Pierluca Birindelli

Pierluca Birindelli

Pierluca Birindelli
  • B.A., University of Florence
  • M.A., Communication and Cultural Studies, University of Florence
  • Ph.D.,Sociology of Culture and Communication, University of Florence

Biographical Information

Pierluca Birindelli earned his M.A. in Communication and Cultural Studies and his Ph.D. in Sociology of Culture at the University of Florence. During his Ph.D. he has been Visiting Fellow in the University of Texas at Austin and the Université de Paris. He taught Sociology and Psychology of Culture and Communication in the University of Florence and is currently teaching at Gonzaga  University; he is a visiting Professor in the University of Helsinky, where he offers seminars about "European and American Youngsters". He is a member of the research network "Biographical Perspective on European Societies" (European Sociological Association). He has published a book on the passage from youth to adulthood in Italy (Clicca su te stesso 2006) and a monograph about self-identity in late modernity (Sé: concetti e pratiche 2008). Professor Birindelli's research interests focus on the following themes: individual and collective identities; attitudes, values and lifestyles; late-modernity and mediatization of experience; Italian, European and American culture: a comparative perspective; youth, adulthood and intergenerational relationships; cross cultural communication; education, social stratification and social mobility.

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Current Research Interests

Dr. Pierluca Birindelli is currently working on the research project "Young Europeans &Young Americans", where he is setting out to understand: the meanings which young people attribute to the transition to adulthood; the differences and the analogies which can be delineated among young Europeans and young Americans; the general and specific means (social, cultural and symbolic resources) used to build up a feeling of personal, generational and collective identity.

Course Descriptions

Sociology of Italian Culture (SOCI 395)
The aim of the course is to introduce the concept of culture in the sociological sense. After clarifying the meaning of the word ‘culture', other related concepts will be analyzed: values, rules, lifestyles, attitudes, beliefs, stereotypes. The two main sociological points of view on genuine cultural practices and artifacts will be outlined: the symbolization and experience of shared representations (the Durkheimian tradition) or shared meanings (the Weberian or interpretative tradition). Attention will also be drawn to the notion of social and cultural change: the processes of secularization, globalization (and localisation), mediatization, individualization, value change and cultural pluralization. Afterwards, some qualitative (non-standard) research methods (participant and non-participant observation, ethnography, ethnology, narrative and biographical approach) will be outlined. Concepts and methods learnt in the first part of the course will be applied to Italian culture to identify its specific features. The following cultural dimensions will be looked at in-depth: responsibility / dependence; particularism / universalism; passivity / activity. Italian-ness will be compared on the one hand with traits of the American, Northern European and Mediterranean cultural heritage; while on the other the distinguishing features of Florentine-ness will be identified. In the framework of cultural processes thus constructed we will then focus on: the creation of a sense of belonging and the experience of being "different"; self-recognition and recognition of others (as individuals and as members of a group); the dynamics of interaction with another person/other people as well as the origins of representations and stereotypes. Another objective of the course is to take an in-depth look at the concept of individual and collective identity; within the lifecycle stages particular attention will be given to the passage from youth to adulthood, depicting a peculiar Italian phenomenon: the prolongation of youth. As well as learning theoretic propositions and paradigms students will be invited to undertake a journey of self-awareness, so as to internalize the themes tackled during the term and apply them in a critical manner. Part of the course will be set aside for the theme of journey. Students will thus be able to supplement their studies by learning concepts which will help them to elaborate what they are experiencing.

Cross Cultural Communication. Narrative Identities (COMM 480)
The aim of the course is to introduce the concepts of communication and culture, and to develop an understanding of communicative processes across cultural boundaries. Having clarified that culture is both a producer and product of communication, we will then focus on: some media representations of typical (or stereotypical) Italian, European and American cultural features (especially through films) - paying special attention to communicative-cultural incidents/dilemmas, and their effects on personal and collective identity construction; the mediatization of experience (television, internet and mobile phones), and the sense of otherness. Moreover we will discuss the social impact of old and new media on the shaping of communities and public spheres, trying to grasp how modern communication affects the "sense of place" and the "sense of time".  Part of the course will be dedicated to the communicative and cultural experience of youngsters. They are immersed in the new media, and this state of mind  influences their experience of a culture - they are connected with "home"; they have a Facebook profile through which they can display their "on-line Self"; they instantly communicate (Skype, email etc.) their (undigested?) cultural encounters. Finally, students will be able to answer in a critical and thoughtful way - that is by identifying the disturbed (the double bind) or the disturbing (propaganda) communication - to the questions: "How does one's socio-cultural background affect values and communication styles?; "Which kind of stories (culturally grounded) do I use to interpret my experience abroad?

Social & Economic Development of Italy (SOCI 478)
This course introduces students to the key approaches for the study of relationships between society and economy. In the light of social relations in the contemporary economy, we shall focus on the links between social, cultural and economic capital. This course shall especially emphasize social exchange theory, network analysis, and social stratification. The modernization process and its effects on individual and collective identities will be studied within the conceptual and interpretative framework of the course. The concepts and theories of the first part of the course will be applied to the study of Italian national and local development, with a special focus on the role of extended family and intergenerational relationships. To achieve a holistic representation of the sociological phenomena investigated, we will analyze the role of social capital not only within the field of economic development, but also in the field of political and civic development. Finally, the assumption that all social capital is positive will be critically examined within the comparative perspective of Italy and United States.

Method and objectives
All courses have a seminar format. Lectures will introduce the main topic, with the support of slides synthesizing concepts, paradigms, theories and examples extracted from the readings. Students will be sometimes divided in groups of three, carrying out in-class exercises and report on them. Experiential work will be used to elaborate concepts raised throughout the course. Students are expected to engage in active participation by contributing their thoughts, ideas and questions. Courses requirements include a midterm exam and a final research paper, where students are expected to make reference to the interpretative methods of analysis acquired during the course. The historic background will give preference to the period from the end of the Second World War to the present day. The basic concepts (theories, paradigms etc.) adopted - and shared with the students - allow for an interdisciplinary approach, including Sociology, Psychology, Cultural Studies and Cultural Anthropology. The narrative approach will be the "discipline glue".