Danny Turillo: Understanding Extremism Through Music

Hello! I’m Danny Turillo, a rising junior majoring in Political Science and Economics, minoring in Italian (and possibly some other things), and pursuing a certificate in Transatlantic Studies. On campus, I serve as a Resident Assistant and student researcher (most recently through GSPIA, where I studied the European migrant crisis) and am active in Quiz Bowl, Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, and College Democrats. On the professional side, I have worked with a number of electoral campaigns (including as the Campus Coordinator for a congressional race), interned for both a state representative and an international environmental advocacy nonprofit, and have even done freelance trivia writing for competitions nationwide. And in what little time I have outside all of that, I like to hike, watch classic movies—I’ve been on a Preston Sturges tear lately—listen to music, and go sightseeing.

Clearly—although they are centered in European-American politics—my passions and experiences are all over the place, but I actually consider that a plus when it comes to my research. This interdisciplinary attitude has allowed me to take an integrative approach to my work and seek creative solutions to the issues plaguing the transatlantic sphere. In particular, I have developed a profound interest in the importance of culture for political engagement and socialization, especially with regard to the ever-accelerating rise of the far right in Western Europe and the US. And this is where the Brackenridge Fellowship program comes in. With the support of this incredible award—as well as my faculty mentor, the Italian Department’s own Dr. Lina Insana—I will be developing a short podcast series on the history and importance of Italy’s underground neofascist music scene. 

As far right movements in Italy and abroad continue to gain mainstream appeal and institutional prominence, it is imperative that we fully understand how they entice new members. And with the intimate knowledge of Italian language and culture that I have gained in my six years of Italian study, I have a unique opportunity to explore one of the most pronounced hubs for right-wing social activity in the world. Also, my interest in the intersection of politics and culture enables me to bring a fresh perspective to this subject of inquiry; up until this point, scholars and practitioners seeking to curb the growth of right-wing extremism and the violence associated with it have often ignored the most potent interpersonal factors at play in political socialization, such as the musical culture around which the Italian right has built many of its largest movement organizations. After all, art is a primary aspect of how we interact with each other and the world as a whole, and thus the fact that it is not presently a primary subject of scrutiny in this field is baffling. Through this project, I hope to remedy that oversight by delving deeply into the development and influence of this subculture and present my findings in a highly accessible and digestible fashion via my podcast. If I hope to effectively advocate for a greater emphasis on cultural factors in right wing scholarship and preventative activity, then I must disseminate my work in a way that maximizes its reach and comprehensibility, as I hope my final project accomplishes.

As I look to bring this interdisciplinary, interpersonal approach to the foreign policy field in my own career, I cannot think of a better next step than the Brackenridge Fellowship. For one, being able to interact with so many remarkable student researchers from across the academic spectrum will surely enhance my understanding of different disciplines and inspire me to incorporate new ideas and approaches into my work. What is more, this experience will help me deduce where I best fit into the field of international affairs. Though my focus on tackling emerging sociopolitical threats in the transatlantic space is clear, I do not yet know whether I am best suited to approach this domain as a scholar, private researcher, foreign policy practitioner, or something else entirely. And as I seek to more deeply integrate my love for culture and belief in its importance into my work in transatlantic politics, this project will allow me to explore how I can do so most effectively going forward. For these reasons and more, I am thrilled to begin my work as a Brackenridge Fellow this summer, and I cannot wait to share my progress!

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