“I never left Lacedonia”. The 1950s Italian Mezzogiorno in Frank Cancian’s Visual Ethnography

Francesco Faeta

Università degli Studi di Messina
Università La Sapienza di Roma


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Faeta, Francesco, 2020. ““I never left Lacedonia”. The 1950s Italian Mezzogiorno in Frank Cancian’s Visual Ethnography”, in BEROSE - International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

URL BEROSE: article2127.html

Published as part of the research theme “History of Italian Anthropology”, directed by Giordana Charuty (EPHE, IIAC).

Views From Afar, Views From Home. Italian Mezzogiorno Through the Looking Glass of Foreign and Italian Researchers

This article is from a book published in conjunction with the photographic exhibition held in Rome at the Museum of Civilizations (Museo delle Civiltá, MuCiv). [1] It is undertaken with the precious collaboration of Frank Cancian [2] and helps shed light on an important episode of anthropology in the Italian Mezzogiorno. Its aim is, for the first time, to give an in-depth account of the results of a visual ethnographic investigation, conducted with a monographic approach by the American anthropologist in 1957; [3] this investigation, to my knowledge, is unique in the vast panorama of initiatives. Some of these are related to the perspective of community studies, carried out in the Italian South in the post-war period, during the intense season of reflection and research undergone by scholars of both Italian and foreign social sciences. [4]

Italians and foreigners, except for limited exceptions which I will come back to, did not have simple reciprocal contacts: the analyses put forth by both did not become part of a unique and dialoguing heritage of data and knowledge; many of the essays written in other languages were not translated into Italian; and in Italy, the overall reception of the investigative work and the theoretical background achieved by foreigners was sporadic and marginal. At times, there were deep misunderstandings and bitter controversies with external scholars, while some of them were (hastily) accused of being in the pay of Western investigative bodies, and in particular North Americans, who were interested in acquiring knowledge about the Italian social reality in an anti-communist context. [5] The cold war climate, the cultural hegemony of the Marxist left and its diffidence towards social sciences, along with the neo-realist imprinting of representations of the Italian popular world, certainly did not facilitate dialogue, understanding and collaboration.

It should without doubt be noted that the overall effort to study the reality of the Italian South, particularly (but not only) by the United States, was not exempt from pressing political interest. This was based on the numerous agencies which, since the Second World War, had been dedicated to financing the Italian reconstruction, and on their research and intervention projects (the American Foreign Economic Administration’s pioneering action is worth remembering, for example). It wasn’t just American politics that had an interest in intervening in an area of the world where social protest tended to build orders that differed from capitalism; industrial and financial circles were also committed to it, divided between speculative interest and a reformist perspective, between commitment for knowledge and aspiration to describe a world that abandoned its archaism to embrace new forms and new models of life, entirely conforming to ‘Western’ instances. A rather distinct alliance of interests, people, political orientations and institutions were behind the project of knowledge regarding the Italian South that foreign researchers were carrying out. These, in turn, were often entrapped in a profound political-cultural contradiction between their progressive vocation and the objective utility within a conservative perspective of their work, completely unfocused, in Italy at the time; it was defined, however, in approximate and doubtful terms, without a further, dutiful, effort to study it in detail even later on. [6] In general terms, what was missing in the Italian analysis is a careful appraisal of the complex link that united the social survey and its institutional and academic anchoring. This was the case in countries other than Italy and in particular in the United States and was done through the financing of research, the implementation mechanism of doctorates and the creation of the relevant courses. To assume a sort of international Spectre, presided over by the attentive president of the United States, who extends his vigilance to the remote village of the rural South; to assume a premature ‘Camelotization’ (forgive me for this inelegant neologism) of research in the Italian South is, in my opinion, completely inadequate; so is the unclear matter of the profound changes that have taken place, in managing relations between politics and anthropology, between the naturalistic approach linked to colonial and post-colonial management and the later sociological approach linked to the management of post-war global capitalism. [7]

However, aside from the overall political-cultural context, the study traditions with which Italians and foreigners approached investigation in the South were so diverse that both dialogue and confrontation appeared truly problematic. Nevertheless, as I have mentioned, some important cases of collaboration should not be forgotten or underestimated. [8]

Although this is not the appropriate place for a critical analysis of an era that paid quite different attention to Italian and foreign experiences, it can be briefly noted that the two research approaches had closely functional relationships with the ideological background and the political affair that was going on behind them: radicalism, intensely doctrinal, yet supported by a strong theoretical framework on the Italian side; reformism on the foreign side, particularly the American. This was empirically characterized, open to the sociological importance of the societies being observed but notably bound by institutional instances and misled by a set of recurrent prejudices regarding the South and by a peculiar approach. In my opinion, the peculiar approach, as we will see further on, dated back mainly to Harvard and Chicago and lay in the predominance of a hermeneutic criterion centred around the question of values; this criterion led to an abstract conceptualization from the historical statute of reference of the individual societies observed, with their marginal condition ending up meta-historically, to a certain extent. [9]

Nevertheless, the period in question produced important publications, composed of monographs and essay papers which appeared in national and foreign journals, and fomented an intense debate, parallel to that linked to the important, and often traumatic, national post-war political events. [10] In these publications, however, photography, in the form of a systematic exploration of the reality of a small rural centre was, apart from the exception on which we dwell, absent.

Actually, there was no shortage of systematically conducted photographic surveys, especially by the Italian side. With regard to the period we are interested in, one need look no further the extensive investigation conducted in the fifties/sixties, than the forms of social and cultural life by the painter Ernesto Treccani from Melissa, in Calabria. He was not immediately connected to an explicitly (and academically) anthropological instance, yet was animated by a profound sensitivity for our discipline, as well as by a vast culture relating to the conditions of the towns of the rural South. [11] One need look no further than the lucid exploration by Arturo Zavattini in the Ràbata in Tricarico, Lucania. It was conducted in 1952, under the direction of de Martino and carried out in just a few days without the intention of describing a town as a whole around the central thematic focus, that of music of oral tradition and its executors. [12] One need look no further than the anthropological illustration work conducted by Paul Strand and Cesare Zavattini in 1952-55, in Luzzara, Emilia, which referred to the rural and peasant reality of another area in the country. [13]

Aside from these experiences, however, photography was used to document magical-religious contexts, expressive forms related to singing and popular music, the overall backwardness of the countryside and the persistence of tradition and archaisms. This practice had an ample and widespread territorial basis and a methodological-critical approach quite distant from the investigation of communities (take, for instance, the work of Franco Pinna, Ando Gilardi, André Martin, Annabella Rossi; Chiara Samugheo, Sebastiana Papa, Federico Patellani, Fosco Maraini and many others, who were operators linked to the reportage and the photo-journalistic field and somewhat removed from training and scientific purposes).

Foreign scholars, for their part were bearers of research methods and narrative styles that were totally different from those of the authors mentioned so far. They made little use of photography in their studies on the Italian territory, and only for ancillary purposes. Only a few of them focused on the locations with any attention. Holger Rasmussen, for example, a Danish scholar, conducted ethnological and ethnographic research in Calabria and Lucania in 1953 and 1955, subsidized by the Statensalmindelige Videnskabsfond in Copenhagen, as part of a complex collaboration experiment between Danish institutions (MellemfolkeligtSamvirke) and the Unione Nazionale per la Lotta contro l’Analfabetismo (National Union for the Fight against Illiteracy – UNLA), which lasted for a few years. He based his work mainly on the town of Sartano, in Calabria, in which he stayed for a long time, and made some use of photography, illustrating aspects of local life, particularly with regard to material culture. [14]Andreas Fridolin Weis Bentzon, also Danish, conducted research in the Sardinian villages around Cabras between1952 and 1958, analysing the launeddas and their players as the thematic focus, and used photography with considerable investigative capacity, often found in later historiography. The main subject of his images were the dancing-musical practices connected with his research topic, observed from the perspective of an encounter between ethnomusicology and cultural anthropology, yet his persistent and attentive presence in some of the villages mentioned above (such as Cabras, Villaputzu, Ortacesus, Oristano) also directed his photographic survey, albeit in an embryonic manner, in the direction of an investigation into the overall forms of local social life. [15]

There were also surveys that were aimed at community inquiry, carried out by non-social science scholars, but in close contact with them. Perhaps the most noteworthy case was conducted in 1951-52 by Henri Cartier-Bresson in Matera, on behalf of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. This was a specific Italian liaison, the Comitato Amministrativo Soccorso Ai Senzatetto (UNRRA-Casas), in close contact with its operators who, thanks to Mazzarone’s careful cultural mediation and direction, produced a remarkably effective ethnographic representation of the city. [16]

Furthermore, from a reportage perspective, foreigners also photographed the South as a whole for quite some time. The reportage style of these authors, particularly Americans, was actually among the most contiguous with the human sciences, many of them coming from a consolidated tradition of investigation into social realities. This tradition was rooted in the contexts of the Farm Security Administration and the Photo League and it was realized through the agencies concerned (Magnum above all) and eventually, as we will also see closely with regard to Cancian, through magazines, chiefly those referable to Henry Luce’s entrepreneurial and intellectual action, Time, Life and Fortune. In the 1950s, to give just a few examples, Milton Gendel, a photographer who came to Italy through a Fulbright scholarship, documented the South for some time, particularly with reference to Sicily, thanks also to the active interest of Cipriana Artom Scelba and the closeness to Bruno Zevi and Adriano Olivetti (we will focus on some of these characters later). Gendel also shared a well-known trip to Sicily with Marjory Collins. [17]The photographer, in turn, was among those most active in documenting the Lucanian world wrapped in its traditional misery and on its way, appreciated by American public opinion, towards new forms of social organization. David (Chim) Seymour (who, like Cartier-Bresson, was among the founders of Magnum), photographed the region in turn, in close contact with Carlo Levi, as well as Ester Bubley and Dan Weiner. [18] However, among those who went to Sardinia were, in addition to Seymour, Werner Bischof, Sheldon M. Machlin and Wolfgang Suschitzky. Sardinia was the destination for a very large number of international photographers (not just Americans), many of whom came from those agencies and committed groups mentioned above, some of them involved in the documentation of reformist activities managed by Italian or foreign social transformation agencies. Suschitzky comes to mind; he was active in the early 1950s in illustrating the work carried out by the regional authorities for the fight against malaria, with the support of various American organizations, including the Rockefeller Foundation. Machlin also went to the island in 1954, along with the Italians Plinio De Martiis, Pablo Volta and Franco Cagnetta (his photographs would go on to illustrate various international editions of the anthropologist’s famous study on Orgosolo). [19]

As a whole, however, the anthropology of foreign scholars in Italy was a science of words and, at times, of quantitative data, summarized in table images. It focused on the analysis of the community and its social and political mechanisms (with particular attention to the family, kinship, clientelism and the organization of the rural economy), and was a prolific and interesting anthropology (albeit with the limitations that have often been noted, especially in Italy’s national context).

Cancian’s work in Lacedonia, Campania, on the other hand, created with a camera throughout his six months of fieldwork, can be considered fully fledged monographic work, centred on the analysis of the local dimension. This is not just due to the completeness and depth of the observation of the community’s social and cultural life, but also the young scholar’s awareness of the importance of photography as an instrument for exploring reality, while still training as an anthropologist. The images remained in an archive for over sixty years and input to their aggregation in a complete narrative comes today from outside. However, I consider that the original intent of the author, his overall cultural and scientific vicissitude as it unfolded in the years to come with the realization of other ethno-photographic monographs and the very consistency of his archive, amply justify what I expressed above.

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Photo 1.

Frank Cancian, People of Lacedonia, 1957.

© MAVI Archive, Cancian Fund, Lacedonia (AV).

The Frank Cancian’s Lacedonian Archives: A Depository of Images

The photographs dedicated to Italy are part of the larger Cancian archive (hereinafter this section will be indicated with the abbreviation AFC-Italy). After being stored for quite some time by the author, they were donated to the community of Lacedonia in his will in 2017, and are now preserved on site. [20] The donation consists of 1,801 b/w frames in 35 mm format, printed on Kodak film (Plus-X 125 ASA and Tri-X 400 ASA) and placed in container sheets, in turn kept in two 19 × 25 cm format boxes, accompanied by photocopies of the contact prints. These prints, 18 × 24 cm in size, are kept separately in an additional box, originally used to hold photographic papers (Leonar-Leigrano, Werke Arndt &Löwengard, Wandsbek, Germany). The 1,801 frames are distributed across 57 films (each comprising a different number of photos) distinguished by the indication of series A5 (similar to that of the original contact prints), followed by the progressive, but not linear, numbering from 101 to 403 (the storage sequences are numbered from 101 to 103, from 201 to 218, from 301 to 347, and from 401 to 403). The entire series includes a digital reproduction organized in the same way and marked by the identifying symbol A6, yet distributed on 71 contact prints. A handwritten note by the author, entitled Lacedonian Negatives, dated 25 September 2009, accompanies the negatives and prints, in which general indications are given on the analogue and digital archiving process.

