grand Tour 
Research Network: Global, Transnational and Cosmopolitan Sociology


Jun 26, 2015

The Passage from Youth to Adulthood: Narrative and Cultural Thresholds

The Passage from Youth to Adulthood explores a society unanchored from culturally endorsed rites of passage, in which young people and adults appear to build their identities within a culture of dependency. Pierluca Birindelli interviewed Italian young adults still living with their parents, focusing on their relations with the bedroom and the objects in it. He then analyzed self-narrations and longer autobiographies written by university students, measuring his impressions against sociological, psychological, and anthropological literature. Exploring the paradigm of what he calls “intergenerational collusion,” Birindelli finds fathers failing to act as adults with the tacit complicity of their sons: both are playing to the same script, heedless of the common good, the other, and the future. Finally, integrating the experience of young Americans abroad sparks transcultural reflections about the concept of play and the authenticity of social performance.

“Pierluca Birindelli has written a theoretically ambitious study on a very fascinating subject: Italian young people who stay at home until thirty and longer. Birindelli tells us what these young adults think and how they see their lives. In doing this he develops new interesting concepts and presents an approach which combines different methods to reveal the deep roots of the phenomenon and the effects it has on the young Italians. We literally enter their rooms and their playful existence—both concretely and theoretically. The book ends in a theory of the Big Game, which opens the way to understand this Italian specificity. This is a groundbreaking book, which will make waves far outside Italy.”
― J.P. Roos, professor emeritus of sociology, University of Helsinki, former president of the European Sociological Association
 “The young are the future. This book, which is a book for young people and for adults, leads us with felicitous sociological imagination into the world to come with its shadows and its lights.”
― Gianfranco Bettin Lattes, professor of sociology, University of Florence
 The Passage from Youth to Adulthood is all about truth, is based on our true stories, true lives. This book is salt on the wounds of a disoriented and fragile generation, scared to face a world that has become way more difficult than their parents’. Pierluca succeeds in being ironic and passionate at the same time in this original work.”
― Daniele Brunori, now a wine merchant in Guangzhou, China

Pierluca Birindelli is a docent in sociology at the University of Helsinki and teaches at Gonzaga University and the International Studies Institute in Florence. Birindelli has published two books in Italian on the passage from youth to adulthood, a monograph about self-identity in late modernity, and articles addressing the themes of individual and collective identity.
Birindelli, Pierluca. 2014. The Passage from Youth to Adulthood: Narrative and Cultural Thresholds. Lenham, MA: University Press of America (Rowman & Littlefield Group).

You can read a preview at Google Books and purchase it (Paperback and E-Book) at Amazon and Google Play

Keeping it in the family: the absence of young Italians from the public piazza (Pierluca Birindelli)

The author analysed autobiographies written by university students, comparing his impressions with the results of studies on young people carried out by Italian sociologists. The picture that he pieced together of this generation “without fathers or teachers”, and of the related responsibilities of the previous generation, is far from encouraging. The modern generation of young Italians nurtures values pivoting on the family and on self-fulfilment, and acts within spheres of friendship and sentiment at short radius. The rest of the social world is mediated, experienced through films, internet and holidays. The universalist attitude has been supplanted by a widespread and rooted particularism. The collective dimension that transcends the experience of the individual and his reference group has lost relevance.

You can read the essay here: Keeping it in the family
Cite: Birindelli, Pierluca. 2014. “Keeping it in the family: the absence of young Italians from the public piazza.”  Società Mutamento Politica, 5 (10): 147-172.

You can find all the articles in “Società Mutamento Politica” (SMP vol. 5, n. 1), the Italian Review of Sociology directed by Gianfranco Bettin Lattes: Youth for What? New Generations and Social Change (edited by Andrea Pirni).

Identity and Culture – Summer 2015

Andrews Meghan, Beckman Hanna,  Briggs Alexandra, Coffey Anna, Crowell Theresa,  Echemendia Michael,  Gambuti Alexa, Schuchman Sarah, Triebel Erika, Villait Nisha, Villareal  Cristina,  Walsh Emma

May 20, 2015

Researching Society – Spring 2015

Paglio Alyssa, Simmons Trisha, Keller Ilyanna.

Sociology of the Arts – Spring 2015

Diedrich Emily, Friedrich Michaela, Lucassen Alexis, Roberts Mackenzie, Ruzicka Michelle.

Cultural Globalization – Spring 2015

Bieker Janelle, Kreisel Carlee, Sarbaugh Mary, Walsh Bridget

Sociology of the Arts – Spring 2015

Archul Andrea, Barosy Melissa, Blitz Jessica, DiBara Eliza, Fahey Seanna, Frizzle Anthony, Hettinger Stephanie, Hobby Abigail, Holloway Sarah, Jacobs Hailey, Macauda Jacalyn, Mc Namara Kali, McAlister Anne, Pecci Breann, Raleigh Taylor, Rosetti Pamela, Ross Taylor, Scola Nicole, Stanojev Megan, Totten Emily, Turconi Maria.