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James Messina

Q&A with a DAAD (German Exchange Program) Recipient 

James Messina, a Philosophy PhD student at UC San Diego, recieved the DDAD Fellowship award for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Snapshot of Messina's research:

My own research concerns the status of political obligations in the political philosophy of Immanuel Kant. One is politically obligated to the degree that one has a reasons (often coercible reasons) to obey a political authority (often a state). I argue that a distinction crucial to answering this question—the distinction that Kant draws between provisional and conclusive right—often receives only quick and passing treatment by contemporary interpreters, resulting in a distorted picture of his answer to the question of when political obligations obtain, and their normative status when they obtain. Once we understand this distinction, and the role it plays in Kant’s thought, we must reconceive the place of Kantian political theory within contemporary philosophical debates. 

What was the application process like and how long did you spend working on it?

The application process is fairly clear. The DAAD application process involves (1) obtaining a letter of invitation from a German scholar who expresses a willingness to host you, (2) letters of recommendation concerning your academic competence and testifying to your academic reason for conducting research in Germany, (3) a long form description (and timeline) of your research project, (4) an evaluation of your competence in the German language, and (5), an application form. 

In sum, I worked on the proposal for 3 weeks. It helped that it closely related to my dissertation research, and also that extant German scholarship directly concerned the issues I proposed to work on. It also helped to have my advisor’s help in strategizing how to pitch my research to the relevant audience.  

Why did you choose to apply to this fellowship as opposed to another?

Part of the scholarship’s appeal was its emphasis on German language learning. Because being able to interact with German scholars is crucial to my scholarly endeavors, the intensive language courses offered as part of the scholarship were very appealing, as was having the opportunity to immerse myself in German academic culture.

What are the most attractive benefits of your fellowship?

In addition to a comfortable living stipend, the language course, and networking opportunities, the DAAD has an extensive alumni network, and offers many opportunities after the fellowship to continue cross-national academic exchange. 

What has this fellowship allowed you to do that you otherwise would not have been able to do without it?

The time away from teaching as well as the stimulating academic environment enabled me to keep to my timeline for completion of the PhD (which I achieved this Spring). In addition , I think there’s a way of missing the opportunity to engage in truly international scholarship when one spends the entirety of one’s time as a graduate student in a US PhD program. The opportunities for cultural exchange, intellectual and otherwise, put one’s experience with academic life in the US into a broader context, which is not only often valuable for it’s own sake, but intellectually stimulating and productive as well.