Book launch: “Il paese dimenticato. Nuto Revelli e la crisi dell’Italia contadina”

Nuto Revelli Foundation – Thursday 17 December 2020, 18 pm.

Live streaming on Zoom and Facebook

On Thursday 17 December, the book Il paese dimenticato. Nuto Revelli e la crisi dell’Italia contadina will be presented online on Zoom, in collaboration with the Nuto Revelli Foundation.

This volume analyses, through Revelli’s published works, interviews, and unpublished archival sources, how he contributed to the national debate about Italy’s industrial revolution, during the 1960s and 1970s.

Nuto Revelli (Cuneo 1919-2004) fought in WW2 as a Second Lieutenant in the Italian Alpine Corps on the Russian front (August 1942 – January 1943). His unit was deployed on the river Don, and as the Red Army broke through the defensive lines of the Axis, Revelli took part in the catastrophic retreat through the steppe in early 1943. As he made it back home, he struggled with PTSD, until the Fascist regime was overturned in July. As Italy exited the war on 8 September 1943, Revelli instinctively decided to leave his hometown and to hide in the mountains, where he founded his first partisan group. After a few months of stalemate, he joined a politically organised partisan group led by two eminent members of the secret antifascist party “Giustizia e Libertà”: Duccio Galimberti and Dante Livio Bianco.

The latter was a lawyer who befriended Revelli and introduced him to a politically aware form of antifascism. Revelli had been an enthusiastic supporter of fascism as a young boy. Only after his disastrous military experience in Russia, he had begun to think critically about Mussolini’s failures. Through the defeat in Russia, Revelli realised that fascism had caused Italy to fall into chaos by deceiving the Italians with its propaganda. His revolt, however, remained for many months instinctive and politically unaware. Only the encounter with Dante Livio Bianco stirred up Revelli’s malcontent and will to revenge, orienting it toward mature political awareness.

The antifascist party “Giustizia e Libertà” was established on principles such as moral intransigence and individual responsibility. The members of this party aimed to educate the youth on ethics and they argued claimed that Italy should become a republican democracy. Revelli poured everything in his partisan experience and was also seriously injured in September 1944, when he had a motorcycle accident that disfigured him.

The partisan war and antifascist education helped Revelli overcome his PTSD. After the war, he became a writer with the two personal narratives Mai tardi (1946, about his war in Russia); and La guerra dei poveri (1962, on his partisan experience). In the 1960s, though, he understood that war testimonies were mostly written by former officers, educated individuals, who had attended school and were used to reading and writing. Privates, who constituted the bulk of the Italian troops and were in large part uneducated and often even illiterate, had not published but very few memoirs. Their war experience remained, for the time being, vastly unknown and neglected by public opinion. Revelli thus found out that the war continued to inflict harm and to kill still many years after its end.

Revelli became an anthropologist and oral historian as he started collecting oral interviews of former Italian soldiers who had fought in Russia. He realised that the Italian post-war society had no interest in listening to the stories of these wrecked men, who often endured PTSD and other physical and spiritual injuries. Many of them were poor peasants, who, after the conflict, came back to a country that they could hardly recognise. In the meantime, Italy had gone under a thorough socio-economic transformation. Since the early 1950s, Italy started its industrial revolution, especially in the northern regions; and manpower was massively drained from the fields, in particular from the most fragile areas of the country, in the South as well as in the North.

Revelli saluted the fact that industrialisation introduced and spread new forms of well-being. Many peasants employed in factories began to collect more solid salaries that helped their families slowly emerge from poverty. However, this revolution imposed its toll. Peasants from the poorer agricultural areas had to decide if either to leave their land and move to the industrial cities in the North industrial workers; or to keep working in the fields part-time, alternating this job with shifts in the factories.

