Alexander Ornella

Episode 169,   Jun 02, 2023, 06:24 PM

My guest this week is Alexander Ornella, Senior Lecturer in Religion at the University of Hull where he has been since 2011. Alexander talks about his work, and how he has moved into sociology and criminology in addition to religious studies. His PhD, which he undertook in his native Austria, was on Catholic theology and looked at film and modern art.

We find out about the traditional Catholic theology degree that Alexander did in the 1990s and how he wanted to become a priest. Alexander has always seen himself as navigating different disciplines, and he talks about how he follows through on students’ interests in, say, sport. We also discuss how the way of accessing data has changed since his own undergraduate days, in terms of technological change.

We hear about Alexander’s childhood in the south of Austria. He remembers drives to Italy when young and how his father was into sport and nature. If he hadn’t wanted to become a priest (he was an altar boy for many years) Alexander would have studied Economics – and we find out why he’s glad he didn’t.

We learn why Alexander doesn’t entertain the ‘alternative universe’ notion, and he refers to how he was fairly shielded from media when he was young, so missed the likes of The A-Team and Knight Rider which his schoolfriends were talking about. Yet he has ended up teaching film and popular culture.

He discusses what has shaped him, including the time when Austria joined the EU, and the role of artificial borders and barriers in people’s lives, and I ask Alexander whether he feels nostalgic, post-Brexit, about his early years.

We learn about his interest in science fiction and how it has led to his interest in technology, and how Alexander has built his own computer servers.

We talk about what films teach us about what it means to be human and what we make of society, and Alexander speaks, too, about our relationship with the environment.

We find out why Alexander is not too keen on talking about painful experiences and why we don’t need much to make the world a better place – e.g. by smiling or being friendly a bit more.

Then, at the end of the interview, Alexander reveals why he prefers to draw on positive rather than negative experiences, and we discover why Alexander was dreading the question about whether he is a looking back or a looking forward type of person.