«Un rapporto difficile» Storia antica e antropologia in Italia ai tempi del Cultural turn. Il dibattito su comparazione e analisi diacronica

Cristiano Viglietti


This article addresses some aspects of the controversial academic relationship between ancient history and cultural anthropology in Italy, by building on two works written between the late 1980’s and early 1990’s by two prominent ancient historians, namely C. Ampolo and P. Desideri.
Ampolo’s work (1986), on the role and limits of comparison in ancient history, reflects on the contemporary debate over the value of historical comparison between Moses Finley and Sally Humphreys. Ampolo largely took sides with the former, who supported a more evolutionary approach to historical comparison, and passed up the more «relativizing» model advocated by Humphreys.
Desideri’s work (1993), on the importance of diachronic analysis, tends to separate cultural anthropology from history, because in his opinion the former focuses on the reconstruction of general, static patterns, and therefore ignores history. Here Desideri is targeting a certain anti-historical approach in anthropology that was especially practiced by structural-functionalist scholars like A. Radcliffe-Brown. However, Desideri’s point seems to entirely overlook the pro-history trends in social and cultural anthropology advocated by the likes of E. Evans-Pritchard, C. Lévi-Strauss, A. Kroeber, C. Geertz, and especially M. Sahlins in his seminal Islands of History (1985).
The article finally encourages the development of a new, more aware and less prejudicial, relationship between ancient history and cultural anthropology in Italy by taking on some precious «decolonizing» advice given to ancient historians by A. Momigliano as early as the 1960’s.

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