The reason for such a dramatic situation was due to the international political context in which Italy’s industrialisation unfolded. On the one hand, the American Marshall Plan aimed to transform the agricultural economies in the poorer countries (like Italy) into industrialised economic activities. As a consequence, the first accords of the European Economic Community in the 1950s designed the agricultural development strategies in terms of very competitive liberalism. That meant that those areas where agriculture was thriving received economic and technical support to grow faster and stronger into industrial establishments. The poor rural areas, though, did not receive the same support, so their population was forced to move to the cities and to transform quickly into industrial manpower. Quite cruelly, rural economists used to say, still in the 1960s, that the archaic rural economy had to become extinct through depopulation.

Unfortunately, not everyone was able to leave their fields and homes and move to the cities. Many elderly peasants had made sacrifices to buy their fields and homes and now were too old to become factory workers. Moreover, a relevant number of those peasants were WW2 veterans struggling with PTSD and chronic diseases. Peasant women in these rural areas were mostly illiterate too. In the 1950s, the Italian peasant culture still rested on ancient traditions including rigid religiousness and superstition. That culture exploited children as workers and confined women in the house under harsh conditions of ignorance and hard physical labour.

Revelli felt indignation as he discovered this concealed world existing almost unnoticed just outside his hometown. A few kilometres beyond the wealthy agricultural establishments in the plains, the rural world that showed itself on the hills and mountains was comparable to a medieval society. Revelli did not accept that the national political and economic agenda could leave these people to their extinction, just because they would not adapt to the new model of economic growth.

He devoted four books to the people of the archaic rural areas of his region, Piedmont: La strada del davai (1966, forty interviews with veterans from the Russian front and captivity – translated into English as Mussolini’s Death March); L’ultimo fronte. Lettere di soldati dispersi o caduti nella seconda guerra mondiale (1971, collecting about 1300 letters from KIA or MIA Italian soldiers); Il mondo dei vinti. Testimonianze di vita contadina (1977, over 200 oral testimonies from elderly peasants); and L’anello forte. La donna. Storie di vita contadina (1985, more than 200 oral interviews with female peasants).

Nuto Revelli today represents one important critical voice insofar as he reminds us that no one should be left behind in the name of economic growth. No well-being is such if it can be benefited only by the happy few to the detriment of the others.

Call for papers: “Archives during rebellions and wars. From the age of Napoleon to the cyber war era”

19-21 May 2021, Archivio di Stato di Milano, Milan, Italy

The CFP can be downloaded as PDF here: https://closeencountersinwarhome.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/symposium-asmi-2021-call-eng-2.pdf

DESCRIPTION

The title of this symposium makes reference to a paper presented on the 29th of November, 1914, at the School of Paleography, Diplomatics and Archival Science of the State Archives of Milan by Giovanni Vittani, who would become the director of that institution in 1920 until 1938. Clearly, a few months after the outbreak of the First World War, this subject was of great topical interest. Vittani discussed the heavy losses suffered by archives in Italy and abroad in the course of history, due to wars, revolutions and revolts. He concluded his speech stating that the only way of minimizing the destruction of archives, apart from international laws and sanctions, would be the development of a true «public interest»: only
«when

will be universally known for why they exist, that is, to everyone’s advantage, to the harm of no one, it will be inconceivable that anybody would think to endanger them on purpose». But this was wishful thinking, as the State Archives of Milan itself, in the summer of 1943, when Milan was heavily bombed, lost a large quantity of documents.


Archival preservation was always at risk during wars and rebellions, but during the age of Napoleon considerable innovations were introduced in this field, as in many others, and we are still today familiar with them. In earlier regimes, archives either were voluntarily destroyed, or became the spoils of war for practical reasons, such as using their information in order to rule new territories or, vice versa, to deprive enemies of the same information. From the beginning of the 19th century to the present day, new direct or indirect causes of danger for archives have developed. As shown in the book Archivio del mondo. Quando Napoleone confiscò la storia, by Maria Pia Donato, it was Napoleon who wanted to create a «great archives of the world» by transferring to Paris, the capital of the new Empire, documents from all of the occupied countries for the sole purpose of symbolizing the birth of a new universal history. From that time on, the historical and symbolical importance of archives has transformed them into political instruments for confirming or discrediting the legitimacy of wars and rebellions fought in the name of a national identity or an ideology.
Two hundred years after Napoleon’s death, the State Archives of Milan wishes to reflect on the theme of archives during wars and rebellions, aware of the fact that Vittani’s wish is still far from coming true, and that probably it will never come true. Wars of the third Millennium, which are also fought cybernetically, definitely refute the idea that archives are «to the advantage of all» and, above all, «of harm to no one». Two centuries after the death of the man who dreamed about the creation of a great
universal archives, colossal corporations have succeeded in collecting and managing an enormous bulk of data which, as the new «archives of the world», may become powerful instruments for influencing people’s thought and actions, even to the point of fostering or stirring up new wars.


SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE


Fabio Caffarena, Benedetto Luigi Compagnoni, Antonino De Francesco, Filippo De Vivo, Maria Pia Donato, Luciana Duranti, Pierluigi Feliciati, Andrea Giorgi, Marco Lanzini, Leonardo Mineo, Marco Mondini, Stefano Morosini, Stefano Moscadelli, Raffaele Pittella, Olivier Poncet, Stefano Vitali.


STRUCTURE


The symposium will be structured into 5 sessions, each one dedicated either to an historical period or to one of the themes listed below, depending on the proposals that will be submitted. Each presentation will last 20 minutes, followed by a 5-minute period for questions and answers.


SUBMISSIONS


The deadline for the submission of proposals is September 30th, 2020. Proposals will consist of an abstract, in English and Italian (400 words maximum), a curriculum vitae showing the speaker’s principal areas of expertise and research. Papers may be presented either in English or in Italian. For speakers who prefer to present in another language, a simultaneous translation will be provided, under the condition that the text of the paper be submitted well in advance of the event. However, an English or Italian translation of the paper will be required for publication in the Proceedings. Final papers may be presented in English or in Italian, with an indicative deadline for the submission by August 31st, 2021. The subsequent publication of the Proceedings with an international publisher is expected. E-mail for submissions: convegnoasmi2021@gmail.com.


THEMES


1 – Archives, wars, and diplomacy

Management, transformation, and creation of archives before, during or after a war;

How archivists and their profession change during war time;

Archives of diplomacy.

2 – Secret archives and public archives

Access to records and archives;

Archives as instrument of power;

Archives as instrument for exercising civil rights.


3 – Archives and “Empire”, Archives and “Nation”, Archives and “De-colonization”

Archives as symbols of power;

Archives as identity;

Archives during crises, revolts and transitional periods.


4 – Archives as “Instruments” and Archives as “Monuments”

The retention and/or disposition of archives in order to build an historical narrative;

The construction of archives (collections of autographs, correspondence, letters, oral sources, diaries,
etc.; community archives);

Dismembered, dispersed, destroyed, migrated and removed archives / archives preserved deliberately
or accidentally.


5 – Archives and technology

Archives as technological products and instruments;

Reliability and authenticity of archives in the era of cyber security and artificial intelligence;

Data use and control.

Forms, History, Narrations, Big Data: Morphology and Historical Sequence

International conference, Turin, 21-22 November 2019

The conference will address issues in the field of historiography, literary criticism and the wider area of interpretative practices of artistic and literary works organizing a dialogue among various disciplines and perspectives. The aim is to resume the critical and philosophical debate on the issue of form and its modern variations or developments, first articulated in the works of Georg Simmel, André Jolles, Aby Warburg, Roland Barthes, Paul Ricoeur, and others. This debate revolved on the dialectics of sequence and simultaneity, diachronic succession and system, in order to gain a richer understanding of the notions of transformation and structure (central to structuralism, post-structuralism) as well as literary and artistic interpretation (central to hermeneutics).

Conference announcement: “Giellismo e Azionismo. Cantieri aperti”

15th edition, Turin, Istoreto, 17-18 May 2019

The Istituto Piemontese per la Storia della Resistenza e della Società Contemporanea “Giorgio Agosti” will host the 15th edition of the research seminar “Giellismo e azionismo – cantieri aperti” on the 17th and 18th of May 2019.

The complete program of the seminar can be downloaded at:

http://www.istoreto.it/ricerca/giellismo-e-azionismo-cantieri-aperti/#