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Eszter Salgó

Eszter Salgó

2016 Lecturer in Political Science and International Affairs

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B.A., M.A. in International Relations, Corvinus University (Budapest)
M.A. (Laurea magistrale) in Art History, University of Rome “La Sapienza”
Ph.D. in Political Science, University of Rome “La Sapienza”

Since 2007 Prof. Salgó has been teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in World Politics, International Organizations, European Union, Politics and Psychology, Comparative Politics and Identity Politics at both private and public universities. From 2004 to 2008 she worked as a research fellow at a foreign policy think tank – IPALMO, offering her expertise to projects (sponsored by the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations System Staff College and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) relating to the social and political development of Middle Eastern, North African and Eastern European countries.

Prof. Salgó works across disciplines. Drawing upon insights from critical theory, anthropology, and art history, in her research she explores how both conscious and non-conscious emotive experiences relate to public and political life. She studies the many ways desire, fantasy, and emotions figure in the realm of politics, with special emphasis on periods of tension and conflict. The sources and nature of charismatic leadership, the symbolic and the mythological construction of social communities, the emotionalization, dramatization and sacralization of politics, the revival of old (and the birth of new) civil and political religions and the role of images in politics constitute the main themes of her publications.

In the book “Psychoanalytic Reflections on Politics: Fatherlands in Mothers’ Hands” (Routledge 2014), Prof. Salgó portrays nostalgia for paradise as a yearning intrinsic in human nature and politics as a realm where people’s desire to experience transcendence is played out. Her main argument is that the driving force for the formation of political communities is fantasy – “illusions” in a Winnicottian sense, “phantasies” in a Lacanian sense, “phantoms” as described by Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok and “dreams” as interpreted by Sándor Ferenczi. The book suggests that, especially in times of flux and uncertainty, people seek to find in public life the resolution, love, and wholeness that were lost in private life; to unite what vanished, or never existed but which was intensely sought after. She unveils the many ways in which political leaders respond to this yearning – the various endeavors aimed at conjuring up a second (virtual) reality, a fantasy world where people may can find a refuge from the overwhelming circumstances of the present, a “cosmion” in the midst of the chaos.

Her book “Images from Paradise. Visuals in the European Union’s Politics of Transcendence” (Berghahn Books 2017) builds on and further develops these themes, offering an exploration on the intersection of aesthetics and politics. Prof. Salgó portrays European federalism as a political doctrine of salvation, driven by a paradise myth, by the fantasy of a redemptive end, characterized by the transformation of the United States of Europe from dream into reality. In particular, she investigates the supranational elite’s attempt to attribute transcendental qualities to the European Union by reinforcing old and inventing new myths, symbols, and rituals. The visual narratives constitute the main object of inquiry –  the iconography of the new “Europa” series of euro banknotes and the videos launched by the European Commission, the European Parliament and by the European Central Bank in order to generate “collective effervescence,” to allow for a European carnival to take place, with the hope of strengthening citizens’ loyalty and religious reverence to the dogma of the “ever closer union.”

Her forthcoming book (“Simone Leigh’s Postcolonial Challenge in the Center of New York City” (Postmedia Books, Spring 2020) illustrates the subversive potential of this African-American visual artist’s attack on the “Western model” (based on capitalism, rationalism and positivism but also on sexism and racism) while it also unveils the intrinsic contradictions of her sculpture. Is Brick House on the Plinth of New York’s High Line an example of provocative art? Does the Spur, or the “piazza”, as Cecilia Alemani (Chief Curator of High Line Art) calls it, represent a democratic public space? Will this Plinth succeed where London’s Fourth Plinth failed, becoming a landmark where the official narrative of the nation can be challenged and rewritten? To unfold these dilemmas, the book draws on urban studies, critical theory, art history, postcolonial and gender studies, psychoanalysis and Yoruba aesthetics, on theories about public space and radical democracy.