The present state of anthropology in Italy can be properly assessed only against the backdrop of a 140-year history which lends itself to a neat periodization, marked by two major university reforms in 1969 and 1999. For about a century, from its beginnings in the 1860s to the turning point of the late 1960s, the development of ethnological and anthropological studies in Italy was remarkably slow and quiet, both theoretically and institutionally. Since the late 1960s, however, they went through an unexpected and rapid acceleration, explained partly by the shift from elite to mass higher education, which entailed a sudden rise in the number of students choosing ethnological and anthropological courses as part of their curriculum, and partly by a booming interest in the social and human sciences. The growth of cultural anthropology, initially understood in Italy as a discipline concerned almost exclusively with complex societies, greatly contributed to this success story, but it also caused tensions with ethnologists, who believed that research should focus on ‘primitive’ societies. On the other hand, cultural anthropology’s orientation towards Italian society and culture provided a bridge with the work of students of Italian folk-life and the two fields blended into a distinctive national variety of anthropology, strongly influenced by Antonio Gramsci’s reflections on folklore as well as by the insights of Ernesto De Martino. The launching of the Bologna process in 1999 offered new opportunities and made possible the establishment of first- and second-level degree courses specifically devoted to the teaching and learning of socio-cultural anthropology and ethnology, which in turn led to a further increase in the number of anthropology students. However, this expansion has proved structurally fragile and some opportunities have been missed: in view of the greatly augmented number of new graduates, the need for anthropology to receive proper professional recognition has become especially acute. The new and radical university reform enacted amid furious controversy in 2010 casts shadows on Italian anthropology’s prospects for the future. Much will depend on the will and ability of Italian anthropologists to invest more on a skill-based pedagogy than on the mere academic reproduction of the discipline.

Anthropology and Ethnology in Italy: Historical Development, Current Orientations, Problems of Recognition

VIAZZO, Piero
2017

Abstract

The present state of anthropology in Italy can be properly assessed only against the backdrop of a 140-year history which lends itself to a neat periodization, marked by two major university reforms in 1969 and 1999. For about a century, from its beginnings in the 1860s to the turning point of the late 1960s, the development of ethnological and anthropological studies in Italy was remarkably slow and quiet, both theoretically and institutionally. Since the late 1960s, however, they went through an unexpected and rapid acceleration, explained partly by the shift from elite to mass higher education, which entailed a sudden rise in the number of students choosing ethnological and anthropological courses as part of their curriculum, and partly by a booming interest in the social and human sciences. The growth of cultural anthropology, initially understood in Italy as a discipline concerned almost exclusively with complex societies, greatly contributed to this success story, but it also caused tensions with ethnologists, who believed that research should focus on ‘primitive’ societies. On the other hand, cultural anthropology’s orientation towards Italian society and culture provided a bridge with the work of students of Italian folk-life and the two fields blended into a distinctive national variety of anthropology, strongly influenced by Antonio Gramsci’s reflections on folklore as well as by the insights of Ernesto De Martino. The launching of the Bologna process in 1999 offered new opportunities and made possible the establishment of first- and second-level degree courses specifically devoted to the teaching and learning of socio-cultural anthropology and ethnology, which in turn led to a further increase in the number of anthropology students. However, this expansion has proved structurally fragile and some opportunities have been missed: in view of the greatly augmented number of new graduates, the need for anthropology to receive proper professional recognition has become especially acute. The new and radical university reform enacted amid furious controversy in 2010 casts shadows on Italian anthropology’s prospects for the future. Much will depend on the will and ability of Italian anthropologists to invest more on a skill-based pedagogy than on the mere academic reproduction of the discipline.
European Anthropologies
Berghahn
Anthropology of Europe
2
110
127
978-1-78533-607-2
Anthropology, Ethnology, Italy
Pier Paolo Viazzo
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2318/1649799
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