Neither the negatives nor the contact prints are currently filed in compliance with the specific standards; however, it should be noted that the materials, which appear to be preserved in a decent state, arrived in Lacedonia directly from the author. On the date of my observation, moreover (September 2019), they were not kept on premises suitable for conservation. As mentioned above, Cancian attached the digital files to the negatives, in TIFF format, currently stored on hard disks, equipped with contact prints in pdf format, which he had had made under his direct supervision, through the United States, in India. [21] An additional 75-page document was added to the photographic material containing the hand-written field notes, written by the young scholar during his period in the town of Irpinia. [22]

Careful observation of the AFC-Italy prints reveals a complexity of the photographic observation. Every single roll of film shows, internally, a remarkable thematic compactness; it rarely jumps from one topic to another; the various topoi are dealt with systematically, with postponements from frame to frame, with a gradual exploration of the subject or theme and with a progressive search concerning linguistic interpretation. The framing of the individual snapshots is extremely precise; they hardly ever need cutting or touch-ups to be published in a definitive version. The technical quality is quite high; rarely do any of the shots reveal important technical imperfections; many are repeats of the same subject and as such we are spoiled for choice with respect to aesthetic results and with respect to scientific significance. There are no signs of the author on the contact prints as evidence of framing options during the reproduction phase, or other printing indications. There are also no captions, which the author did not draft at the time, nor in the further reorganizational phase of the donation fund. The overall vision of the prints gives the feeling of work carried out with a highly systematic approach and determination in the perspective of a monographic restitution of the community experience or, in any case, of that part that was it possible to represent through photography.

On a more general level, Cancian’s photographic archive, created over the long years of his training and fieldwork, is based on images created for small projects on various subjects and, in addition to the Italian one, in four further important nuclei more closely connected to ethnographic work; the first, in chronological order, is dedicated to the life of the Native Americans in the Arizona Fort Apache reserve (using 35 mm. b/w images, taken in the summer of 1955, in preparation for his degree thesis in philosophy at the Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, the negatives of which were donated to the relevant tribe); the third (the second refers to the AFC-Italy photos) is reserved for Zinacantán, Mexico, the result of long, repeated stays, conducted from 1960 to 1992, made up of 4,500 35 mm b/w negatives and 200 35 mm colour slides, filed at Harvard University and the University of California, Irvine; the fourth, which refers to housecleaners in Orange County, California, yet again made on film between 2000 and 2002 and published in 2006, are still with the author; the fifth, in digital format [23] and found online in parts, concerns life at the University of California, Irvine’s main streets; it was taken in 2011 in digital format, and now forms part of the University’s archive. [24] Some of these works have given rise to monographic texts that enrich the recent American visual ethnography, while others can be seen online, as mentioned. [25] The smaller projects referred to above, made partly on film and partly in digital format, are entitled Short Stories, Volleyball Dance and While Waiting by the author and are published, with short presentation comments, on his personal website. [26]

Hence, it was not the anthropologist’s choice to keep the images created over time for himself and preserve their heritage; rather, it was to place them, through targeted donations, in institutions which could hypothetically have the greatest interest in using them and, as a result, maximum availability to enhance them.

Frank Cancian: the Anthropologist and the Photographer

Frank Cancian was born in the United States, in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, in 1934, to Italian parents: his mother, Emma Lazzerin, came from a small hamlet (Forno) in Zoldo, in the province of Belluno, while his father, Francesco (Frank), was born in Mogi das Cruzes in Brazil, to parents who emigrated from Vittorio Veneto. [27] His mother, who had arrived in America in 1903, a few months after her birth, with a substantial part of her family (in which the men were blacksmiths who specialized in manufacturing nails), remained there permanently. His father, born in 1901, returned to the Veneto region from Brazil with his family when he was still a child, and remained there for a considerable period of time. He was enlisted in the First World War as a soldier in the Italian army; he then emigrated to the USA in 1922 and never returned to Italy. Francesco, the anthropologist recalls, came from a family of construction workers and arrived in Stafford, a small city full of compatriots (to the extent that business in the stores was carried out both in English and in Italian), with a destination label sewn on his clothes, as was common back then for many Italians: there he met Emma, already a long-time resident. [28]

Cancian’s Italian ancestry continued to form a considerable part of his cultural background and was also at the origin of the desire to see Italy upon completing his university studies. Furthermore, his being partly foreign was probably important, as he says, in determining his vocation as an anthropologist and in inducing him to identify with the condition of outsider and to want to understand it.

Below, Cancian briefly reconstructs the years preceding his degree:

I was born in Stafford on August 14, 1934, long before television, and grew up in the 1940s with Life magazine, the most prominent of the times. It featured photojournalism. As my family background directed me towards Italy, photojournalism pointed me towards the social sciences. I attended Stafford Schools, graduating, as normal, after 12 years. My graduating class, in 1952, included 12 boys and 24 girls. In 1944 my sister, Madeline, the second child, was born. My parents sent me to buy a simple Kodak camera. I dreamt more about becoming a photojournalist. During my senior year in High School, I was the photo editor of the High School Year Book hat featured photographs of all the graduating seniors and showed activities of the people in other classes. I did many social and sports photos for the yearbook. The first darkroom I used for photography was set up in the cellar between the barrels of wine, made each year for family use. After Madeline was a baby, she took my bedroom and I was moved to a fine darkroom/bedroom in the attic of the house. [29]

Cancian’s photographic apprenticeship, as was common at the time, was artisanal and self-taught; it included observation of the photographs in Life, solitary experiments, a voluntary practice of observing the development and processing procedures at the laboratory of a helpful local photographer and some reading of manuals.

After high school, the future anthropologist’s training continued with attendance of a philosophy course at Wesleyan University in Middletown, in the state of Connecticut. Here, he had prestigious teachers, in particular Louis Mink, an innovative philosopher of history, among the promoters of the ’linguistic turn’ in his discipline, as a professor of logic; Robert S. Cohen, assistant professor of physics and philosophy (soon to move to Boston, where he would eventually spend his entire and brilliant career), lecturer in philosophy of science; and, above all, David Park McAllester, ethnomusicologist and anthropologist, professor at Wesleyan from 1947 to 1986 and scholar of Native American music, particularly Navajo and Comanche. In 1955, Cancian attended an Italian language and literature course with Mink, reading Fontamara by Ignazio Silone; [30] after achieving training credits with McAllester, he was given an in-the-field research thesis assignment by McAllester which enabled him to obtain a degree during the same academic year. His thesis, as mentioned, was on a community of Native Americans confined to a reservation, illustrated in salient aspects of their productive, social and ritual life, with a decisive use of photography. Cancian recalls briefly: “The photos were made in summer 1955. The thesis volume has 128 pages and in the photo section (pp. 5-58), there are more than 100 photos.” [31] On the first page of the work, we read:

The photographs that make up the body of this work were made during a six and one-half weeks stay on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, Arizona, this last summer. The text and captions are offered as background for interpretation of the photographs. The appendix brings together information that will be, I hope, an aid to the student who wishes to make comparisons with other groups. [32]

Thus, there is a clear affirmation of an anthropological method, and, right from the title as we have seen, an overturning of the traditional relationship between text and images; it is the photographs that form the basis of the work and the written apparatuses allow a contextualization that guides one towards interpretation. It was a particularly precocious theoretical-methodological position (the author was 22 years old at the time), entirely innovative in the typical approach by American and international academies. It was a position, after all, which raised doubts amongst the professors at Wesleyan (who tended to deny that a fieldwork-related thesis made with images could be considered as academic work). As we will see, Cancian would return to making drastic choices, taken in defence of his role within the academy which he felt he wanted to belong to. The introduction page of the dissertation also presents sincere thanks to Professor McAllester, enlightened supporter of photography in social studies, for having provided the initial idea for the thesis and for having guided and supported the author in completing and drafting it.

The reading of Fontamara, with its solicitations regarding the mentality of the peasants and their philosophy of life, is considered by Cancian as being significant in further orienting his interest in rural and southern Italy. Furthermore, in reality, as I wrote, the family’s Italianness as a whole, the fact that many relatives were still in Zoldo, and above all in Vittorio Veneto, the frequent correspondence between nuclei, the concern for the war and the help that the American relatives had given to his Italian relatives during the immediate post-war period, had always kept open a channel of interest, breathing Italian life into the young American. [33] It is worth highlighting that the channel of interest offered by the readings and the personal background was, however, based on a widespread American cultural curiosity, which originated from the initial sociological inquiries on the Italian immigrant communities (prompted, as well, as a consequence of the birth of criminal organizations within the communities). This was undertaken by illustrious economists and southerners exiled because of fascism, such as Gaetano Salvemini, who promoted a critical awareness of the realities from which they had fled, as well as the war experience which had brought numerous intellectuals and scholars, sometimes of Italian origin, as soldiers and officers to the South, where they became interested in the conditions of backwardness that they came across. [34]

After graduating from college, Cancian applied for some scholarships in order to continue his education, amongst which the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, [35] which he did not get, and the Fulbright Program for Italy, which he was interested in for the reasons previously explained. He succeeded in getting an annual scholarship from the Fulbright Program in 1956 for research in the field of his competence, philosophy. Thus, the young scholar arrived in Italy after a two-week sea voyage with the other assignees of grants, during which he met and received encouragement for his work from the poet, writer and translator of Italian origin John Ciardi, who was well known for the transposition of Dante’s Inferno into English. It is worth noting that Ciardi was born in Boston’s North End, in the Italian neighbourhood, of parents from Monocalzati, in the province of Avellino, a town a few dozen kilometres from where Cancian was heading for his studies.

In Rome, Cancian was received by the aforementioned Artom Scelba, a key figure with regard to cultural relations between Italy and the United States who directed the Fulbright Program in Italy from 1948 to 1988. [36] He showed her his work on the Apaches and manifested his desire not to deal with philosophy (if not in a broad sense which we will see later on) and to reach a destination in which to carry out anthropological research. The director of the programme accepted the request with the pragmatic and experimental attitude that characterized the initiative, particularly during the ten-year period of 1948-58, and put him in contact with Tullio Tentori who had just been to the United States for the second time in the context of cultural exchanges related to the programme and had become one of the voices of reference with regard to its scientific sector. [37]Artom Scelba, who had a liberal spirit and also adhered to the cultural spirit that characterized the American interventions at the time (which were very sensitive to film and photographic documentation), allowed the researcher, at his explicit request, to invest part of his allowance allocated to books in the purchase of photographic films.

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Photo 2.

Frank Cancian in Lacedonia, 1957.

© Anonymous photographer, Irpinian Anthropological Museum Archive (MAVI), Cancian Fund, Lacedonia (AV).

According to practice, Cancian was initially to attend an intensive four-week Italian language and culture course at the Perugia University for Foreigners, before returning to Rome and choosing his destination, also on the basis of Tentori’s indications. Tentori was the then director of the National Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions (Museo Nazionale delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari, MNATP) in EUR, Rome; it was here that the young American, who has fond memories of him as an effective and attentive mediator and a fine connoisseur of the social reality of Italy and the South, was received. [38]Tentori had already had an important work experience in the South, in Matera, with a group of scholars who were working on the reclamation of the degraded Sassi district and the design of the village of La Martella, where part of the poorest inhabitants were transferred and had also gained work and exchange experiences with a significant group of American researchers in the South. [39] A few years later, during his first trip to the USA, as already mentioned, he arrived at Harvard in June 1949 and had briefly collaborated in the Harvard Values Project, wanted by Clyde Kluckhohn, in developing the Value Orientation Method (VOM). [40] This was a multilingual questionnaire for the comparative analysis of cultural values, which he had brought with him in the English version and which he was keen to test in Italy. [41]

It is precisely this research context that enables me to return briefly to the American presence in the South, which I referred to at the beginning of the essay. Not only a politically oriented presence, as we have seen, but also a presence based on the true interests of a part of enlightened capitalism. In her previously mentioned essay, Lindsay Harris explicitly relates the cognitive tension of this capitalism with the copious documentary effort carried out. The scholar identifies it in the magazine Fortune, founded by Luce, in the work of identifying the creative personalities of its art director Leo Lionni, in the political action of Clare Boothe Luce, wife of the American publisher and ambassador in Rome, in the work of Andrew Henry Berding. Berding was the person in charge of the media and propaganda of the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA, the office specifically responsible for administering the ERP aid plan) in the early 1950s and later, from 1957 to 1961, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and in contacts with Friedmann and Olivetti, the production chain of the La Martella project, including other reform and reconstruction programmes. This placed them in relation to the long-standing tradition of intervention in depressed and backward areas in the USA. [42]

Going back to Tentori, he entrusted the questionnaire to Cancian, asking him to translate it into Italian and adapt it to some of the Italian territory’s characteristics; this the young scholar did, along with the collaboration of some museum officials, who helped him overcome his limited knowledge of Italian culture and language. [43] Despite leaving the final choice of the research location to the young scholar, Tentori, who had developed a wide network of relationships with cultural operators and social workers through his long and varied collaboration with social service bodies operating in the South, suggested Lacedonia, where a couple of his reliable collaborators worked as social workers.

