Stefania Gerevini joined the BSR in October 2014 as the new Assistant Director (Humanities). After a term of working, living and researching here, Stefania shared some thoughts on her experiences so far.
Having been at the BSR for three months now, when you look back, what were your first impressions and have they changed?
When I arrived, I found the BSR a very busy, but extraordinarily welcoming environment – within days of my arrival, I felt part of a closely-knit and collaborative community. The warmth with which the BSR welcomed the new award-holders also impressed me, as did the care given by every member of staff to encourage scholarly rigour as well as a real sense of community and belonging among artists and humanities scholars. Three months into the job, I am glad to say that my first impressions have been entirely confirmed – and that I am benefitting hugely, both intellectually and personally, from being part of this community.
What was it about the BSR that made you want to work and live here?
The academic reputation of the BSR naturally played a major part in my decision to apply. However, the decisive reason was of a different nature: although I had never had an opportunity to visit the BSR myself, several of my colleagues and friends had spent a period here as award-holders, either during their PhDs or later on in their careers. With no exception, they remember their time at BSR very fondly, describing it as a transformative experience that had a vital impact on their intellectual and personal development and on their research. I applied for this job because I wanted to be part of this thriving intellectual community and actively contribute to its prosperity.
What do you think will be the biggest benefit to you (work/research/personal) of being in Rome?
My research focuses on the appropriation of Byzantine visual language in Late Medieval Italy. Rome is not only a key site of cultural exchange between the eastern empire and the west, but also a locus where the complexity and historical variability of these notions are fully exposed. I have no doubts that living and working in Rome, and engaging with its network of international scholars and institutions, will deepen and hone my understanding of artistic interactions across the Mediterranean.
Have you found inspiration in any new or unexpected places since arriving?
Of course – in many ways. The most enriching experience has been to explore the city in the company of resident artists and humanities scholars, and to rediscover it through their eyes. Each of them contributes with an individual expertise, a distinctive gaze and a unique way of interrogating the city and its cultural, social and historical heritage. Sharing their visions of Rome has been enlightening, and has further reinforced my confidence in the role that the humanities and the arts play in the contemporary world –renewing our ever-unsettled relationship between seeing and knowing, and offering a radically ethical way of thinking and relating to the world.
And finally, what do you do to relax when away from your research?