Accepted Paper:

The haunted discipline: folklore studies between cultural policy and cultural brokerage: reflections from the Italian case  


Fabio Mugnaini (Università di Siena)

Paper short abstract:

How it has come about that the mere claim that folklore is a field of study free from involvement in politics is itself a clearly - though possibly unaware- political statement:  demonstrated by a  survey of the history of Italian folklore studies and by focusing on  some contemporary examples.

Paper long abstract:

Folklore studies have been constantly pervaded by a crucial relationship with political assumptions  or with political practices, even though at the same time they have been haunted by attempts to present folklore as an innocent topic and its knowledge as a neutral field.

In Italy, folklore studies revived in the Republican and democratic phase as an openly political approach to the subaltern culture, under the guide of de Martino and Cirese, who drew on Gramsci's philosophical and political legacy, even though, at the local level, many folklore institutions and folk actors, often strive to demonstrate their distance from the political debates and divides.

With the crisis of the great narratives of the late 80's, even the reciprocal implication between politics and folklore began to fade away. However politics reappears, within new missions for folklore research.

Right-wing regionalisms, ethnic pride issues, often phobic or discriminatory, enter into the play on the chessboard of folklore studies and of folklore promotion or support; there comes also the new universalistic paradigm of Unesco' s heritage, once extended to annexe the intangible cultural aspects of local communities and

minorities' life.

In such a context the folk scholar has to renew the historical commitment to the discipline of the everyday and of the common

people, meeting the subaltern cultures where they actually lie and grow,  stressing the value of the folk heritage beyond -or against- its touristic finalization, and making  folklore study explicit as a critique of the present political mainstream.

Panel Disc002
Engaged anthropology: Reality? Necessity? Utopia?