Accepted paper:

Obsession with immutability. traditions, cultural heritages and other things that are not supposed to change


Alessandro Testa (Charles University, Prague)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is about how the theoretical notion and the social practice of “tradition” can constitute an opposition (or a different declination) of the “obsession with chance” evoked in the panel’s title and presentation.

Paper long abstract:

The anthropology of Europe and other kin disciplines - ethnology, folklore, historical anthropology, oral history, etc. - have always had to deal with the problem of "tradition" considered as both an academic notion and a social belief and practice. In the last twenty years or so, though, this long-lasting methodological problem has been radically rethought, also thanks to new evidence, suggestions, and theorization coming from anthropological studies on memory, narratives about the past, nostalgia, monuments and lieux de mémoire, and cultural heritages. In this presentation, I will provocatively address the main issue presented in the title and evoked in the panel's introductory abstract as follows: (I quote) "Is there a late-modern obsession with change or is the very idea of change at the core of the Enlightenment project?". In fact, the very notion of tradition as it is commonly conceived and used seems to collide with the temporal and imaginative discourses relying on modern (and/or late-modern) categories of change, development, progress, evolution, and others. I will build and present my arguments on the basis of the ethnographic evidence collected during my fieldwork in Italy and Czech Republic but also - and not secondarily - on the basis of historical and anthropological literature that has addressed the topic of tradition and traditions in Europe in a critical manner (from the well-known book edited by Hobsbawm and Ranger [1983] to my forthcoming article named "La tradizione. Riflessioni critiche su una nozione controversa" [2014]).

panel P056
Obsession with change