Emigration in a South Italian Town: An Anthropological History

Emigration in a South Italian Town: An Anthropological History

Emigration in a South Italian Town: An Anthropological History

Emigration in a South Italian Town: An Anthropological History

Excerpt

A word is in order on my methodological and theoretical approach to this work. Until recently, anthropologists (and other social scientists) were prone to downplay history in their work. This was, no doubt, in part a function of the discipline's traditional focus on preliterate societies. To the extent that history was incorporated at all, it was gleaned from oral traditions and the recollections of tribal elders.

As anthropologists turned their attention to Europe, few were prepared to address the plethora of available written records on even one small community. I recall the trepidation with which I approached the municipal archive of Echalar, Navarra, upon initiating a comparative study of depopulation in two Spanish Basque villages. The wall of the council chambers was lined with a chaotic mass of parchment and paper, some dating back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. I made the rather arbitrary decision to use the earliest available (mid-nineteenthcentury) household census as a base line so that I could ignore all of the earlier documentation. While this eased my task, it did not improve the analysis.

In initiating the Agnone study, I was determined to effect a more meaningful marriage of anthropological and historical methods. In some respects the decision was costly, for it added years to my original timetable. Once having made such a commitment, however, I can no longer conceive of any other satisfactory approach to the study of my main research concern: the causes and consequences of emigration. Furthermore, only by casting the historical net broadly was it possible to address the more challenging question of why transatlantic emigration from the Molise essentially began in the town of Agnone, province of Isernia.

Having framed the research question in such terms, I believe that my current study highlights as much as any to date both the strengths and weaknesses, the platforms and pitfalls of anthropological history. An thropologists concerned with social change, yet wary or devoid of histor-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.