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Accepted Paper:

The visual journey of "brigand" Villella's skull: from scientific exhibit to icon of "No Lombroso" protest   
Maria Teresa Milicia (Università di Padova)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I examine the “visual journey” – from first scientific drawning to actual photographic representation – of the image of "brigand" Giuseppe Villella’s skull that Cesare Lombroso exibited in 1871 as evidence of the Atavism, the foundation theory of Criminal anthropology.

Paper long abstract:

On a gloomy day of December 1870, at dawn, Cesare Lombroso found an anomalous shape into the base of the cranium of Giuseppe Villella, a suspected "brigand" who was brought from the Calabrian town of Motta Santa Lucia to Pavia prison, where he died in 1864. The scientist interpreted the anomaly as an evidence of the atavism, the foundation theory of Criminal anthropology. The brigand's skull became the staple of the Lombroso's craniological collection. When in November 2009 the renewed historical display of the Museum of Criminal Anthropology opened to visitors in Turin, a "No Lombroso" cartel of Neo-bourbon and other Southern political associations moved to protest over the "Horror Museum" and to demand the repatriation of the skull for burial. The political and juridical controversies between the «No Lombroso technical-scientific Committee» and the Museal staff is still going on.

In this paper I examine the "visual journey" of the image of brigand Villella's skull. I aim to focus on the changing of its historical temporality and mode of representation by tracing the successive stages of the image reproduction of Villella's skull:

from the first drawning and photo of scientific exhibit disseminated by Lombroso to

the actual symbolic "repatriation" into the visual archive of website and social network that contribute to produce a popular memory of the "colonial violence" in the South of Italy.

Panel P31
Changing hands, changing times? The social and aesthetic relevance of archival photographs and archival methodologies
  Session 1