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Бакалаврская программа «Политология и мировая политика»

HSE Faculty Members’ Life Rules: András Gál

We continue interviews with our faculty members and our guest is András Gál. Within the CEU Global Teaching Fellowship Program, has been giving lectures as a visiting professor at the HSE Political Science Department from September 2018. We've had a chance to know him more closely and talk not only about his academic interests but also about dreams, hobbies and personal story of his path to the political science field.

HSE Faculty Members’ Life Rules: András Gál

- Could you please tell us more about your hobbies and interests?
- Of course, I like traveling, but who does not like it? Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time and money, I mean doing and planning it, but thanks God we live in the age of low-cost airlines. I also really enjoy, when I can just read fiction books. In terms of sports, I prefer doing jogging and swimming.

- What is your favorite movie?
- Well, I have a lot of favorite movies, but if I have to single out one, it may be the 2011 movie of Asghar Farhadi titled 'A Separation’.

- What profession did you dream of in your childhood?
- From my childhood, I wanted to be an academic. I did not know what I want to teach / research but I knew that I wanted to do something exactly like this. It partly comes from my family background – my grandfather was a rector at the University in my hometown and my father is teaching at the same University.

- How did you end up in Political Science?
- I was interested in humanities and social sciences; since I wanted to be an academic, I was looking for a discipline that reflects on contemporary issues, with a global community and a strong focus on comparative research agendas. I was interested in history, but got discouraged as I took part in the competition during my year of secondary school which involved data gathering in local archives. After spending two weeks in the archive building and I decided that it is not something I want to do until the end of my life - would even do statistics. Of course, this is not a judgement over the discipline, but it simply was not for me. Therefore, I decided to choose political science, an interdisciplinary field.

- Could you tell us more about your research practices?
- My primary field of interest is constitutional courts and divided societies. I first got interested in constitutional courts, largely influenced by my studies in democratic theory, within that questions focusing on the possible limits of democratic procedures. Later, in a course during my second MA my interested has also turned towards divided societies. The nexus of these topics is suitable for a PhD topic for two reasons. On the one hand, the strategic considerations around interdisciplinary research; on the other, focusing on an issue with actual real-life salience helps keeping your passion alive and preventing burnout.  

The countries I am comparing in my dissertation are Belgium, Bosnia, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland – ethnically or religiously divided societies, implementing formal power-sharing along the axes of these divisions. In my research design I opted for a theoretically informed case selection, focusing on countries implementing the so-called ‘consociational’ form of power sharing and having a constitutionally established constitutional court. On the one hand, these systems are based on elected elites representing their ethnic groups and inter-elite cooperation; systems largely based on elite-consensus, building on closed-door agreements and a substantial degree of secrecy. On the other, there are constitutional courts speaking the language of constitutional supremacy. One part of my dissertation focuses on the compatibility of these logics.

Furthermore, in these power-sharing regimes certain rights are not assigned to individuals as it is usual in standard adversarial democracies, but rather to constitutionally acknowledged groups. So, another question is focusing on the tension between the individual-centered modern human rights thought, and the prominence of group-specific rights in power-sharing settlements.

- What books and which authors guided you and influenced your research interests?
- The first one is «Courts and Consociations» which was written by Christopher McCrudden and Brendan O'Leary. Furthermore, my research largely profited from the works of Samuel Issacharoff, Richard Pildes, Hannah Lerner and others. Concerning my general intellectual development, the works of Thomas Christiano, Ronald Dworkin, and Will Kymlicka were those which weren’t only mandatory, but also very influential for me.

- What are the main differences between HSE and CEU?
- It is very difficult to compare CEU with other universities for the fact that it is very small and specific: the overwhelming majority of the departments are dedicated to social sciences, only offers graduate programs and is very international despite its small size: there are around 1500 students from roughly 120 countries. The largest ethnic group is Hungarian with 20%, and the other 80% comes from literally all over the world. Nevertheless, I think there are more similarities between two universities than differences. HSE is also an institutional primarily dedicated social sciences with an increasingly international profile.
Also, for me as a Hungarian, coming from a small landlocked country with an isolated language, living in a large and diverse country as Russia is very interesting. For instance, my Russian BA students are coming from the geographical range between Murmansk to Amur Oblast, a territory which is larger by the entire EU by multiple times; not to mention the international students coming again all over the worlds, especially from post-Soviet countries, to pursue their studies in Saint-Petersburg.

- This year our campus celebrates its 20th anniversary and the slogan of this anniversary is “Dream”. What is your dream?
- I dream about being an academic, who is a part of the international community of social scientists and is able to meaningfully contribute to debates on contemporary issues. Though I have to work a lot to achieve my dream and being here at HSE is a part of it.

- Would you like to wish something to our students?
- I wish students can go through their programs with academic excellence and an experience of becoming an intellectually stimulating community with their peers. Being a student is a rare opportunity in a lifetime to make sense of the world in the broadest possible perspective, and I hope my students will use these years wisely to do so.

P.S. By the way, do not miss the presentation of CEU programs in Political Science, which is to be held on January 18



Interviewer: Akmal Tadzhibaev, HSE student and member of the Free Editors project