Federico D'Onofrio, 2014-15 HOPE Center Fellow


When Federico D’Onofrio knew he would be leaving New Haven, Connecticut, where he had been at Yale for a year on a postdoc, for Durham and the HOPE Center, he wanted to make sure that he really knew he was going to a different region of the country.

So he took a train. An eighteen-hour train.

“The slow train was a surprise,” he said. “In the United States, passenger trains share the same tracks with freight trains. And the freight trains always win.”

Federico is a 2014-15 fellow of the HOPE Center. He is here working on a project on Italian agricultural development policies. He is examining the debate between policies that targeted the well-being and income of peasants and those that aimed to increase aggregate production.

Federico has long been interested in the interaction of agriculture and economics. His dissertation, which he completed at the University of Amsterdam and which will be published as a book by Ashgate, was on Italian agricultural economists and their observations of local farms and farming practices.

He addressed the same subject in a paper that he presented at the 2011 HOPE conference. The paper was published in a special issue of History of Political Economy edited by Harro Maas and Mary S. Morgan and titled Observing the Economy: Historical Perspectives.

He came to the conference directly from Amsterdam—and its black, grey, and white hues of winter. “Everything here was very green, even the trees. Flowers were in bloom. It was really spring.”

His work at the HOPE Center has benefited from the many informal discussions he has had with the faculty and the other fellows. “I tend to pick up ideas that way, through casual conversation. You never know what offhand remark will spark a new idea or way of looking at something.”

Before he leaves Duke, he plans to spend some time in the archives with the papers of Evsey Domar, a Russian-born development economist who formulated a well-known model of economic growth.

Federico’s plan is to see where the papers lead him.

“Archives are like fate: they carry you places that you did not expect to go”--and, he adds, often where you don’t want to go. “You want them to give you a nice, tidy answer. But they don’t let you get away that easy.”

Federico will be at the Center until the end of April.

--Paul Dudenhefer