Christian Martin is the Chair of Comparative Politics at the University of Kiel, Germany. He currently holds the Max Weber Chair in German and European Studies at New York University. He has studied political science at the University of Konstanz and holds a doctorate from there (2002). Christian has published on the effects of globalization for electoral participation, on the incentive to adopt more proportional voting systems in a highly globalized environment, and, most recently, on the substitution of policy instruments in processes of international policy diffusion. Most recently, Christian has published a paper on “Electoral Participation and Right Wing Authoritarian Success – Evidence from the 2017 Federal Elections in Germany” (forthcoming in Politische Vierteljahresschrift).
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We asked Christian a few questions about his work and experience:
1. What sparked your interest in education and teaching, especially teaching abroad?
I care a lot about the subjects I’m working on. It seems natural to pass that compassion on through teaching. As a side-effect there is no better way of learning than through teaching. Have you really understood what your topic is about? You’ll find out soon enough when you are talking to a classroom full of bright and critical students. Teaching abroad to me was about getting to know different cultures of learning and – hopefully – contribute to some sort of cross-pollination between different university systems. I have taught in Germany, New Zealand, and the US, and there is a lot of variation in approaches and teaching styles.
2. What are you currently working on?
I am working on a book-length manuscript, “The Dialectic of Gobalization”. It explores backlashes against globalization and European integration as the effect of de-politicization, economic inequality, and decreased room-to-maneuver on an economic dimension. As part of this project, I have just published an article on the success on the far-right AfD in Germany. Another paper deals with the dwindling electoral support of social democratic parties.
3. You recently participated in A Night of Philosophy and Ideas at the Brooklyn Library. What topics did you discuss and how would you describe the experience in general?
My talk was “On the relationship between majority decisions and constitutional norms: A view from Germany”. I was on at 11:30 pm and the room was packed with about 250 people who listened intently to my talk on this somewhat abstract topic. You couldn’t show any slides, I couldn’t even walk around the room because there was no space. And still the people were focused and interested. It was an amazing experience.
4. What was the most challenging experience you have ever had in pursuing research/teaching abroad?
The people in New Zealand are amazing. They are kind and funny and smart and their country is beyond beautiful. That said, I had a really hard time understanding what people were saying when I was teaching there. You get used to it after a time, but New Zealand English is not for the faint of heart.
5. What was the most ‘German’ experience you have had in the United States?
I am always on time or even early. No matter how hard I try, I just cannot be late, even in situations where I know it would be polite not to be there on time. It’s like a German compulsion that I just can’t shake.
6. What advice would you give to students who are thinking of choosing your field of study?
Read as much as you can and not only narrowly in the field that you think of as political science. I am convinced that you cannot understand politics (or political science, for that matter) without an understanding of history, philosophy, and neighboring social science disciplines like economics and sociology. Beyond that, you should read at least six novels each year, three of them in their original language of publication.
7. What advice would you give to North American students and researchers who are thinking of pursuing research abroad in Germany? Or alternatively to German students and researchers who are thinking of pursuing research abroad in the United States?
To answer the question with a quote from my all-time post punk hero, Henry Rollins: “Don’t think about it – Do it. Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it!” (1987)
8. Which pictures, plants or unusual objects are there on your desk?
I have a steel shoemaker’s tool on my desk. It is about 15 cm long, roughly shaped like a cylinder and it is quite heavy. I use it to hold down book pages when I am reading so I have my hands free to take notes. That is the official version. But it really comes from a time when I was still smoking and rolling my own cigarettes. I quit smoking more than ten years ago but I still have the tool.
9. Can you cook a German dish without a recipe? If so, which one?
Of course! I grew up in the south of Germany, close to the Lake of Constance, in Upper Swabia. They’d probably revoke my Schwäbisch citizenship if I couldn’t cook some Leberkäse with Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes).
10. Who has inspired you the most in your career and why?
I come from a working-class background, the first one in my family to go to college. My parents have always believed in education and have supported me all the way. This was not only materially important, but also a very inspiring experience. Upward social mobility, to my parents, was very much a matter of education. I still believe in this ideal and I think that goals like diversity and affordability need to be very much on the agenda of everyone working in education.
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