Who Knows What? Negotiating 'Local Culture' in the Italian Alps
Jaro Stacul (University of Victoria)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing upon research conducted in the Italian Alps of Trentino, the paper examines the ways the economic crisis and the subsequent decline of the 'public sphere', as a domain of social interaction, affect the intergenerational communication of different kinds of knowledge.
Paper long abstract:
Considerable attention has been paid, in Anthropology and History, to the ways in which European mountain communities have been reproducing themselves socially over time. Yet the questions of how such communities reproduce themselves culturally, and of how 'local culture' (broadly defined) is communicated from one generation onto another in the face of technological change and of the economic crisis remain largely unexplored. Drawing upon research conducted in the Italian Alps of Trentino, this paper discusses the ways 'local culture' is renegotiated in some communities at a time when the decline of forestry and the scarcity of manual jobs force most of their inhabitants to commute to other places, and when the village elders have lost much of their moral authority as repositories of knowledge. The paper shows that up until very recently the availability of manual jobs in the area and the existence of a 'public sphere', as a domain of social interaction, fostered the intergenerational communication of different kinds of knowledge and skills, as well as the incorporation of information and ideological messages emanating from the centres of political and economic power into 'local culture' itself. The paper pursues the argument that the availability of virtual media and the subsequent access to a wide range of information have contributed to a considerable degree to the erosion of these communities' putative cultural autonomy. Yet at the core of this process also lies the decline of the 'public sphere' as the space within which 'local culture' is communicated, negotiated, and contested.
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