According to Cancian’s field notes, he arrived in Lacedonia on January 5, 1957, and then left definitively on July 5 of the same year. Most of the time was spent in the town, with the exception of a few short surveys around and in Rome. We will see the approach and paths that distinguished his fieldwork in detail later. For now, I only wish to state that the test developed by the Harvard Values Project was diligently experimented by the young anthropologist, who recalls the experience thus: “In Lacedonia, where prof. Tentori sent me, I worked with three men, including one mature, patient man, and did not have much success. To this day, I believe that the questionnaire was at fault.” [44]

After his Italian stay was over, Cancian returned to Wesleyan University at the end of 1957, eager to put his materials in order and to continue the photographic activity that had strongly inspired him on site. He therefore asked for permission to work in the darkroom at the Davidson Art Center, an influential specific branch of the university. It was directed then by Samuel Adam Green, a talented contemporary art curator, son of the dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, among the initial promoters of American pop art and, in particular, of Andy Warhol in his early phase. Green allowed him accommodation in a room in the Davidson Art Center building and gave him some odd jobs to carry out occasionally with the camera and, after having seen the darkroom work related to Lacedonia, suggested that he organize an exhibition and a conference in February 1958. He also suggested showing the work to Edward Steichen, who had just returned from the anthropological endeavour of The Family of Man exhibition, displaying 60 photographs of Italy at MoMA. The great master admired Cancian’s images yet did not consider them particularly suitable for the museum’s collections or rooms.

The 1958 exhibit and Steichen’s appreciation also strengthened a collaborative relationship with the Providence Journal Company in the neighbouring state of Rhode Island. It was here that he met photographer Winfield I. Parks Jr., who had started working for the Providence Journal and who later arrived at the National Geographic magazine and the National Geographic Society, and occupied a position of absolute importance in the company’s publishing system for numerous years; this encounter then translated into active encouragement to pursue his interests as a photographic journalist. At the initiative of Parks Jr., who had a clear preference for photographic narration, the newspaper had in fact dedicated a space entirely to an essay for images on the last page of its first section. All of the young journalists were encouraged to produce photographs which accompanied their text, according to a format that was becoming increasingly popular in the United States.

Frequenting the city of Providence had a considerable impact in forming the young photographer-anthropologist, considering its remarkable cultural and academic features which included prestigious schools and institutions such as Brown University, one of the American universities that is part of the Ivy League, and the Rhode Island School of Design (where Green himself had had relations); the school, which was a promoter of an updated and refined interest and of many public initiatives concerning photography, hosted a new exhibition by Cancian. [45] Shortly before, he once again applied for the Woodrow Wilson Program, indicating the universities of Harvard, Yale and Columbia and was assigned to the first chosen destination to carry out his doctorate. [46]

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Photo 3.

Frontcover of an issue of the magazine The Rhode Islander, 27 April 1958, with an article on the work of Cancian.

© Anna Rosa Azzarello, 2019, Private Archives Rome.

Upon arriving at Harvard, Cancian, who had experience of study related to Native Americans carried out with the decisive use of photography, landed in the Department of Social Relations in the company of Evon Zartman Vogt, Jr.. During his years as an assistant at Harvard, the Americanist Vogt, who had extensive experience of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, had co-directed the Ramah Project, whose formal name was The Comparative Study Project of Values in Five Cultures, along with Clyde and Florence Kluckhohn and John M. Roberts. Vogt’s interest in the study of cultural values and comparative analysis (deduced from the method of controlled comparison by his professor, Fred Eggan), was to have a decided influence on the young scholar. Vogt was also, among his many assignments and positions, the creator, promoter and director of the Harvard Chiapas Project and the most highly recognized expert of the Zinacantán area, where Cancian would go to work alongside other prestigious students. [47]Cancian was initially assigned to San Cristobal de las Casas and then moved to the nearby centre, to become familiar with the native languages (Náhuatl and Tzotzil), to which he would dedicate lasting attention.

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Photo 4.

Frank Cancian, Guillermo (Yermo) Perez, his privileged interlocutor, and his wife, Naching (Zinacantán), Mexico, June 10, 2012.

© Anonymous photographer, Frank Cancian Archives, Irvine (CA).

Cancian had been interested in Vogt’s scientific production for some time; however, the Harvard master had also deserved his attention for his work, which had been conducted in collaboration with Kluckhohn and with Life photographer, Leonard McCombe, and published in a monograph entitled Navajo Means People, [48] a work that reported on the interest in the use of photography in anthropological research. The PhD in social anthropology attained at Harvard in 1963, under the scientific guidance of Vogt, determined the fading of his interest in Italy, the definitive projection of Cancian on Latin American soil and, in particular in Chiapas and in Zinacantán, his roots in the field of economic anthropology and comparative studies on social inequality. Nevertheless, the South of Italy and Lacedonia, somehow, remained; because the southern parts of the world somewhat resemble each other [49] and because Cancian’s anthropology held comparative analysis in high esteem. In the first of the letters he sent me, he wrote in this regard: “the Italian experience was very important to much of my later work.” [50] In a second letter, in reply to my precise question regarding the persistence of the Italian experience, he added:

I realized that it could all be seen as the same topic: relatively poor people in many countries, in small agricultural communities and patterns of social and economic inequality within their communities. Of course those communities exist in larger regional and national systems. I realized that the better answer [to you] is that I never left Lacedonia. [51]

However, despite moving to another region of the world, his research work with the camera continued, practising chiefly on the areas of Mexico which were the subject of his anthropological research, in particular on the Maya of Chiapas and on the Zinacantán community, but also on Orange County, California housecleaners and other aspects of contemporary American social life, including the university itself. This work is partly seen in the previously mentioned books; whereas he has accounted for his anthropology studies in numerous essays published in accredited journals and in four volumes that have established firm points with respect to the economy of the cargo cult, the dynamics of unequal exchange and relationship between economy, public life and social stratification in the investigated area. [52]

In parallel, his academic career began as instructor of social anthropology at Harvard University in the two-year period 1963-64, and continued as assistant professor and associate professor, respectively at Stanford University and Cornell University in the period 1964-69. It culminated in achieving the post of full professor at Stanford in 1969. Finally, he taught at the University of California, Irvine until the date of his retirement in 1999.

I mentioned above the drastic choices taken by Cancian in defence of his academic role. In fact, he has always kept the two fields of observation and study of reality separate; one traditionally characterized by academics, expressed through writing, and one articulated through photography. By his explicit admission, which I particularly share on the basis of my professional experience, photography was assessed negatively within the academic circle and its practice was given little regard. The ’soft data’ provided by photographs had little credit and low consideration, particularly in an anthropological aspect, such as economics, often very close to quantitative analysis; as a result, a form of self-defence led the anthropologist to prefer words to fully express the concepts related to the discipline.

In Lacedonia, not just a peasant town

The work on the Apaches, like most of Cancian’s early photographs, was carried out with two German cameras, a Rolleiflex and a Retina IIa. A few days before his departure for Italy, however, these cameras were stolen from a car parked close to where an anthropology conference was being held, which he had gone to attend. Before his departure, he managed to buy a Nikon S2 with a 50 mm lens in New York with the insurance money. During his stay in Italy, the same shop where he bought the previous camera sent him an additional Nikon S2 camera with 35 mm and 85 mm lenses.

The basic equipment needed to carry out his anthropological reportage was thus acquired (and would be preserved for a long time). Cancian worked in Lacedonia with this equipment along with a film development tank he had brought with him. The films were processed in Rome, in the bathroom of a small apartment near the Vatican, during his short breaks from the fieldwork. The overall arrangement of the materials took place, as we have seen, upon returning to the United States.

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Photo 5.

Cancian’s notebooks.

© Anna Rosa Azzarello, 2019, Private Archives, Rome.

Cancian’s activity in the town was recorded in his notebooks, which I have already mentioned, drawn up with a certain continuity from the moment of his arrival until the date of his departure. [53] We can easily deduce the style of work that characterized his stay: frequently ‘letting himself go’ to the rhythm of local life and the hosts’ initiatives, sharing food, festive moments, playing cards, walking and conversing on the town’s streets and squares, with the conviction that an understanding of the local lifestyle and rural dynamics was fundamental; a close exchange, even of a cultural nature, with his ’native guides’ and with Tentori’s social workers, and systematically visiting some privileged interlocutors (among whom, Filippo Chiauzzi and Nicola Quatrale stand out). This implied both an intense and discreet emotional participation, based on a natural empathic ability; in this regard, for the attention and the sense of measure that it reveals, I wish to highlight a single note which concludes the seventy-fifth page of his notebook: “5/7/57 Friday 7 AM. At 5 30 this morning I was sitting on a hillock listening to a woman talking about her son in Australia and mentioned her son in Turin. She cried and she talked: Non trovo pace più.” A few notes, here and there, offer valuable indicative glimpses into the historiographic perspective, such as the one which we will return to, whereby, in reply to an interlocutor’s question regarding his religious beliefs, he transcribes: “I said I was not in any church but thought a lot [like] the Quakers.”

He pays attention to issues that are transparent, in his case, Wesleyan: values, behaviour, family context, work and economics, modernization and traditional resistance, farmers and landowners, peasants and unemployed intellectuals; he has a constant concern with taking photographs, perceived as an indispensable element of knowledge of community life, of its rhythms as well as of its profound logics (and this is, as can be understood, the element of essential methodological novelty of Cancian’s research with respect to that of other foreign and American colleagues working during those same years in the South). However, some things which are worth remembering more specifically emerge from his notebooks.

The first of these concerns the attention to Vogt’s work which I mentioned above; a useful attention in order to frame the Italian experience historically. In a note dated January 8, 1957, he refers to him, in relation to the study of the value system, and states that he has not found the spirit of competition and optimization on site among the farmers which he found in the areas of his competence. Yet, above all, in another note dated January 10, we read: “This morning I read Vogt in Italian and put down many ideas on hypothesis about values to be investigated here.”

I am unaware of there being an Italian translation of some of Vogt’s works at the time and I think I can therefore affirm that it is a writing error (perhaps he wanted to note that he had read – translated – Vogt in Italian to someone; unfortunately Cancian’s memory does not provide any clarity in this regard). In addition to the 1951 book already mentioned, written in collaboration with McCombe and Kluckhohn, by 1957 Vogt had, according to the reliable bibliography published by Marcus, published three works centred on the system of values referred to in the note, including an article on prehistoric settlement models in the new world, probably of much less interest to Cancian. [54] The work in question could therefore be one of the English texts reported in the note, also considering the orientation on the same topic as Tentori; it was perhaps precisely the initial one on the Navajo, bearing in mind Cancian’s focus on the Apaches. This topic is of considerable interest because, to date, the critical starting point of the young scholar has not been sufficiently defined; the attitude, mostly implicit, with which we have looked at his work in Italy up to now is to consider it a kind of initial and initiatory unanchored experience, given the young age and the training process still in progress, to a clear theoretical-methodological reference perspective. The idea of bringing Vogt’s readings to the field, however, combined with the Harvardian model transmitted by Tentori (experiments which had little success) endow the approach to Lacedonia, despite the inevitable oscillations related to the type of inaugural experience, with a basis of remarkable consistency. [55] Moreover, in the first note on the essay regarding Lacedonia, Vogt is among those who are thanked.

The second point that the notebooks pass on to us has a particularly different thematic focus on research from that which de Martino led simultaneously, in a not-too-distant area. It is a well-known theme (that of the difference between de Martino and those he referred to, with ill-concealed aversion, as ’the Americans’), which I have already mentioned briefly above and which would seem superfluous to evoke here. If one reflects, however, on the abundance of the photographic documentation produced, which depicts a true community monograph, the comparison will not seem completely superfluous or out of place.

