About our Programs
The Fellowship Program at the Italian Academy focuses on issues relating to cultural identity, cultural transmission, and cultural memory. It has a twofold aim: to sustain the vitality of the many aspects of culture that are endangered by globalization, and to forge genuinely new links between the arts, the sciences and the social sciences.
Applications are invited for Fellowships in these areas, particularly – but not exclusively – with regard to Italy. Theoretical, monographic, and positivist approaches will be equally welcomed. Applications dealing with the scientific, sociological and technological aspects of culture and memory are encouraged. Approximately 15 Fellowships will be awarded every year. Fellows are chosen by a jury of experts in the relevant fields.
Preference will be given to candidates who plan to work with scholars at Columbia, but other candidates will also be considered. Where appropriate, Fellows will be encouraged to work with departments and faculty members here. See Applications page for further information.
The Italian Academy offers a special fellowship linked to the Art & Neuroscience Project as well as the Alexander Bodini Research Fellowships in the Sciences and in Culture and Religion. The Premio New York offers fellowships to young Italian artists.
The Fellowship Program at the Academy is founded on the following positions:
We live in societies where traces of old cultures are disappearing fast. The skills that enable access to such cultural traces are rapidly being lost. Part of the aim of the Fellowship Program will be to ensure that such traces do not disappear, and that the skills that enable access to them do not become irrecuperable. The Academy is intended to be a place where the past is seen as an essential component in the production of a living present, and where the present is enhanced through conservation and memory of the past.
It has often been said, following Jacob Burckhardt, that we will never be rid of the past until we become barbarians again. But soft nostalgia must be carefully distinguished from productive and restorative recuperation. All notions of culture will remain problematic. In each of their different ways, Machiavelli, Vico, and Gramsci offer examples of constructive skepticism about the relevance of the past to the present. Though the Academy's Fellowship Program will be concerned with issues of memory, culture and recollection, it will not be merely nostalgic. It will favor projects that genuinely contribute to the recuperation of that which would otherwise be lost, and proposals that contribute to new paradigms of interdisciplinarity.
The Academy's Art & Neuroscience Project is closely related to its concerns with cultural memory, and is informed by groundbreaking work being done by neuroscientists in Italy, the US, and elsewhere. It is intended to expand the historical and sociological investigation of the traces of memory into fields where the operations of memory itself can be subjected to analysis and critique. The aim is to move from traditional historical approaches to memory, such as those most famously described by Paolo Rossi and Frances Yates, to modern scientific approaches, such as those currently being studied in the neurosciences. The Art & Neuroscience Project also encourages investigation of responses to works of art – visual, literary, and musical. New developments in the cognitive neurosciences have greatly illuminated the neural substrate of such responses. Applicants for fellowships in this broad area will also be welcomed. Striving to bridge the gap between the humanities and the sciences with serious cross-disciplinary dialogue, this project shows that intellectual rigor need not be shortchanged in the pursuit of discourse across the two cultures, as C.P. Snow put it fifty years ago.
No culture, arguably, has been more central to cultural memory in the West than that of Italy. When Freud wished to demonstrate how nothing that has been formed in mental life can perish – despite the depredations of memory – he observed that everything is somehow preserved and can, in suitable circumstances, once more be brought back to light. He took the history of the city of Rome as his prime analogy. Freud was making a point not just about the place of the history of Rome in our culture, but also about the many-layeredness of the mind.
The Academy's Fellowship Program is predicated on the belief that the humanities and the sciences can be brought together again. Some components of the arts and letters – vision and language, for example – have always been regarded as the objects of scientific study, but it is only in recent years that other aspects of the humanities, such as memory and culture, have genuinely entered the realm of science, notably within the fields of cognitive psychology, neurology and the neurosciences, biology and genetics. In the practical and technological realm, the arts, especially the monumental arts of the past, necessarily enter the realm of engineering. At the core of the Fellowship Program of the Italian Academy, therefore, lies the study of cultural memory and its scientific, sociological and anthropological implications.