María Soledad Gattoni was a Visiting Fellow at the GIGA Institute for Latin American Studies from October 2014 until September 2016, and was funded by the DAAD. She came from the Instituto de Investigaciones Gino Germani at the University of Buenos Aires.
María Soledad, what is your research all about?
I am working on the rise of participatory and transparency policies in Latin America, mostly focusing on those sponsored by states. Latin American states have been increasingly promoting these types of policies. Most of the studies traditionally focus on their consequences, and I was wondering: Why would these countries implement policies that open the state to citizen control? Why would they restrain themselves? So I decided to analyse the strategic factors behind these decisions. I also want to explore the international and global factors that helped these policies to emerge.
In what ways were you able to expand your global perspective here at the GIGA?
Since in the past I was focusing on the domestic policies of just two countries, Chile and Argentina, I didn’t have much experience doing research at a regional level. I needed a broader view to help me see more, and see what processes are similar or different within a particular region. So the GIGA’s regional perspective is very important to my research. The institute offers many seminars and workshops in which I can discuss and exchange ideas about my research with other scholars. Here you can also talk to people who are experts on different regions. If you want to broaden your research, it is great to work at a global institute.
Besides the global perspective, how have you benefitted from your research at the GIGA?
I attend a lot of seminars on process tracing, comparative studies, and mixed methodological approaches that help me structure and analyse my research. Other very important factors are the library and the resources of the GIGA. Here I have more access to journals, including Latin American ones, and databases. Whenever I need literature, I ask the Information Centre and the colleagues there help me. Facilities are also very important for academic work. You can be in Latin America, you can have your own sources, you can have access to books in libraries, but access to journals and databases is not so easy, especially at public universities.
How do you like living in Hamburg?
Hamburg is not a typical academic place nor a typical studying city, but more like an open city. And as I am studying state openness, I find it very inspiring to be in a city that is so intercultural and so open to exchange. It is not so common in Latin America to have contact to people from Africa, Asia – from places all over the world. I like this global atmosphere.
How did you come to apply to be a GIGA Visiting Fellow?
I was in the middle of my PhD research at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina when I decided to expand my research to a broader Latin American approach. I recalled meeting Mariana Llanos at the University of Salamanca in Spain some years ago, and having Bert Hoffmann commenting on my master’s thesis at an ECPR panel. I really liked his approach. So I contacted them and asked whether I could continue my research at the GIGA. I soon applied and got the acceptance. The DAAD, which is funding my fellowship, also gave me an intensive language course in Cologne. After six months in Cologne I moved to Hamburg.
Many thanks for this interview.