During those days in May 1957 when Cancian was in Lacedonia, [56] de Martino was in Albano di Lucania from the 17th to 28th for an exploratory stay dedicated to the theme of magical life. It was to be one of the few inserts of a ’community’ nature found in the Demartinian work (later a chapter in Sud e magia), yet the focus is on a horizon of marked archaism, detached from an immediate frame of social reference. (With regard to Albano we can only see some desolate glimpses of the landscape, while we know the extreme condition of poverty in which its inhabitants live, who rely on magic as a compensatory and reintegrative tool with respect to the physical and psychic threats connected to their unprivileged condition). [57] In Lacedonia, Cancian does not come across magical life. He no doubt dwells on aspects of ’traditional’ life, such as the custom of putting change in the pockets of the dead, the feasts of San Filippo, Madonna delle Grazie, Corpus Domini and the Holy Trinity, the band, the popular games and the fireworks. However, for example, with regard to feasts, his attention is dedicated to the social game that takes place around their organization and their development, to what’s at stake concerning their implementation (while the participant observation ensures that, as he reminds us in an excerpt from his notebooks, he himself joins those who are carrying a statue).

The folkloric aspect, which was more or less present in contemporary Italian studies, is completely absent. De Martino’s Albano is inhabited by peasants and very poor hired hands, while Cancian’s Lacedonia has a much more complex class stratification, to which he devotes much attention. We see hired hands, peasants, landowners, small rural bourgeoisie, unemployed intellectuals, wealthy people and town officials (who are wealthy because they are town officials and are town officials because they are wealthy). And it hardly matters that Albano no doubt presented a more basic social structure than Lacedonia: the two towns were chosen, consciously, precisely because of their social features. De Martino searches for the relics of popular magic that allow him to theoretically dominate the hypothesis of cultural rejects which are a cause and consequence of the misery and backwardness of the South. Cancian looks carefully at the town’s basic economic situation, linked to the land, its possession, agricultural improvements, co-operational capacity, the mentality with respect to the ownership and management of properties. Yet he also looks, with equal attention, at the incessant movement that drags the inhabitants up and down the town’s streets, idling about because they’re unemployed, playing cards to weave relationships of alliance and conflict, showing off good clothes that mark a social difference, going in and out of the bar or restaurant, places where social relationships are woven. The overall design of the possible monograph on Lacedonia, never written by Cancian but well delineated in the plot of his photographs, remains in the notebooks in the background, but we see with sufficient clarity the main principles (we never have clear theoretical or methodological statements, rather the watermark of implicit choices). Clearly, the community dimension is highly significant for Cancian compared to a general and revelatory condition of socio-cultural mechanisms that would otherwise not be known; de Martino considers it a subsidiary card that can contribute to a process of knowledge that requires exploration on a very large scale and a historical-cultural integration of immense depth.

The difference in the theoretical-methodological register that I note, moreover, is reflected in the writing of the field notes, if we take as a comparison the notes written by de Martino in Lucania during the research carried out in October 1952, closely linked with the Albano 1957 materials in composing the book on southern magic. [58] This is certainly not the place for an in-depth evaluation of the Demartinian writing of the notebooks, to which Gallini has dedicated meticulous philological reconstruction work, partly summarized in the volumes just mentioned in the note. The notebooks, strongly connected and complementary to those of Vittoria De Palma, his close collaborator on the field, are chock-full of notes, annotations, transcriptions of folkloric materials, quantitative data inherent to the practical aspects of research (and, in this, they do not differ much from Cancian’s), but they do not showcase the researcher, nor his substantial team. The researcher appears, instead, in the travel notes which, as de Martino explicitly writes, represent an initial elaboration of notes taken on site. Here, right from the peremptory incipit (I asked Luigi Dragonetto...), the author appears forcefully along a path of elaboration that draws on very fine literary quality, as well as an explicit theoretical dimension: de Martino’s stylistic hallmark – recalls Gallini – is the tendency [in notebooks] to resort to a ’cultured’ terminology within a structured syntactic construction, which already contains embryos of an opening towards narrativity. [59]

There is nothing of the sort in Cancian’s notebooks. They constitute a set of notes, at times approximate with regard to the finish of the writing, in which the subject, the author, appears with all his daily life, with his worries and his amused curiosity, with the constant interference in the life of the cultural mediators, privileged interlocutors and natives. These notes, furthermore, are made to eventually remember and elaborate on subsequent stages of his research (not of his writing) and they are clearly not intended to translate into any literary narration. This narrative is being built, instead, with a certain systematic approach and a high profile, in the photographic images.

The main principles of Cancian’s research in Lacedonia are expressed in the form of a complete elaboration in the only essay he wrote on the Italian South and on the town, roughly three years after the end of his stay in the field. [60] As was commonly the case with the specialist literature of the time, this essay doesn’t actually focus in a frontal and direct way on the observed community, but essentially addresses some controversial issues, in reference to the mainstream monograph that appeared in 1958, by Banfield on Chiaromonte in the province of Potenza, a town not far from Lacedonia. [61]

I have already mentioned Cancian’s anthropological education when he arrived in Italy. Instead, I would now like to frame the Italian experience better, placing it against the background of the other ongoing research situations carried out by foreign scholars. As I mentioned in part at the start, Anderson, Cappannari, Cassin, Friedmann, Lopreato, Moss, Thomson, Peck, Pitkin and Sanders had worked in the Italian South during the period ranging between 1957 and 1960, respectively the fieldwork years and the publication of the essay, following the dates of publication of their reports on the subject. In fact, many of them are mentioned by Cancian in the bibliography and some are thanked for their help in the preparation of his writing. However, I would like to dwell upon Friedmann in particular: the essay he wrote in 1953 is often quoted in our text and referred to in fundamental passages; [62] the young scholar, moreover, shows himself sensitive towards themes and issues, such as that of the role and function of peasant intellectuals, for example, present in the description of the ’world of misery’. Yet it is, above all, in the idea of an impossibility for southern peasants to consider history in objective terms, to be subject to its work but not to be able to determine it, considering their inability to build communities, or rather the difficulty of constructing and directing their own social, political and economic life (Friedmann), in which Cancian seems to recognize himself. [63] This recognition not only appears in the text, but also in the field notes which are heavily influenced by a Friedmannian aura, so to speak, an aura also supported by the common disciplinary education oriented by philosophy: take, for instance, the notation on the Quakers mentioned above, in the face of Friedmann’s explicit attention to the thought that animated the movement and its concrete initiatives in Italy. [64]

Cancian’s paper is distinguished by certain features, as far as I know, not detected by the national scientific literature – his courageous polemical honesty, above all. Cancian, among the first to intervene in the long-standing controversy that the book created, [65] was a twenty-six-year-old young man training at the same university (Harvard), in which Banfield, an influential forty-two-year-old professor, had been teaching since 1959. He was an influential and, I would add, conservative, Republican collaborator of many government agencies, later consultant to Richard Nixon and other US administrations expressed by the Grand Old Party. It was precisely the book on Chiaromonte, moreover, that led him to achieving the title of professor at Harvard, as well as the prestigious institutional collaborations.

Cancian’s objections to Banfield’s theses move in two directions: the first is the one with the most immediate political fallout, in a relativistic, comparative, holistic sense; the second, more theoretically founded, reports on the common field of studies on values, and on the philosophical field (the area of interest in which, as we have seen, the scholar had trained and which, like Friedmann, he still considered as a specific aspect linked to the ways of elaborating the thought of a specific native culture).

Lacedonia, therefore, is not a community representative of an entire world; it is not mechanically comparable to another (American) coeval reality; it is not monolithically centred on itself; rather, it has marked relational features; it is not straightforward, like the town of Chiaromonte appears, as outlined by Banfield. Cancian writes:

Leonard Moss reminded me (personal communication) that Professor Tullio Tentori, director of the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions in Rome, has often pointed out that there are many South Italys, that each village represents a cosmos and a culture by itself. On the basis of limited experience in several parts of Southern Italy, I would agree that Professor Tentori’s caution is an important one. [66]

Recalling how the Lacedonian community is made up of hired hands, students, professors, gentlemen, landowners, craftsmen, etc., Cancian outlines a complex relational system. Indeed, each of these social and professional definitions, he writes, is a word that “indicates many things about the person, but their most consistent use in conversation is to indicate rank with respect to each other and the peasant (contadino).”

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Photo 6.

Frank Cancian, People of Lacedonia, 1957.

© MAVI Archive, Cancian Fund, Lacedonia (AV).

With regard to the position of the small intellectuals, déracinés, as Pierre Bourdieu puts it (professors in pectore, unemployed students), bearers in the town of a forced and poorly governed modernity, often perceived as fatal, Cancian dedicates very closely marked attention to them, even within the limits of a short essay. He considers them indicators of that powerful gap between a vision of the world and effective control of reality which appears to be one of the characteristic traits of the town (he dedicates to them an affectionate and careful photographic description). The town was defined in some of its essential traits of diversity, with respect to the Anglo-Saxon and American reality and considered by Banfield as an explicit and implicit term of hierarchical comparison of the world, even through the semantic criteria of its language (worth remembering are the observations, highlighted by us, on the native translation of the words leader and community).

As is well known, Banfield had based an important part of his considerations on the notion of ethos, deduced, as he himself recalls in a note on his work, without further problematization or theorization, from William Graham Sumner, one of the first American sociologists. Sumner was known as a conservative and was fairly anonymous, yet in reality he was an early elaborator of a wide range of concepts and terms which, in later social sciences, would be widely and conventionally used. [67]

I shall not discuss here the complex question linked to the notion of ethos in anthropology, through the different use made by Gregory Bateson (eidos and ethos), by Bourdieu (eidos, ethos, éthique, habitus, hexis), by Clifford Geertz, and through the theoretical debate that arose. I will, however, highlight that Geertz, in a 1957 essay, postulates a clear distinction, if not contrast, between ethos, a concept connected with the moral and aesthetic aspects of a given culture, and world view, a concept linked to cognitive and existential aspects. [68] This distinction is taken up, albeit in different terms, by the young Cancian and goes on to substantiate his dissent from Banfield on the philosophical level that I mentioned previously. This is a central question, which has significant repercussions on the interpretation of the southern peasant world, as Banfield had observed it in Chiaromonte and which Cancian had observed, roughly in the same time frame, in Lacedonia.

Banfield makes a clear distinction between political behaviour and ethos, on which this rests, attributing substantial isomorphic adhesion relations to the two terms. According to Cancian, the concept of ethos must be replaced with that of a world view. This concept collects part of the features found in the definition by Geertz, who had specified that the world view, “is [the] picture of way things, in sheer actuality are, [the] concept of nature, of self, of society. It contains [the] most comprehensive ideas of order.” [69]

The world view according to Cancian, who in fact does not mention Geertz’s essay in his text [70] (but I assume he may have read it), presents complex and interrelated levels. These are difficult to interpret, yet stand as a flexible and realistic frame capable of making sense of things in their manifestation in everyday reality and in relation to rigidity and pervasiveness of power. Consequently, by binding political behaviour to a rigid and unstratified notion such as that of ethos, we arrive at a model which focuses on a single possible explanation, characterized by an unacceptable presence of inference. Whereas, if we replace an open concept, permeable to perceptual and relational aspects, such as that of a world view, the arbitrary inference processes are placed under control, the plurality of responses related to political behaviour are outlined and the community model unfolds in all its far greater complexity.

As a result, Cancian’s disagreement with Banfield seems to manifest itself not so much, and not only, in the interpretation and in the concrete use of the field data (which at times, indeed, come back through their experience), as in having chosen a closed and binding theoretical model. Banfield’s model establishes the deductive and cultural logic of the group studied in an inferential way, shying away from empirical experimentation: a model whose application could not but reach results that mortified the complexity of community life and which were unable to explain the divergence between political behaviour and world view. In one of his passages Cancian observes: “The peasant’s view is that the world of people is stratified and responsibilities divided: and the expectations which follow from this view. This is the major element of world view which Banfield missed. My disagreement with him centers on this point.” Shortly thereafter, once again placing the emphasis on the mechanics and on the uniqueness of a vision that arises from applying the concept of ethos, he states caustically:

In any case, like the linguist who returns from the field and declares that the language studied has no phonemes, the social scientist who finds no norms, except one based on a crude model of economic man, must be sent back for another long look before his conclusions are accepted.

Having established these conceptual foundations, the representation of Lacedonia that stems from Cancian’s writings differs from those (not just Banfield’s) which identify the communities of the South as communities distinguished by a compact and closed peasant imprint. Referring to the peasant’s world view of his town, he recalls in a fundamental passage of his writing:

It is crucial to note that the peasant does not see the whole world as similarly hopeless. In fact, he applies this idea of incapacity only to himself in his present environment. Most other classes of people are able to better themselves, even if somewhat limited by environment; and the peasant himself feels that he could do better if he could get a job in a northern factory or somehow get to America. These are, of course, realistic views, and they are noted only to emphasize how the peasant distinguishes himself and his situation from other people and other situations. […] The peasant believes that the world of people is stratified and the responsibility for various types of action divide; and, with special reference to ’public’ action, he believes that there is a special class of people whose business such action is, that these people, not peasants, are inevitably in power, and that he has no place but to hope and vote for a government that will help him.

