Featured Professor: Isabella Clough Marinaro

Meet Italian Studies Professor Isabella Clough Marinaro and learn why John Cabot University in Rome is a great place to study.

Watch the video and read the interview.

Professor Isabella Clough Marinaro, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Bath, teaches courses in political and social science (such as Social Science Research Methods, International Migration, Globalization and Crime) and with a special focus on contemporary Italy (Sociology of Southern Italy, Italian Politics and Society, Rome Modern City, Researching Rome: Fieldwork in the City). She is chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literature at JCU. Her book Global Rome: Changing Faces of the Eternal City, edited with Bjørn Thomassen, was recently published by Indiana University Press. Prof. Clough was named “Professor of the Year” by JCU’s Class of 2014.


What is it like teaching at John Cabot University?
Our students come from all over the world and our classes are small enough for us to have truly fascinating discussions based on very diverse perspectives and personal histories.

We professors get to know our students very well as individuals: we watch them develop their critical thinking skills and we mentor them closely throughout their time at JCU. We also help them decide what they want to do in their future, guiding them through their job and graduate school applications. That goes for visiting students as well as degree-seekers.

What is your teaching philosophy?
I really believe that we understand complex issues best when we experience them first hand: when we are forced to rethink our views in discussion with someone who has different but equally valid ideas; when we go outside the classroom and observe and analyze social interactions as they are happening; when we work in groups to try to solve a difficult problem realistically; when we do in-depth research projects on topics that we are personally passionate about.

Name a challenge you have encountered throughout your career as a professor. How were you able to overcome it?
One of the most challenging parts of my job has been teaching the Social Science Research Methods class at JCU. The class trains students to do original investigative research for their senior thesis in preparation for graduate school. Students start developing their own research project from the first week of the course. So, I have a class in which everybody is working on very different topics in the fields of sociology, political science, and international affairs. The big challenge for me is to guide each one in finding the most appropriate theoretical frameworks, data collection methods, and analytical approaches for their project. Of course I can’t be an expert on each of their topics. Instead, I have to guide them in asking the right questions so that they become the real experts while at the same time making our class discussions relevant to everybody. Although this is difficult, I really enjoy it because my students are usually so mature and thoughtful that they make it work: they become involved in each others’ projects, giving each other advice and thinking about how our debates are relevant to their colleagues’ work and not just their own. In short, they overcome the challenge for me!

What makes Rome a good place to study Italian Studies and Political and Social Sciences?
Rome is the most logical place in the world for Italian Studies! It is home to a multitude of artistic, architectural and literary treasures that span every important period of Italy’s cultural history from pre-Roman times to the present day. It is where North and South come together, where high politics and grassroots protest movements collide, where local identities and the forces of globalization intersect, where many literary and cinematic canons are rooted but also contested. Every town and city in Italy is culturally rich and unique, but Rome offers such great variety in one place and is a geographically ideal base from which to explore the rest of the country. JCU is deeply integrated in Roman society and our students are able to do internships in a huge number of businesses and non-profit organizations.

Rome is also an ideal place in which to study Political and Social Sciences. The city has seen an incredible variety of political systems and regimes through its history: those of Ancient Rome, the political rule of the Popes, the center of a unified kingdom, the core of the Fascist dictatorship and the heart of the democracy born from the ashes of World War II. As national capital and seat of the Vatican, as well as host to a large number of UN agencies, it is an obvious place in which to observe diplomacy and international politics at work.

I am a social scientist and I think Rome is a truly fascinating location for studying the social sciences. The diversity of its cultures and its local and class identities make it an ideal place for anthropological and sociological analysis. I teach two social sciences courses that really use Rome as their classroom. In Rome Modern City we visit many different neighborhoods and observe the economic and social dynamics in context, while Fieldwork in Rome: Doing Research in the City trains students to do in-depth independent field research through interviews and systematic observation.

Tell us about your research and the book you just published.
It’s called Global Rome: Changing Faces of the Eternal City. It’s the only book in the English language that looks at contemporary Rome – especially the areas outside the center – from an interdisciplinary social science perspective. Some of the best scholars in the field have contributed chapters which deal with immigration, homelessness, ‘greening the city’, sports, organizing modern life around the ancient monuments, etc. We decided to create this book because my co-editor and I were frustrated for so many years with the lack of good contemporary materials for our students and other scholars on this fascinating, changing city.

My research has primarily focused on migration and minority groups in Italy, especially Roma (who many people mistakenly call ‘Gypsies’). I am now moving more into the study of crime and the many gray areas between legality and illegality in Italy.