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The dark sides of culture

di Stefano Monti

The dark sides of culture

Barbara Kruger, in one of her famous artworks affirms: When I hear the word culture, I take out my checkbook. This provocation well evokes a wide range of associations related to culture: theatres, music performances, artworks, and so on. Another well-known quote says: “Whenever I hear of culture, I release the safety on my Browning”. This quote, misattributed to various Nazi leaders, is included in a Hanns Johst play “Schlageter”. Following recent interpretations, with this statement, the author well describes a common feelng related to what “Kultur” (the word used in the original play) represented during the ’20s and the ‘30s in Germany. In German, in fact, the word Kultur refers to what we could define as “high culture” in contemporary interpretation. This kind of culture was a privilege of the coeval elites. Kultur was often “a way of legitimizing the preferences of one group, and delegitimizing the preferences of another”. On closer inspection, these quotes have much in common: in both cases the word “culture” induces a reaction, and in both cases the “reaction” is in some way “violent”. The difference between the two interpretations is just in the weapon that Kruger (checkbook) or Josht (Browning) use.

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Gestire cultura

Museum Archaeological Collection Storage: reassessing needs and priorities

di Brunella Muttillo

A museum does not survive if it does not preserve its works. The tools and places essential for preserving the works are the storages (Mottola Molfino 1991). Unfortunately, despite the ever-increasing attention paid to museums, the storage plays a marginal role: an invisible (or almost invisible) resource for the community, whose potential is often little explored and/or valued. In Italy, the awareness of the importance of museum collection storage is a relatively recent achievement that has experienced a considerable delay compared to other countries (Fossà 2005). Recognising the storage – in the same way as the exhibition spaces – a dynamic and multifaceted role linked not only to conservation, but also to research and development (Rémy 1999; Della Monica et al. 2004; Beaujard-Vallet 2011), today constitutes a fundamental challenge for museums, if they want to preserve their role as centres of knowledge at the service of the community. This challenge becomes even more difficult and problematic for storages of archaeological material, which undergo a continuous and exponential increase (Marini Calvani 2004; Shepherd and Benes 2007; Papadopoulos 2015). What is the situation of archaeological museum storage? What problems do they face? In 2014-2015, a statistical survey was conducted by the writer during her doctoral research project at the University of Ferrara, in collaboration with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and with the National Association of Local and Institutional Museums (Muttillo  2015, 2016, 2017). The purpose of the survey was to create an updated and comprehensive mapping of the archaeological museum heritage not exhibited, collecting information on the management of goods in storage, mainly on: a) inventory and cataloguing; b) preservation: safety and control of risk parameters; c) structure and organization of storage; d) professional figures involved in the study, care and management of the collections; e) valuation of storage, in terms of accessibility, visibility and use. Archaeological museums[1], both state and not state[2], have been investigated through a specially designed questionnaire, also available online [3]. The survey has allowed to identify critical elements and priority areas of intervention.

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Luoghi insoliti

Local Conflicts and the NO-TAP Protest

di Michele Longo

This paper is about the local conflict which emerged in Apulia, and more exactly in the province of Lecce, as a form of opposition to the major project known as TAP (Trans-Adriatic Pipeline), aimed at transporting Azeri natural gas to Italy and Northern Europe. Reflecting on the question of TAP requires first of all a theoretical background against which we may set our empirical observation. In this paper, we will try and trace images and narratives so as to identify the history and features of a movement that, although young, may be intended as a litmus test useful to understand the new and sometimes invisible cleavages that affect today’s society. By choosing the TAP case as a model of a new kind of movement, not reducible to the characteristics of the “Nimby” phenomenon, we will try and study the somewhat invisible political and economic relations, which legitimize some processes of territorial control, as well as the practices by which the state or private bodies can implement it. Although the TAP protest is just a case-study, it is quite complex. This implies that, by narrating its history and describing its characteristics, one may better understand, on the micro level, the processes that convert collective heterogeneity into an active homogeneity, and, at the macro level, the national and international strategies (both political and economic) behind this major project. This may eventually contribute to a less generic definition of local conflicts (sometimes known as territorial conflict). In modern scientific literature on territorial movements, one interesting reference is Luigi Bobbio [1]. With Bobbio, it can be said that territorial conflicts have by now outnumbered both in qualitative and quantitative terms other types of social conflicts. Moreover, Bobbio considers as a characteristic of these kind of conflicts the fact that they are no longer the output of a two-dimensional clash between the dominant and the dominated class, but are the expression of the multiple segregations that contemporary society has produced. The plurality of exclusion has paradoxically produced a flattening of society in which fear and risk tend to drive the dynamics of social action. At a first and careless analysis, Bobbio would seem to promote a depoliticized vision of society, in which class conflicts disappear to be replaced by the new tendencies of late modernity. The political scientist underlines the main characteristic of these conflicts, namely: “The common feature of these protests is the fact that they are promoted and run by ad-hoc citizens’ committees, which propose themselves as non-partisan and authentic representatives of their community. Participants often receive the support of environmental associations or political groups, but try to claim and maintain their autonomy as an expression of the territory and of those who live there.”[2] The emphasis placed by Bobbio on the aspect of self-representativeness allows us to overcome the “idealtipical” image of territorial protest as a “shapeless mass”, in which individual interests converge without any aggregate logic, as if mere action was sufficient to structure solid social networks. The fact that the participants receive support from associations and groups of autonomous individuals underlines that a foundational element of the action of local movements is a strong awareness of collective interests. This awareness is relevant in the process by which a specific territorial group defines its objectives and structures its identity. The social networks which issue from local conflict are therefore expressions of the values through and against which the movement defines its own autonomy. Multiple networked social relations are essential to any territorial conflict and represent the product of a collective choice of distinction (or of taking a position) which legitimises a collectively shared habitus. The collectively shared habitus is the key to understand the social mechanisms of action and distinction (both external and internal) that allow a group to structure its collective heterogeneity as an active homogeneity. Moreover, the single movement is never isolated, as it is the autonomous component of a network of local movements, which makes territorial vindications the integral part of a much wider conflict.

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