This more careful and, if I may use a term that might seem impressionistic, more insightful interpretation of a southern microcosm, finds its precise and extensive response in Cancian’s broad photographic research. We have already seen its dimensions and basic features. When analysing the prints, we can understand how the anthropologist observes community social life with great attention and does it with that feeling of curious openness that manifests itself in his writings (notebooks and essay). It is not separate from a desire to understand the dark side of the observed society which is manifested through backwardness, emigration, unemployment, social disparity, mistrust, disenchantment, a problematic and obstructed relationship with the approaching modernity. And in his narrative, as I mentioned, there are not just poor peasants; we find small rural bourgeoisie, suspended between tradition and innovation, wealthy owners and unemployed intellectuals (the middle class, which he often dwells upon, sometimes with amazement, in his notebooks), children and adolescents who approach the world with different attitudes, at times with diffidence, at times with abandonment, female figures, with their polymorphic effort at being housewives, peasants or labourers, washerwomen, weight carriers; with evident and intelligent irony in many cases. Lacedonia is described methodically, an attitude that is not surprising if we keep in mind that photography is often evoked in the notebooks as a heuristic task, a chore and a concern.

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Photo 7.

Frank Cancian, People of Lacedonia, 1957.

© MAVI Archive, Cancian Fund, Lacedonia (AV).

I already wrote this at the beginning of this essay, but I wish to reiterate it yet again: no anthropologist who studied the South of Italy during those years has left us with a more vivid and complete photographic portrait of the community. The countryside surrounding the town, the town itself with its skyline of hills and houses, the peasant interiors and the details of their furnishings, the thresholds from which one enters and exits, the incessant movement of the square and the main street, the alleys and secluded openings, the bare fields, the rural work in its agro-pastoral and artisanal activities, the animals, some exemplary farms in which a needy humanity is housed, described in minute detail, the prominent social figures, the priest, the carabiniere, the municipal guard, the influential figures, the teacher and his very poor school, divided between public service and social work, ambiguous because of the relevant marginality of the small pupils, the bar, the tavern, the card games, collective listening to the radio and male conversations in the public space, the town settings, the religious festivals and processions, the popular games, the bands and their performances, the people, with skilful lingering on the physiognomies and on the details providing an intense and profound human cross-section, the anthropologist himself, almost always with his camera around his neck, engaged in the ceremonial that supports his presence on site. This portrait, moreover, is not only photographically invaluable, but organized according to the clear knowledgeable lines that I have tried to summarize so far.

I have already focused on Cancian’s photographic training: American photojournalism and Life magazine, the laboratory practice which, quite often, builds a philosophy of the image, with its mystique of accuracy, detail and technical quality; and a field experience on an Indian reserve in North America (which reveals a remarkable descriptive ability and bitter lucidity in constructing the project and more limited linguistic means). Cancian points to nothing else. Upon his arrival in Italy, the previously mentioned Unpaese, which in some ways his work can be compared to, had been published two years earlier, yet at that moment he was unaware of it. The scientific and documentary experience associated with the Demartinian work was not known to him, as well as a rather vague idea he had of Neorealism and its political and aesthetic prescriptions (I was and I intended to remain an American in front of the Italian reality, he states in a passage taken from our correspondence). [71] Even the great tradition of realistic and concerned photography in the United States, however (Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine, the Photo League, the Farm Security Administration), according to an affirmation of his, was not particularly familiar to him. Despite this, it should be observed how the echoes of those experiences in the reportage photography and, more generally, in the American photographic style, were widespread and sedimented; just as the above-mentioned work of American photographers who visited Southern Italy in those years was unknown to him. The aforementioned investigation on the Apache refers, in some ways, to the Malinowskian photographs taken in the Trobriand isles, and those taken by Bateson and Margaret Mead in Bali (without, of course, the exhaustive systematic approach of that experience). Probably these ethnographic photographs may have constituted a reference model, the reading and study of the classics of anthropology, even at a graduation level, being a broad and consolidated American tendency.

The fact is that the methodological and linguistic framework of the young anthropologist dealing with his Italian fieldwork, within the framework of a mature realism, appears radically new and supported by an evident desire to experiment; compared to the narrative models applied in the South by Italian anthropologists (or by some photographers with a marked anthropological sensitivity), Cancian is many years ahead of his time. [72] Some examples: the portrait is often translated into two or more images (at times characterized by different focal distances or lengths), which are brought together by relevance or dissimilarity in order to introduce a deeper and more complex perception of the subjects, or rather an interpretative dimension. Bateson comes to mind here when he declares: “each single photograph may be regarded as almost purely objective, but juxtaposition of two different or contrasting photographs is already a step toward scientific generalization.” [73] Indeed, juxtaposition is one of the modules that the young anthropologist experiments with effectively, often building narratives that are not resolved in a single frame.

At times the portraits are framed or inscribed in an architectural or urbanistic element that serves to highlight some of their characterizing traits: a need for participation and trust or, conversely, a perplexity or a distancing.

The situations are followed over time, with a precise choice that sacrifices the single image to that of a series. Fixed frame sequences are frequently used, dedicated to exploring social dynamics and behaviour in spaces: Cancian relies heavily on this investigative technique, to which he attributes considerable value from a photographic and ethnographic point of view: “I think, with the ethnographic photography, the strongest thing you can do sometimes, and what a lot of the famous photographers do, is frame the background – Cartier-Bresson, the genius, did this – and let people walk through it.” [74]

Details often take over entirely, sacrificing aesthetic completeness, which is compensated, however, by the care taken in highlighting the characteristics of the object or subject being depicted (a position, a posture or a gesture, a detail of how one is dressed, an attitude, etc.). The portraits are taken on-site, without any preliminary preparation (if not that related to a frequenting and ethnographic interest) and they actually pose themselves as a threshold, as a meeting point between the researcher and the native subjects, according to the criteria of mediation and thick description which, many years later, as I mentioned, I personally tried to apply and theorize; [75] they are portraits in which, with a clear anthropological perception, considerably distant from that of many photographers in the Italian South, those who photograph encounter those who are being photographed. At times, particularly with regard to people with whom the scholar has had the opportunity to have privileged relationships, the single portrait opens up like a halo, gradually including the subjects close by or with whom he has an important relationship, with a careful psychological and environmental study. The search for the immediacy of the relationship, in the portrait, translates into a dense restitution of concrete information and openings on the profound realities of the subjects being depicted. Subjects are rendered with transparent confidence in the indexical nature of photography, without any sort of forcing in an iconic and symbolic sense, with an attitude certainly far from neo-positivistic objectivism, yet well rooted in the realistic assumption of photography linked to the anthropological profession.

Cancian shows that he firmly believes in the power of anthropological unveiling of photography. A photograph must have its own point of view and must contribute to making this point of view explicit to others, pointing to the hidden substance of evident reality. He writes: “I am a documentary photographer with a point of view. I prefer ordinary things—things that are not officially important. While recording the everyday world I often look for the exotic in ordinary situations and for the ordinary in what many people see as exotic.” [76] Still commenting on some of his images, he states: “For me, the most interesting thing is the ordinary: if you can communicate the beauty of the ordinary, showing what people are doing, how they’re holding their hands”. [77]

Thus we find a practice, photography, carried out with humility and transparency, far from the iconic tension that animated contemporary photography in the South of Italy, in which he seems to transpose a considerable part of disciplinary ethics:

I like to take pictures where people do their regular activities—in homes, workplaces and temples. It’s best when people know me and know that I am there to take pictures, or when a person they know vouches for me or blesses my project. In these settings people usually get bored with me after an hour or two, and go back to their own activities. Public places, where people who are involved in their own activities usually ignore me, are also good. [78]

Worth recalling here once again is a Batesonian instance, not only with respect to the option for the visibility of the photographic shooting action in the anthropological practice, in recommending to forget, rather than hide, the presence of the camera on site, as regards the importance of the ordinary representation of reality in order to document its profound structures.

Of course, and I believe this is evident by looking at all the Cancian’s images, there is a question regarding the position that the visible and the representable hold in the overall documentation of the cultural and social fabric of a community. What do we know about 1957 Lacedonia through Cancian’s images? What have they managed to give back to the location?

If we entrust photography with the task of restoring reality, both in the most naive objectivistic declination (reality as it is), and in the most perceived interpretative and authorial perspective (reality as I see it), the visible and the representable will always be a minimum part of the whole and ethnographic photography cannot but have an ancillary and illustrative function. If instead, through photography, as Cancian seems to me to have done, the objective is the representation of processes, dynamics and connections (between men and men, between men and the environment, between men and divinities), the photographic trace of the community will tend to be self-sufficient and basically complete. If the visible imprint aims to simply render the morphology of the so-called reality, it will be forced to give way to forms of restitution that are capable of going beyond morphology; if, on the other hand, it can go beyond the static appearance (or the àisthëmatic configuration) to construct a projection of the dynamics in progress, it can aspire to reliable autonomy. We will certainly not know, through the images, what marriage strategies were being applied during those years in Lacedonia, to give just one example, but we will discover an incredible amount of information with regard to marriage (of which there is a remarkable sequence linked to its ritual forms in the archive) and the family, relating to affective, relational, behavioural and logistical dynamics, to make its function equally clear in the local context, albeit by different means. It is precisely in this perspective of ethnographic self-sufficiency of photography, that I believe the absence of captions in the entire archive should be read.

Of course, in order to obtain this sort of photography it is necessary to have a unique theoretical disposition in the face of reality, as well as the technical means to translate it. We need to know how to make reality speak, rather than discuss it. Ultimately, and once again, it seems to me that the option expressed by Bateson, in one of his passages, is suitable for Cancian:

we tried to use the still …[camera] to get a record of Balinese behavior, and this is a very different matter from the preparation of ’documentary’ […] photographs. We tried to shoot what happened normally and spontaneously, rather than to decide upon the norms and then get Balinese to go through these behaviors in suitable lighting. We treated the camera in the field as recording instruments, not as devices for illustrating our theses. [79]

I should like to highlight, upstream of all the choices mentioned here, the consistent respect for the subjects, the lack of ideological prejudice towards the representational schemes and a desire for experimentation within a frame of human relationships experienced in full reciprocity.

Images and Criteria. Steps Towards an Interpretative Paradigm

In conclusion, the 1,801 photographs of the AFC-Italy summarize the main visual themes touched upon by Cancian. It ideally runs, in sequence, through the town, the square, the local bar, the places of threshold between inside and outside and some glimpses of the interior and then dwells on the small rural school housed in makeshift premises on a farm near the town, on work in the countryside and during its breaks, on the two feasts of the Madonna delle Grazie and of San Filippo, on some characters fixated through the acute instantaneous portraiture, on the movement in the town’s main street taken in a defined unit of time so as to observe what happens on the natural stage where the community is consistently represented, and on the anthropologist himself photographed by his closest acquaintances within this stage. The sequences of photographs mentioned here meets some basic criteria which I would like to briefly explain.

The first of these criteria was, as far as possible, to give back the community monograph which, upon observing the complete corpus of images found at the AFC-Italy, it seemed to me the author had intended to build. I wanted to remain faithful, therefore, to a path that remained under the surface and which appeared necessary to bring out. As I have already written, there was a monograph on a community in the South, which had remained unpublished (or practically unpublished), which required being urgently returned to the scientific community of reference; there was a gap to be closed and a piece to be completed. Within this perspective, I hope that my choice summarizes Lacedonia as best as is possible with regard to what Cancian’s technical-scientific eye was capable of seeing. However, I am aware of the discreet nature of each selection process and, therefore, of the fact that the town to be returned via the images should have had a totally different dimension with respect to the photographs present, somewhat like Bali, often mentioned here, described by Bateson and Mead in their ponderous volume.

Obviously, the observer will notice the fact that this choice is discreet also in the sense that it is the result of a personal vision that is not entirely superimposable, despite my efforts, on that of the author’s. Nevertheless Cancian, by transferring to others the responsibility for the safekeeping and use of his images, has to some extent delegated the task of reorganizing them according to new narrative paths, certainly respectful of his worldview, yet functional to different sensitivities and various circumstances. This has created a new possibility for the use of the images, something I have been and continue to be very interested in and that I have tried to put into practice on other occasions, that of a joint construction of an iconic text: [80] The author of the images guided me, both through the visual connections found in his archive and through the writings and correspondence I referred to above. My work, therefore, was an interpretation (and assembly) of a large and widely structured text. The Lacedonia being returned to here is the result of a sort of translation process, which the author of the images has largely oriented through the overall logic of his scientific work and his archive, through the visual connections found in each image or group of images, and that I completed.

