Memory studies in Trento – Multidisciplinary perspectives (con Ester Gallo e Alessia Bellusci)

Studiare la memoria a Trento – Prospettive multidisciplinari
6 marzo 2024
Orario di inizio 
Palazzo di Sociologia - Via Verdi 26, Trento
Aula Piscopia
Organizzato da: 
Giorgia Proietti
Ingresso libero
Giorgia Proietti
staff di Dipartimento Lettere e Filosofia
0461 282913
Ester Gallo e Alessia Bellusci

Ester Gallo (Unitn), Impure genealogies. Recalling colonialism across the public-private divide /Genealogie imperfette: storia coloniale e memoria tra pubblico e privato

Indian political history has been inscribed into the intimate lives of many colonial subjects. Between the end of the XIXth century and the middle of the XXth, the project of a ‘modern India’ was marked, among other things, by the decline of landed aristocracy and the rise of a new and internally heterogeneous middle class. In the process, old marriage and kinship customs started to be increasingly scrutinised by colonial rulers and community reformers in the name of modernity. Novel models of love, inheritance, conjugality and parenthood were debated alongside emerging ideas of class decency and aspirations, and became important landmarks of social and economic progress.
What is left of this intimate, often traumatic, past in present kinship memories? To what extent, and how, do recalling and forgetting frame contemporary class-based ideas of family relations?
This talk discusses the interlinkages between political history, kinship, and memory in the context of Indian inter-generational making of modern middle classes: it engages with the question of how colonial histories are evoked, silenced or recalled in the private domain, and the role played by the materiality of memories (diaries, genealogies, domestic objects) in forging class status.
The analysis engages with two sets of debates that have often remained disconnected: on the one hand, postcolonial and feminist historical analysis of middle-class formation and, on the other, new kinship studies. While the former assume that contemporary middle classes are longing towards an idealised (pre-colonial) past, the second analyses the kinship-class nexus through either an ‘eternal present’ or a ‘linear genealogy’ framework. Both fail to empirically question the extent to which, and how, past middle-class engagement with colonial rule and with the nationalist struggle is retrieved in the present.
Based on a 10-year ethnography and archive research in India and in Indian diasporic locations, the analysis suggests the concepts of impure genealogy and kinship temporal ruptures as lens to understand the ambivalent ways in which contemporary middle classes claim responsibilities towards their past, while absolving the foreign rule of its legacy.

Ester Gallo is Associate Professor in Social Anthropology at the Department of Sociology of the University of Trento.
Since 2019, she is the National Co-coordinator of Scholars at Risk Italy and member of SAR International Advisory Committee on Academic Freedom. Before joining the University of Trento in 2016, she held research and teaching positions at the European University Institute-RSCAS, Gediz University, University of Edinburgh, University of Perugia and the University of Sussex. Her research interests include migration and gender, religious diversity and pluralism, colonial history and memory, kinship and class inequality, with specific reference to Southern Europe and South Asia. She has edited Migration and Religion in Europe: Comparative Perspectives on South Asian Experiences (Routledge, 2016). She is the author of The Fall of the Gods: Kinship, Memory and Middle Classes in South India (Oxford University Press, 2017). She co-authored with Francesca Scrinzi Migrant Men, Masculinities and Reproductive Labor: Men of the Home (Palgrave MacMillan 2016). Her current research focuses on forced migration and academic diplacement, and on refugee access to higher education.

Alessia Bellusci (Unive), Memory and magic in pre-modern Judaism / Memoria e magia nel giudaismo pre-moderno

The abundant publication of Jewish magical texts and artefacts in the past decades has unequivocally shown how magic is an important component of pre-modern Jewish culture, with no significant distinction between elite and popular groups. Many Jewish magical manuscripts and inscribed objects are copies of copies of earlier texts, thus attesting to the continuity of ancestral traditions and the transmission of cultural memory related to technical knowledge and exoteric beliefs. The talk will focus on a selection of manuscript fragments in Hebrew, Aramaic and Judeo- Arabic which were penned by Jews in medieval Cairo for magical purposes and which survived to us within the extensive collection of the Cairo Genizah (i.e. the collection of manuscript fragments discarded in the storeroom of the Ben Ezra synagogue in Old Cairo between the eight and the nineteenth century, which was discovered at the end of the nineteenth century). These fragments were used by medieval Cairene Jews to actively engage in a dream ritual known as sheʾelat ḥalom (dream request) in order to attain hidden knowledge or unknown information on contingent matters often related to everyday life. It will be shown how these texts – which were used, copied, and transmitted within medieval Cairo – actually reflect the oneiric experiences and the dreaming mind of much earlier dreamers, thus demonstrating how culture and religion can impact even intimate forms of cognition. The analysis of these texts will suggest how the cultural memory associated with the sheʾelat ḥalom succeeded in preserving and transmitting not only the ritual components of this dream technique, but also the related oneiric imagination and dream contents, which apparentlyremained unchanged in the passage between Late Antiquity to the medieval era, even though they lost their specific cultural meaning.

Alessia Bellusci is a historian of Hebrew culture who specializes in medieval Jewish thought, manuscript culture, and lived religion. Working at the intersection of history, religion and cultural anthropology, she studies the production and transmission of technical knowledge in pre-modern Judaism and the history of Jewish magic. After receiving a PhD from Tel Aviv University in 2017, she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Library of Israel, was a Blaustein postdoctoral associate in medieval Jewish history and lecturer in religious studies at Yale University, and a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fellow at Villa I Tatti – The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. She is currently Assistant Professor in History of Religions at Ca' Foscari University of Venice, in the Department of Asian and North African Studies. Her dissertation and forthcoming book was awarded the Shai Bleimann recognition by the Middle East & Islamic Studies Association of Israel in 2018.