Dr. Joel Fetzer: Pepperdine University, Malibu, USA
Ph.D. Political Science, Yale University, 1996
Areas of Interest in Slovak Studies: Religion and Politics, Migration, Ethnicity
When/how did you first develop an interest in Slovak or Slovak-area studies?
I am planning a long-term book project comparing ethnic politics in Spain, Germany, and Slovakia and needed to learn Slovak to conduct research. I chose Slovakia because it is democratic, ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse, and relatively representative of countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Slovak as a kind of Slavic Esperanto was also appealing to me. And my maternal grandmother's family came from the then-Rusyn/Lemko border region of today's Slovakia, Poland, and Ukraine.
What is your current research/work project?
I'm currently finishing up two shorter pieces on Slovak politics. The first, which I wrote with my Pepperdine colleague J. Christopher Soper, looks at post-Communist church-state relations in Slovakia and Germany and is forthcoming in the Routledge Handbook of Church and State. The second, which I have presented twice at conferences and am revising for submission to a journal, examines the effect of religion on Slovaks' attitudes toward corruption
Please say a few words about any activities or projects you’re involved in that link academia with society at large.
Unfortunately, I'm not very involved in community work, but last summer I TAed the online, second-semester Slovak language course for North American students at Comenius University's Studia Academica Slovaca. It was good to review the basics again (not that I've mastered them myself, sadly).
What Slovakia-related book or article would you recommend to readers who wish to learn more about some of Slovakia’s most pressing issues?
In my own work, I was inspired to conduct further research on Slovak politics after reading Michal Vašečka's article on the "Parish Republic" at https://publicseminar.org/essays/from-mafia-state-to-parish-republic/ .
What is your favorite place in Slovakia to visit and why?
I like Trenčín a lot because of its cobblestone streets and the castle looking out over the town from the top of the mountain. It would make a nice place to retire.