The second of these criteria was not only to try to give back the scientific path pursued by Cancian in approaching and representing the Lacedonian reality, but also the aesthetic care he put into packaging the images and the experimental instance that guided him. The author has always tried to make the scientific, aesthetic and linguistic experimentation factors dialogue with each other, and each image has substantiated a complex narrative path, which I tried to account for in the previous pages. Compared to narrating a community context, a locality, a peculiar human group through images with a specifically ethnographic and anthropological style, his, as I mentioned, was avant-garde work, which preserves a very marked pioneering trait, not only with respect to contemporaneity, but also to many of the experiences that followed.

The third of these criteria, perhaps the most demanding, was, through the images, to suggest the process of writing of a reality, in its hidden articulation. Lacedonia in 1957 was a town suspended between past and future, inhabited by a scarcely understood and scarcely shared present, still linked to customary structures and behaviours capable of giving meaning to existence, yet already unconsciously projected towards a new condition of dependent marginality. Cancian tried to translate this reality into images by rejecting any objectivistic and documentary type hypothesis, aspiring to convey it also by expressing the marked links that bind and structure an authorial discourse; I tried, in turn, with heartfelt participation, to trace these links.

[1Curated by Francesco Faeta, the exhibition took place from October 2020 to January 2021. See F. Faeta (ed.), Un paese del Mezzogiorno italiano. Lacedonia (1957) nelle fotografie di Frank Cancian - An Italian Town. Lacedonia (1957) in Frank Cancian’s photographs, Rome, Postcart Edizioni, 2020.

[2To Frank Cancian, in memory, who actively collaborated in the drafting of this essay, and who passed away on November 24, 2020, and to Sarah Shiori Mahoney, my heartfelt thanks for their availability in making the collection of information possible relating to a walk of life and research which was almost completely unknown in Italy at the start of my research. Thanks to Giuseppe Bianco, Michele Citoni, Antonia Pio and Antonio Pignatiello for having generously made all the materials and information in their possession relating to Cancian available to me; to Luciano Blasco, Antonio Di Conza, Francesco Aquilanti, Anna Rosa Azzarello for their active collaboration; to Giordana Charuty, Giacomo Daniele Fragapane and Antonello Ricci, for reading and commenting on the first draft of this paper.

[3With regard to the reconstruction of the events, aside from the primary sources constituted by Cancian’s field materials, I used the information found in two interviews with him carried out respectively by Citoni, in 2017, and by me in 2019, and the correspondence that I had from June 2019 to May 2020. The occasional citation of the source in the footnotes is highlighted only in cases where it is necessary for a better understanding of parts of the text. I provided initial news of the existence and importance of Cancian’s work in “Frank Cancian e Lacedonia”, Voci.Annuale di Scienze Umane diretto da Luigi M. Lombardi Satriani, XVI, 2019, p. 308-312.

[4To summarize, without any pretense to exhaustiveness, and with fairly flexible time margins (some of the scholars mentioned here worked, or began working, in the early 1960s, others in the 1950s), on the one hand we have the experience of Ernesto de Martino in Lucania and Salento, conducted with the collaboration of a substantial team of young researchers and image operators; and then we have the work carried out by Diego Carpitella, Franco Cagnetta, Clara Gallini, Annabella Rossi, Amalia Signorelli, Tullio Seppilli, Manlio Rossi Doria, Gilberto Antonio Marselli, Guido Vincelli, Rocco Mazzarone, Tullio Tentori, Danilo Dolci, Alessandro Pizzorno and others, from practically all the southern regions. While on the other hand there is Edward Banfield, Anton Block, Anne Parson, Frank Cancian, Leonard Moss, Walter H. Thomson, Stephen C. Cappannari, Alan Lomax, Andreas Fridolin Weis Bentzon, Helen Cassin, Donald S. Pitkin, Paul Stirling, Friedrich G. Friedmann, George Peck, Sydel Silverman, Irwin Sanders, Walter Sangree, Gallatin Anderson, Joseph Lopreato, Robert Redfield, Jeremy Boissevain, John. G. Peristiany, Ann Cornelisen, John Davis, Neville Colclough, Holger Rasmussen, Jean Meyriat, Jane and Peter Schneider and others, also scattered across various southern districts.

[5I would like to highlight, for example, the paradoxical case of Peck, who Friedmann writes about (the latter allowed me to take part personally in this debate a few years before his death), who was not well accepted in Italian left-wing scientific circles and whose passport was withdrawn by the American administration. He was ordered to leave Italy because he was a friend of Rocco Scotellaro and in the United States was removed from his teaching post due to his pro-communist stance; or that of Friedmann himself, a Jewish and anti-fascist researcher, viewed with suspicion for his overall political positions by Italian intellectuals and scholars of Marxist orientation and thus placed at a distance. This was particularly due to the fact that he kept company with the American ambassador James David Zellerbach, who had important duties at the United Nations, and was an entrepreneur as well as head of the European Recovery Program (ERP) in Italy. See F. G. Friedmann, Miseria e dignità. Il Mezzogiorno nei primi anni Cinquanta (A. Musacchio and P. Toscano ed.), San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), Ed. Cultura della Pace, 1996 and G. A. Marselli, Sociologia del vecchio e del nuovo Mezzogiorno, in Various Authors, Storia del Mezzogiorno, vol. XIII, Roma, Edizioni del Sud, 1990, pp. 175-233. On Friedmann see also, as an introduction, F. Papafava, “Friedrick George Friedmann”, Belfagor, 67, 2, 2012, pp. 173-185.

[6Domenico De Masi, for example, to whom we owe the critical edition of one of the most important works of American scientific literature regarding Italy’s South, and to which we will return extensively, writes in his introduction concerning foreign scholars in the South: ’they are united by a sufficiently reformist, proactive, illuminist, paternalist, anti-communist and inter-classist attitude’. And continues (rhetorically, and eventually extending the suspicion to all the Italian scholars who helped foreigners in their research): ’is it a mere coincidence that the American sociologists, who flocked to Italy in such large numbers and with so much available money, were all anti-communists, or that their research responded to a specific plan by the US government and foundations to keep the Marxist parties and the working class of the ’allied’ countries under control?’. D. De Masi, “Arretratezza del Mezzogiorno e analisi sociologica”, in E. C. Banfield, Le basimorali di una società arretrata, Bologna, il Mulino, 1976, pp. 7-31 (citations on pp. 12-13 and 15).

[7A precise perception of these problems can be found, for example, in some positions of American radical anthropology, as early as the 1960s (as from 1964, the year of the launch of the notorious Camelot project, which, starting from Charles Wright Mills’ analyses also encouraged a vast movement of reflection among social science scholars). See the well-known I. L. Horowitz (edited by), The New Sociology, Essay in Social Science and Social Theory in Honor of C. Wright Mills, New York, Oxford University Press, 1964. The volume edited by Horowitz, with others, fundamental for understanding this cultural amassment, is remembered in the illuminating study by C. Gallini, Le buone intenzioni. Politica e metodologia nell’antropologia culturale statunitense, Rimini, Guaraldi, 1974. With regard to the Camelot project, see once again I. L. Horowitz, The Rise and the Fall of Project ’Camelot’, Cambridge, MIT Press, 1967; concerning certain positions of American radical anthropology, see G. Guidorossi, “Antropologia e marxismo negli Stati Uniti”, Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia, XXI, 3, 1979, pp. 387-431.

[8I think of the intellectual partnership between Scotellaro and Peck (whose research produced an essay, Some general conclusions on problems of Southern Italy based on study of Tricarico in Lucania, in 1950 [Matera State Archive – ’Rocco Mazzarone’ Fund, 578, typescript]. It has remained unpublished, but a reading of it reveals the remarkable distancing of the anthropologist from the techniques of the ’American type of community studies’, p. 1; I think of the function taken on by Mazzarone, whose war story, through his imprisonment and his voluntary health service, had brought him closer to the Anglo-Saxon world, which stood as a bridge between the various Italian and foreign instances, promoting rapprochement and dialogue; I am thinking of the investigation into the Sassi of Matera, which I will briefly discuss later, which saw scholars of the two fields alongside each other, unified by the key figure of Adriano Olivetti. It was, moreover, around the Olivettian hypothesis that, in my opinion, the most thorough experiment of discussion and collaboration congealed. For further details, see “I contadini”, Comunità, X, 39, 1956, pp. 22-33, which, around an opening discussion of the journal, publishes dialogical interventions by G. Blas Tejeira, F. Friedmann, D. Pitkin, R. Redfield, J. T. Sanders and T. Tentori.

[9For a critique regarding the positions of American (and foreign) scholars, with particular reference to the previously mentioned Banfield essay, see A. Pizzorno, “Amoral Familism and Historical Marginality”, International Review of Community Development, 15-16, 1966, pp. 55-66. More generally, I seem to be able to detect that the very well-known stances taken by de Martino, the most authoritative of Italian researchers, were based not only on that manifest political diffidence and on the radically different scientific background that I mentioned above, but also on an imprecise evaluation of currents and important authors of foreign anthropology. Somewhat later, those of some social sciences scholars, including Pizzorno, were able to decline the intellectual critique of foreign approach models in a close manner, with more accurate analytical results. For an understanding of the historical context in which Demartinian diversity affirms itself towards foreign experience in the South, see as an introduction V. Lanternari, “Ernesto de Martino etnologo meridionalista: vent’anni dopo”, L’Uomo, I, 1977, pp. 28-56. For a rigorous critical framework on the Demartinian formation, see G. Charuty, Ernesto De Martino. Les vies antérieures d’un anthropologue, Marseille, Édition Parenthèses/MMSH, 2009 [Ital. trans. by A. Talamonti, Ernesto de Martino. Le precedentivite di un antropologo, Milan, Franco Angeli, 2010].

[10It is not possible, here, due to its extent, to recall such publications. I refer to some studies that present a reliable panorama and to the bibliography contained in them. See L. W. Moss, “Ricerche socio-culturali di studiosi americani”, Bollettino delle ricerche sociali, 1, 6, 1961, pp. 502-518; G. A. Marselli, “Ricerche sociali, riforma agraria e sviluppo comunitario”, Nord e Sud, 1962, 29, 90, pp. 97-128 and 30, 91, pp. 91-111; W. A. Douglas, “Issues in the Study of South Italy”, Current Anthropology, 16, 4, 1975, pp. 620-625; R. Mazzarone, “Studiosi americani in Basilicata negli anni Cinquanta”, Basilicata, 22, 1-3, 1978, pp. 45-48; E. Imbriani, “Gli studi di comunità in Basilicata”, Studi etno-antropologici e sociologici, XXV, 1997, pp. 21-36; M. Minicuci, “Antropologi e Mezzogiorno”, Meridiana, “Mezzogiorno in idea”, 47-48, 2003, pp. 139-174; C. Biscaglia, “Studi sulla Lucania degli anni Cinquanta e la funzione del Centro di documentazione ‘Rocco Scotellaro e la Basilicata del secondo dopoguerra’”, Bollettino storico della Basilicata, 22, 2006, pp. 319-350.

[11The investigation as a whole is unpublished. The photographs are kept at the Fondazione Corrente in Milan. Selections of the images, more or less ample, have been published in F. Faeta, S. Piermarini (ed.), Melissa 1949-1979. Trent’anni di rilevazione fotografica sulla condizione e la cultura delle classi subalterne, Vibo Valentia, Qualecultura, 1980 and in G. Chiti, T. Nicolini, Sulla terra. Fotografie di Ernesto Treccani a Melissa, 1950-60, Milan, Fondazione Corrente, 2004. A critical account of Treccani’s photographic work in Melissa provides for my “Lo sguardo di Melissa. Una nota sul realismo etnografico di Ernesto Treccani”,in Fotografi e fotografie. Uno sguardo antropologico, Milan, Franco Angeli, 2006, pp. 103-112.

[12The photographs are kept in the Zavattini Archive in Rome. For more detailed information see F. Faeta (ed.), Arturo Zavattini fotografo in Lucania, Milan, Federico Motta Editore, 2003.

[13SeeC. Zavattini, P. Strand, Un paese, Turin, Einaudi, 1955. However, an anticipation of the work and its cultural peculiarity had already been offered by the authors in an essay that appeared in the photographic documentaries of ’Cinema Nuovo’ directed by Guido Aristarco. See C. Zavattini, P. Strand, “25 ritratti”, Cinema Nuovo, 53, 1955, pp. 137-144. On the backstage of this cultural enterprise, see E. Gualtieri (ed.), Paul Strand Cesare Zavattini.Lettere e immagini, Reggio Emilia, Municipality of Reggio Emilia, Zavattini Archive, 2005; L. Gasperini, A. Ferraboschi (ed.), Paul Strand e Cesare Zavattini.Un paese, la storia e l’eredità, Cinisello Balsamo (MI), Silvana Editoriale, 2017.

