Join us in welcoming Dr. Mariano Torcal, our Jean Monnet Visiting Scholar for Spring 2017! Dr. Torcal has served as a Full Professor of Political Science at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra since 2006. He received a Ph.D. from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (1995) and a Ph.D. from the Ohio State University (2001). We asked him the following questions about his research and plans for his time at UNC.
What are your main research interests, and how do you plan to further these interests at CES?
I am interested in public opinion in Europe and the European Union. More concretely, my research agenda focuses on the current situation in Europe as the result of a crisis of representation. The economic and fiscal crisis has put our democracies through a “resistance test” with very negative results in the eyes of European citizens. This affects the national polities and the EU, producing a self-reinforcing negative buckle, very conspicuous in the decline of political trust in the national and EU institutions. However, this is not a uniform process about all the EU states. My research seeks to explain the factors contributing to this asymmetrical process and the resulting cross-national differences.
The Center for European Studies at UNC is an environment rich in academic collaboration that fosters the sharing of knowledge on topics regarding Europe and the EU. During my time at UNC, I look forward to continue my work on projects involving public opinion and parties in Europe while learning from the various scholars and academic opportunities at the CES.
How did your interest in the European Union begin, and why did you choose to study it from a political science perspective?
I am not able to date when my interest started, but it has grown in recent years with the increase of concerning trends in the region, such as growing Europhobia and its links with radical anti-system parties. Party systems in Europe are becoming very volatile, predicting voting patterns is becoming more and more difficult, and new anti-traditional parties are emerging everywhere. As both a resident and scholar of Europe, I find these developments particularly compelling and in need of greater explanation.
How does being based in Barcelona, Spain, impact your research and teaching, if at all?
This is a difficult question. Barcelona is a wonderful place to live and the UPF enjoys one of the highest reputations for political science in Europe. Recent events in Barcelona and Cataluña have led to the emergence of a single dominant topic in the political and academic agenda: independence from the Spanish state and its consequences. This topic polarizes public opinion, elites, and scholars alike. In that context, discussions on the EU only emerge framed inside this political debate (whether the EU will support the “Catalan process”, and what the status of the new Catalan state would be in the EU). The positive side of this is that it is interesting to see how the EU can be politicized in a completely different way in each national and sub-national arena. In that sense, there is not one “EU debate”, there are many “EU debates”.
What advice would you give UNC students currently wishing to study the EU?
To complete their studies with a comprehensive understanding of the effect that national politics play in the dynamics of the European Union. Without repeating my previous answers, I do not believe we can understand what is happening in Europe and the European Union without understanding the domestic contexts of member countries.
What is your favorite thing about UNC?
Many things: The campus, the faculty and the atmosphere. It is a perfect environment to focus on work.