Miracle in the Italian Philosophy Job Market

I’ve been told that a foreign candidate has been hired for a junior philosophy job at the University of Parma. The job offer was advertised a few months ago, in English, in an international philosophy listserv. To my knowledge, this is the first time this has happened in recent years.

In Italy, there are very few academic jobs. The jobs usually go to the Italian candidates who are best connected to the local hiring committees. The candidates’ accomplishments play a role, but it is a secondary role to their ability to lobby hiring committees through their academic sponsors. Ability to lobby committees is built over the years by working closely with influential Italian academics. Seniority plays a role too: the longer you’ve been building your connections, the more your sponsors feel obligated to lobby in your favor–regardless of whether you’ve been publishing in the meantime. One consequence is that to have a successful academic career in Italy, networking with local academics is far more important than publishing good work. Another consequence is that foreign candidates, or even Italian candidates who have spent long periods abroad without tending to their Italian connections, have no chance of being hired. Jobs are not even advertised in international venues.

In this case, things went differently. Marco Santambrogio, one of Italy’s most distinguished Italian philosophers (he is the only philosopher working in Italy that I know of who published an article in J. Phil.), took the initiative to advertise the position, in English, in international venues. Foreign candidates applied and the hiring committee ignored the pressures coming from the sponsors of local candidates. A foreigner was hired! It looks like he was hired because of his scholarly accomplishments! (Unfortunately, I don’t know his name.)

From my point of view, this is an extremely positive and welcome development. Kudos to Santambrogio and the Parma hiring committee. It remains to be seen whether others will follow their lead or whether the hire of a foreigner, based on accomplishments rather than connections, will upset Italy’s philosophers to the point that they will work even harder to prevent anything like this from happening in the future.

(I have no personal axe to gind: I have never sought employment in Italian academia, and I am not planning to seek it.)


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