Accepted Paper:

Marx, Sherlock Holmes and Late Italian Prehistory  


Jonas Danckers (Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium))

Paper short abstract:

Although Italy was never fully dominated by a communist regime, the Marxist-inspired intellectual milieu around the Istituto Gramsci left its mark on the research on Protostoria Italiana.

Paper long abstract:

After WWII, the Italian political scene was largely dominated by Christian-Democrats and the Italian Communist Party. Although Italy was never fully controlled by a communist regime, the Partito Communista Italiano (until 1984 financed by Moscow) was, during the 1970s, the biggest communist party in Western Europe. In 1950 the party founded the Istituto Gramsci, a study centre with aims to influence Italy's intellectual and scientific life. Within its democratic and western context, the Institute was not a propaganda tool of the Party but promoted Marxist theory indirectly by providing an intellectual platform for discussion. In 1988, Wickham argued that the group around Carandini (classical archaeologist) was influenced by this intellectual and political context.

Starting from the idea that understanding the historiography behind current interpretations is the precondition for creating fresh viewpoints, I argue that the aforementioned intellectual context left its mark on the Protostoria Italiana research, especially visible in the achievements by the late Renato Peroni. His maestri (e.g., Bandinelli) were affiliated at the Institute and Peroni's works (1989,1996,2004) show a clear Marxist imprint. I suggest that the specificity of the Italian academia, Peroni's intellectual strength, and the fact that he occupied the first Italian chair in Protostoria Europea, allowed his Marxist ideas (along with the cultural-historical approach he became acquainted with in Germany) to significantly influence studies on Late Italian Prehistory. The different ways his pupils reworked his conceptual framework reverberated all over the Peninsula.

Panel S22
Archaeology under communism: political dimensions of archaeology