[14See H. Rasmussen,Paesi e campagne del Sud. Ricerche etnologiche nella Calabria e nella Basilicata degli anni’50 (edited by O. Cavalcanti), Soveria Mannelli, Rubbettino, 1997.

[15See D. Olienas, U. Lucas, T. Agliani (ed.), La Sardegna nelle fotografie di Andreas Fridolin Weis Bentzon, Cagliari, Iscandula, 2007. For an anthropological reading of the photographic work by the Danish ethno-musicologist, see A. Ricci, Etnografia visiva e musica popolare nell’Italia centrale e meridionale, Milan, Franco Angeli, 2007, pp. 69-83.

[16For examples of these images (initially published in the Commission for the study of the city and countryside of Matera, Saggi introduttivi, Roma, UNRRA-Casas - Prima giunta, 1956), see La Lucania di Henri Cartier-Bresson, with texts by R. Mazzarone and G. Appella, Roma, Edizioni della Cometa, 1990; “Henri Cartier-Bresson: la Basilicata”, Du, 7, 1974. For a historical-critical framework of the photographer’s work in Lucania see C. Biscaglia, “Rocco Mazzarone e la Lucania nelle fotografie di Henri Cartier-Bresson”, in F. Mirizzi (ed.), Da vicino e da lontano. Fotografi e fotografie in Lucania, Milan, Franco Angeli, 2009, pp. 226-246.

[17See Milton Gendel, fotografie 1950, Palermo, Sellerio, 1988. The volume contains a writing by Gendel illustrating the reasons for the journey with Collins and aspects of the background of American cultural policy that was behind him.

[18See L. Harris, “Il volto umano del big business: fotografia documentaria americana a Matera (1948-1954)”, RSF - Rivista di studi di fotografia, 9, 2019, pp. 30-53. The author reflects in detail on the work in the South by Collins, Bubley and Weiner. For Seymour see, for example, his commitment with Levi, during the campaigns against the illiteracy in Calabria: G. Hendel, C. Naggar, K. Priem (ed.), They did not stop at Eboli. UNESCO and the Campaign against Illiteracy in a Reportage by David (Chim) Seymour and Texts by Carlo Levi (1950), Paris-Berlin, UNESCO and De Gruyter, 2019.

[19See, with regard to these authors, La fotografia in Sardegna. Lo sguardo esterno: gli anni del Dopoguerra, Nuoro, Ilisso, 2009.

[20At the Irpinia Visual Anthropological Museum (MAVI), still in the process of being formed. The Municipal Administration of Lacedonia, the cultural association ’La Pilart’ and the Pro-Loco have taken action to enhance the images, based on local exhibitions, study days, the sponsorship of a photographic competition, support for the realization of an exhibition at MuCiv in Rome and the promotion of a study of the fund carried out in collaboration with the University of Salerno. With regard to the modalities through which the images were donated to the community of Lacedonia, see F. Cancian, Lacedonia. Un paeseitaliano, 1957, Delta 3 Edizioni, without an indication of place and date (however Lacedonia, 2013). For an initial introduction to AFC-Italy, with an interview with the anthropologist and images of his return to Italy in 2017, see the film 5x7. Il paese in una scatola, directed by M. Citoni, colour, production M. Citoni for MAVI, ’La Pilart’ and Pro Loco ’Gino Chicone’, Italia, 37 m.

[21The scanner used was a Nikon Super Coolscan 9000. The acquisition was carried out several times in recent years; both the horizontal and vertical resolution is 4000 dpi; the sizes vary from 17 to 20 MB depending on the individual files.

[22An initial transcription and translation of the document was carried out by Michele Arpaia.

[23Since 2003 Cancian has abandoned analogue cameras. The digital cameras used were a Nikon D300, a Canon Powershot A640, a Canon G12, a Nikon D100. FC; letter dated 13 December 2019.

[24The photographs were exhibited at the Fine Arts Center of the University of Irvine, from 30 September to 29 October 2011, and at the Student Center Courtyard Study Lounge, also in Irvine, in the Winter Quarter 2012.

[25See, F.A. Cancian, A Photo-Ethnography of the White Mountains Apache, Wesleyan University, Honors College, Class of 1956; F. Cancian, Another Place: Photographs of a Maya Community, San Francisco, The Scrimshaw Press, 1974; Id., Orange County Housecleaners, Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 2006; Id., Lacedonia. Un paese italiano, 1957, cit. Only the author’s private edition exists, printed in Canada by Hemlock Printers in 2017, which presents texts exclusively in English. Compared to the Italian edition, the order of the images has changed slightly and the volume has a postscript by the author (“Addendum. Two Editions and a Museum. Personal Notes”, pp. 109-111). The photographs of Lacedonia, before the 2013 edition of the book, had had very limited print reproduction; see essentially F. A. Cancian, “Lacedonia, a photographic essay”, The Rhode Islander, 27 April 1958, pp. 6-12 and F. Cancian, “The Southern Italian Peasant”, News Bulletin - Institute of International Education, October 1959, pp. 26-31.

[26See www.frankcancian.net; last consulted, 21 November 2019. 

[27For a historical-statistical overview of the large emigration from Zoldo to the USA and, in particular, to Stafford, see R. J. Favretti, Jumping the Puddle. Zoldani to America, private printing, Dexter, MI, Baker Johnson, 2002. I owe this indication, and the consultation of the book, to Cancian’s kindness.

[28FC; interview dated 9 October 2019.


[30FC; interview dated 9 October 2019; letter dated 18 November 2019. Fontamara and Cristo si è fermato a Eboli by Carlo Levi strongly incited the American imagination towards the Italian Mezzogiorno. The first book, moreover, had been translated into English, by Penguin Books in 1934, and was the subject of a theatrical reduction, by Victor Wolfson, of considerable success, presented for the first time in New York in 1936; the second, entitled Christ stopped at Eboli, appeared in 1947 through the Farrar, Strauss & Giroux publishing house – New York.

[31FC; letter dated 18 November 2019.

[32F. A. Cancian, A Photo-Ethnography of the White Mountains Apache, cit., without page indication, yet page 1.

[33FC; interview by Michele Citoni dated 10 August 2017.

[34Worth mentioning here are the well-known observations by the 1911 Dillingham Commission, the investigations on Italian immigrants by Franz Boas and Paul Radin. See in this regard L. W. Moss, “Ricerche socio-culturali di studiosi americani”, cit., and R. Mazzarone, “Studiosi americani in Basilicata negli anni Cinquanta”, cit.

[35The Foundation had a scholarship programme, in the immediate post-war period, aimed at supporting US university teaching and research, following the decrease in the birth rate during the period around the mid-1930s.

[36There is quite extensive literature on the programme, its intentions, its social implications and its political outcomes which cannot be referred to here. Instead, I think it is useful to refer, in summary, to a vast report on the forty years of activity carried out by the programme in Italy under her direction, written by Scelba herself. See C. Scelba, “Fulbright Story Series – Part I: I primi 20 anni del Programma Fulbright in Italia 1948 - 1968; Part II: I secondi 20 anni del Programma Fulbright in Italia 1968 – 1988”, 23 Aprile 2008, in The U.S.-Italy Fulbright Commission, 31 August 2015, online consultation dated 28 October 2019.

[37Tentori’s first American sojourn, which lasted six months was full of travel, contacts, exchanges, experiences and seminal for many developments of cultural anthropology in Italy. It dates back to 1949, and was propitiated by a scholarship for a fellowship at the ’Viking Foundation’ (which a few years later was changed into the ’Wenner Green Foundation’), linked to a study project on Native American populations (typological differences between bows and arrows of tribes located in various areas of the country). This scholarship was propitiated by the presence of Artom Scelba, who at the time was also the person in charge of the cultural office of the American Embassy in Rome. The second sojourn, supported by the Fulbright scholarship, had taken place in 1953-54, at the invitation of Robert Redfield, Robert Lowie and Milton Singer and envisaged the commitment to hold a course in the Anthropology Department of the University of Chicago. I obtained this information not only from the notes regarding some direct conversations with Tentori towards the end of the nineties, but also from his autobiographical volume, full of indications and references, entitled Il pensiero è come il vento. Storia di un antropologo, with a preface by G. Di Cristofaro Longo, Rome, Studium Editions, 2004. For a reliable historiographic account regarding Tentori’s position on the national scene, see E. V. Alliegro, Antropologia italiana. Storia e storiografia, 1869-1975, Firenze, SEID, 2011, ad indicem and, in particular, p. 476 et seq.; Id., “Tullio Tentori”, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Treccani, vol. 95, 2019, pp. 343-345.

[38There is no trace of Cancian’s travel in the MuCiv archives, which today has incorporated the MNATP, while in the Tentori papers (not in order, enclosed in a binder in his name, containing various folders) one can have a broad idea of the complex relational work he carried out with the foreign scholars, starting from the direction of the Museum, as well as the cordial relationships established with Adriano Olivetti and Riccardo Musatti, then authoritative member of the Community Movement’s executive committee. By way of example, see the request sent to Tentori by Anton Blok, from the University of Amsterdam, on the recommendation of Moss, who at the time was at the Wayne University in Detroit, to obtain ’some ’reprints’ and other bibliographical information’ on the South, on which ’sociological literature is so scarce [...] in Holland [and] very difficult to obtain’ (letter dated 20 November 1962, with signed indications of Tentori’s reply); or the amusing correspondence with Musatti and Olivetti concerning the donation, requested and obtained, of typewriters for the activities by the nascent Italian Association of Social Sciences (letters dated 8, 18 and 19 October 1957).

[39See, in this regard, T. Tentori, “Il sistema di vita della comunità materana”, in Commission for the study of the city and countryside of Matera, Saggi introduttivi, cit., p. 3. As mentioned, Olivetti was the central figure of the experience in question (see, in this regard, F. Bilò, E. Vadini, Matera e Adriano Olivetti. Testimonianze su un’idea per il riscatto del Mezzogiorno, Roma-Ivrea, Edizioni di Comunità, 2016). A large group of engineers and architects also collaborated with the Commission for the study of the city and countryside of Matera and, in particular, Ludovico Quaroni who designed, along with others, the new settlement. The village, and the other inhabited areas of the redevelopment, Spine Bianche, Serra Venerdì, La Nera, Picciano, Agna and Borgo Venusio, not only represent an exemplary case of social modernization through urban planning modification but, and in particular, a paradigmatic expression of Italian Architectural Neorealism. Michele Valori, called by Quaroni, also took part in the project as well as Federico Gorio, Piero Maria Lugli, and Michele Agati. Valori, along with Gorio, also participated in the national competition for the construction of the rural village of Torre Spagnola (Matera, 1954), published by the UNRRA-Casas; as we can see, it was an intense season, albeit not without contradictions, of scientific and reformistic commitment.

[40This circumstance was also mentioned by Cancian, yet without precise temporal references. See FC; Michele Citoni interview dated 10 August 2017; FC; letter dated 10 September 2019, letter dated 30 November 2019.

[41In Tentori’s previously mentioned biography, in fact, there is no reference with regard to the part that describes his experiences at Cambridge, of the Harvard Values Project and the VOM. With regard to the tests, the writing only dwells upon the characteristic element of American anthropology at the time, an episode of adaptation, at an iconographic level, of the T.A.T.(Thematic Apperception Test) on request for the Neapolitan fieldwork by Anne Parson, in an encounter which presumably took place in the late fifties at the MNATP. See T. Tentori, Il pensiero è come il vento. Storia di un antropologo, cit., p. 77. It is worth mentioning that the T.A.T. had been applied, along with other empirical research tools, by Edward C. Banfield in Chiaromonte, provoking a series of critical observations.

[42See L. Harris, “Il volto umano del big business: fotografia documentaria americana a Matera (1948-1954)”, cit.

[43FC; letter dated 10 September 2019. For an essay on Tentori’s work in the South designed through questionnaires, which amply testifies to his familiarity with American research schemes, see the document found in the Mazzarone Archive. Cfr. Matera State Archive - ’Rocco Mazzarone’ Fund, Questionari Tentori (Rome, 1956), 914.11. With regard to its archival position, connected to the documents concerning the study on Matera, we can deduce that the document makes concrete reference to that investigation.

[44FC; letter dated 10 September 2019.

[45The exhibition was held at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, from April 29 to June 7, 1958. News of this was given by The Rhode Islander in an issue featuring an article with photographs of Cancian in Lacedonia, which reproduces one of his photographs on the cover, full page. The scholar is presented as ’a member of the Journal-Bulletin state staff’. See F. A. Cancian, “Lacedonia, a photographic essay”, The Rhode Islander, cit.

