Saskia Sassen
Professor at Columbia University
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“What it means to be a professor at a top university, is that what you do the least, is teach”, Saskia Sassen tells about her position as Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, “Doing my research often is a bit of an adventure.” When she was 12, she made a decision, that would change her life: “I said, ‘From now on, I do not have time to read novels, I have to read analyses of the real world.’”


Drei Ratschläge an Dein 14jähriges Ich!

Do it and I always tell my doctor students you know doctor students have to begin to do this kind of work write every day, even if you just write two hours because when you are in touch ... when a doctor students comes up to me and say “Yes I use the weekends to work, not good that’s fine,” because that is a fiction. When I have time, the weekend when I have time no you have to make the time. You have to write every day even if it is one of two hours because then you stay in touch you wake up in the morning you are thinking if I have an hour in a taxi ride I can write a paragraph because I am so connected to the subject.

Was steht auf Deiner Visitenkarte?

In my card is Saskia Sassen the Robert S. Lynd professor of Sociology and co-chair of the Committee On Global Thought which I co-chair with Columbia University.

Was ist das coolste an Deinem Job?

Well one of the glories for me and it can happen in many different places is when I am working on something and I suddenly see it and that can happen when I’m writing I use my long plain rights to write because I can forget about everything else and I usually have you know and I am playing music you should see me in the playing dancing and when I am at home I jump up I take a gin and tonic and I put hard rock I like hard metallic old fashion rock hardcore. And I get great ideas and then I go back to the desk and I write it down then the next day I have to tame it down because it is wild that is a critical part of my work and it is a great moment when you suddenly say “I got it”.

Welche Einschränkungen bringt Dein Job mit sich?

It certainly takes endless amount of hours and hours and years sometime you have to do XYZ in order to get the great moment of discovery, that is tough.

Worum geht es in Deinem Job?

What it means to be a professor at a top university is that what you do the least is teach. So the most of your time is spent doing research and writing, so it is actually often a very lonely existence in between I do other things. I do love giving talks I have always been very active on the talking circuit because that’s the way of interacting having a conversation with a larger audience and I write a lot of little articles. I have these like big books that are long and boring but they make discoveries, it’s a great life I must tell you and one spends time with ones colleagues discussing certain things. There is a real pleasure in discussing ideas or ruminating about how do we actually do research? I am interested in mapping conceptually, theoretically, empirically issues processes that we have not quite recognized or we can’t see in this conceptual sense of seeing. So that means for me doing my research often is a bit of an adventure, and I also wind up in very peculiar places doing my research. Like I started on working on global finance by having lunch at midnight they call it “lunch” with the cleaners on Wall Street, not the bankers the cleaners but I believe in those who are working in ground level and who have a different perspective on finance the cleaners or the truckers are going to have a totally different perspective from the financiers. So I want to understand finance through the Non-X and it is very interesting what you can discover that way, so for me it is how I, so for me it is a very exciting work because I am not just there trying to detect something is wrong with what this author has said a lot of academic work is that way.

Wie sieht Dein Werdegang aus?

When I was 12 I had the measles or whatever that give you a big disease, you know a child’s disease and I even had more time to read and so I wind up to read a book that was written by a social philosopher. And I made, I was 12 and I made the decision. I said from now on “From now on I do not have time to read novels I have to read analysis of the real world.” So in high school I decided I am mixing years I did years together so I was done much earlier I took all the 15 subjects I just studied them parallel through a regular class then did the final exams we had a .. style which is very tough. I went to the United States because I ran away from my family in Rome so I came as an illegal immigrant but it was an adventure I was not a desperate person and it was benign time, it was not a big deal to come with a tourist visa as I did and to over stay but I then decided that I wanted to study. I created a complicated situation because I was an illegal at that point an illegal immigrant. So that was quite a story that is too long to tell here. I got my PhD at a university and then I went and studied some more in France philosophy and then I got an offer for great post docket Harvard University to work with Joseph Nigh Rivern and a couple of other people and that’s how it went.

Ginge es auch ohne Deinem Werdegang?

Yes, absolutely when people think that I work on globalization because I was raised in many countries and many languages I do not see the connection. It depends what drives you what I am driven to understand certain complex issues that are mixes of power and possibilities etcetera and so that is what drives me not “Oh I grew up in all these languages let me go use them no”, by doing research about something global no not at all.