[46The article mentioned in the previous note states: ’Mr. Cancian has just received a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship and will enter Harvard in the fall for graduate work in anthropology’ (Ibid., page 6).

[47With regard to the importance of Vogt in American anthropology and in the studies on American native peoples, see the exhaustive biography, with a bibliography, written by Joyce Marcus. See note J. Marcus, “Evon Zartman Vogt Jr.”, The National Academic Press, Biographical Memoirs, vol. 86, 2005, pp. 354-376.

[48See L. McCombe, E. Z. Vogt Jr., C. Kluckhohn, Navajo Means People, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1951. For concise criticism on this book and the photographic experience behind it, see L. Makeda, “Visions of a Liminal Landscape: Mythmaking on the Rainbow Plateau”, Journal of the Southwest, 58, 4, 2016, pp. 633-696.

[49See in this regard M. Petrusewicz, J. Schneider, P. Schneider (eds.), I Sud. Conoscere, capire, cambiare, Bologna, il Mulino, 2009.

[50FC; letter dated 10 September 2019.

[51FC; letter dated 13 October 2019.

[52I call to mind here, for the obvious sake of brevity, only the titles of the volumes; see F. Cancian, Economics and Prestige in a Maya Community: The Religious Cargo System in Zinacantan, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1965; Id., Change and Uncertainty in a Peasant Economy: The Maya Corn Farmers of Zinacantan, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1972; Id., The Innovator’s Situation: Upper Middle Class Conservatism in Agricultural Communities, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1979; Id., The Decline of Community in Zinacantan: The Economy, Public Life, and Social Stratification, 1960 to 1987, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1992.

[53See the MAVI archive, Lacedonia, Cancian’s Notebook. As mentioned, the notes consist of 75 numbered sheets, handwritten and not very easily decipherable, with relatively few corrections and cancellations; the page numbers are placed at the top right, enclosed in a quadrangular frame; the day and time indications are in the centre of the page tending towards the right and divide the consecutive notes. At times, there are references in the text regarding precise photographs taken. On page twelve there is an approximate drawing of the plan of a rural house along with the internal subdivision of the spaces. The annotations skip at times, even over many days; other times there are different notes, at different times of the day. Two stays in Rome are reported, one in late March, the other between late April and early May, in which an asthma attack is noted on May 1st. Finally, in some notes, reference is made to comings and goings on a territorial basis which are perceived to be limited. V. Esposito offers a summary of the contents of the notebooks in “‘Non trovo pace più’. Note relative alla ricerca su/di Frank Cancian, antropologo visivo nell’Italia del Sud”, Visual Ethnography, 8, 2, 2019, pp. 99-121, on-line edition, consulted on 8 February, 2020, in particular pp. 109 et seq.

[54See J. Z. Vogt, Navaho Veterans: A Study of Changing Values, Papers of the Peabody Museum, 41, 1, 1951, Cambridge Harvard University Press; J. Z. Vogt, T. F. O’Dea, “A comparative study of the role of values in social action in two Southwestern communities”, American Sociological Review, 1953, 18, 6, pp. 645-654; J. Z. Vogt, Modern Homesteaders: Life in a Twentieth Century Frontier Community, Cambridge, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1955.

[55In addition to providing a subsequent choice of Harvard and Vogt, by Cancian, of a consistent background.

[56In his notebooks during that period, there are notes regarding 18 May (on which he announces that he has returned to the town, without specifying from where, the day before) and 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 28 May.

[57See E. de Martino, Sud e magia, Milan, Feltrinelli, 1959; the chapter “Vita magica di Albano” (pp. 68-85). I should like to highlight how the image of the Fattucchiera di Colobraro by Pinna, icon and symbol of the Lucanian backwardness, is placed in this chapter, along with other photographs by the Sardinian photographer, elsewhere subjected to criticism and revealed, through careful research by Eugenio Imbriani, as an ideologically constructed artefact. See E. Imbriani, La strega falsa. Distinzioni e distorsioni in antropologia, Bari, Progedit, 2017, pp. 64-72.

[58See E. de Martino, “Note di viaggio”, Nuovi Argomenti, I, 2, 1953, pp. 47-69, later reprinted several times; Id., Note di Campo. Spedizione in Lucania, 30 Sett. - 31 Ott. 1952 (critical edition edited by C. Gallini), Lecce, Argo, 1995, particularly pp. 79-173; Id., L’opera a cui lavoro. Apparato critico e documentario alla ’spedizione etnologica’ in Lucania (ed. by C. Gallini), Lecce, Argo, 1996, particularly pp. 263 et seq..

[59E. de Martino, L’opera a cuilavoro. Apparato critico e documentario alla ’spedizione etnologica’ in Lucania, cit., p. 272.

[60See F. Cancian, “The Southern Italian Peasant: Word View and Political Behavior”, Anthropological Quarterly, 34, 1, 1960, pp. 1-18. The essay appeared in an Italian translation in Bollettino delle Scienze Sociali, May-June 1961, pp. 258-277; a partial translation has been published in appendix to E. C. Banfield, Le basi morali di una società arretrata, cit., pp. 207-213. Among those who referred to the ideas expressed in the essay, see N. S. Peabody, “Toward an Understanding of Backwardness and Change: a Critique of the Banfield Hypothesis”, Journal of Developing Areas, 4, 3, 1970, pp. 375-386. All the passages of the essay cited in the text are taken from the original edition.

[61E. C. Banfield, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society, Glencoe (ILL.), The Free Press, 1958; first Italian translation, entitled Una comunità nel Mezzogiorno, Bologna, il Mulino, 1961; in the second edition, cited in the previous note, there are critical writings, further to Cancian, by De Masi (mentioned in note 5) and by Marselli, Wichers, Pizzorno, Silverman, Peabody, Davis, Callung and Combis. In addition to these interventions, I should like to highlight that of L. M. Lombardi Satriani in Antropologia culturale e analisi della cultura subalterna, Rimini, Guaraldi, 1974, pp. 60-75, for its representativeness of the viewpoint of Italian anthropologists who studied the South. More recent critical contributions regarding the widespread favour that Banfield’s (and Robert Putnam’s) theses have received in the Anglo-Saxon (and sometimes Italian) context, are provided by Michael Herzfeld (see, in particular, M. Herzfeld, Evicted from the Eternity. The Restructuring of Modern Rome, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 2008, particularly pp. 76-79; Id., “Heritage and corruption: the two faces of the nation-state”, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 21, 6, 2015, pp. 531-544; Id., “Corruption as Political Incest. Temporalities of Sin and Redemption”, in T. Thelen, E. Alber (ed.), Reconnecting State and Kingship, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018, pp. 39-59); well summarized opinions in an Italian interview granted to Marino Niola (see M. Herzfeld, “Il familismo è morale, il Sud non se ne vergogni”, la Repubblica, August, 5 2014). Putnam’s well-known book, later than the period we are dealing with, although based on materials from previous decades, is Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1993. Emanuele Ferragina recalls, appropriately, the importance of Banfield’s essay and its lasting influence in a wide range of social studies, beyond anthropology and sociology. See E. Ferragina, “The Never-Ending Debate about ‘The Moral Basis of a Backward Society’: Banfield and ’Amoral Familism’”, Jaso, n.s., 1, 2, 2009, pp. 141-160; Id., “Le teorie che non muoiono mai sono quelle che confermano le nostre ipotesi di base: cinquant’anni di familismo amorale”, Meridiana, 65-66, 2019, pp. 265-287;Id., “Il fantasma di Banfield: una verifica empirica della teoria del familismo amorale”, Stato e Mercato, 92, August 2011, pp. 283-312.

[62See F. G. Friedmann, “The World of ’La Miseria”, Partisan Review, 20, 1953, pp. 218-231. Today, however, Cancian does not appear inclined to recognize a privileged relationship with Friedmann and his vision of the southern society, while underlining the importance of the dialogue which, particularly later, he had with Pitkin (’who I met and talked with many times while I was a student at Harvard. He lived in Cambridge, a 15-minute walk from my room there’). FC; letter dated 26 February 2020.

[63In the two articles already mentioned, of an informative nature regarding the work on Lacedonia, the scholar expresses these concepts with synthetic clarity, moreover, mentioned in his fundamental 1960 essay. ’When the men gather in the square, the talk seldom resembles the competitive chatter that the American farmer trades with his fellows. The Lacedonian is working for survival not victory. He admits that no one will have a good crop. More often the talk is of other places - places where a man might go to earn a living’. F. A. Cancian, “Lacedonia, a photographic essay”, The Rhode Islander, cit., p. 6. ’The southern Italian peasant is a very sensible man. To maintain his dignity in a situation where he is quite clearly at the bottom, he detaches himself from any hope of change, although his persistent vision is of a better life. For centuries his destiny and that of his fathers has been guided from above, by God, king and dictator. There is nothing in his past to make him believe that he can change his situation. He does not see history as his to make. Recognition of a problem is most often accompanied by a cynical ’Chevuoi fa?’[…] and a discouraged ’Non c’è da fa!’’. F. Cancian, “The Southern Italian Peasant”, News Bulletin - Institute of International Education, cit., p. 30.

[64In this regard, see the scholar’s statements in his interviews with Pancrazio Toscano and Laura Olivetti. Cfr. F.G. Friedmann, Miseria e dignità. Il Mezzogiorno nei primi anni Cinquanta, cit., pp. 39-89; L. Olivetti, “La Basilicata, l’incontro con Adriano Olivetti e i progetti comunitari nel racconto di Friedrich G. Friedmann”, inF. Bilò, E. Vadini, Matera e Adriano Olivetti. Testimonianze su un’idea per il riscatto del Mezzogiorno, cit., pp. 21-36.

[65Intervening before him, as far as I know, were Moss, in 1958, T. McCorkle, Sanders and R. Waelder, in 1959.

[66Actually, Cancian’s travels in the South were, at the time, essentially limited to the Campania area he was dealing with directly. Later he was able, as a traveller interested in the reality of rural town, to visit Calabria, Sicily and the southern Adriatic and Ionian coast. FC; letter dated 26 February 2020.

[67See W.G. Sumner, Folkways. A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals, Boston, Ginn and Co., 1906. ’The concept of ethos is taken from Summer – Banfield writes laconically -: the set of common customs, ideas, judgment and behaviour terms that identify and differentiate a group from other groups’ (Banfield, 1976, p. 38).

[68See C. Geertz, “Ethos, World-View and the Analysis of Sacred Symbols”, The Antioch Review, 17, 4, 1957, pp. 421-437. Yet, with regard to Geertz, see also “Religion as a Cultural System”, in M. Banton (ed.), Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, London, Tavistock Publications, 1966, pp. 1-46, and Interpretation of Cultures, New York, Basic Books, 1973.

[69C. Geertz, “Ethos, World-View and the Analysis of Sacred Symbols”, cit., pp. 421-422.

[70The bibliography only gives an account, on the other hand, of studies closely related to southern Italy at the time and some comparative situation, with the exception of a single writing by Ralph Linton, recalled in support of a theoretical passage.

[71FC; letter dated 18 November 2019.

[72By way of comparison, I think of the work carried out by Marina Malabotti, Salvatore Piermarini, Pino De Angelis, Lello Mazzacane, Mimmo Jodice, Mario Cresci, Marialba Russo and myself, between the late sixties and the seventies, which tries to break down the patterns of ’Demartinian’ social documentation photography, inaugurating a period of scientific and formal research, with the aim of rejuvenating the Italian ethnographic-visual dissertation. As we can see, this takes place fifteen or twenty years later compared to 1957.

[73G. Bateson, M. Mead, Balinese Character, New York, New York Academy of Sciences, 1942, p. 53 (“Notes on the Photographs and Captions”, pp. 49-54).

[74FC; interview by Michele Citoni dated 10 August 2017.

[75My research which most resembles that of Cancian in Lacedonia was carried out in Melissa and Ragonà, in Calabria, respectively in 1975-78 and 1979-80. The first of the two was carried out with the collaboration of Malabotti, Piermarini and De Angelis, whom I have already mentioned, and was partially published in a volume; the second is still unpublished. With regard to the theoretical reflection on the themes that I discuss in the text, as an introduction see my Strategie dell’occhio. Saggi di etnografia visiva, third revised and expanded edition, Milano, Franco Angeli, 2003 and “La fotografia come descrizione densa. Antropologia, fonti, documenti”, Voci. Annuale di ScienzeUmanediretto da Luigi. M. Lombardi Satriani, XII, 2015, pp. 28-43; with regard to the investigation in Melissa see F. Faeta, Melissa. Folklore, lotta di classe e modificazioni culturali in una comunità contadina meridionale, Firenze, La Casa Usher, 1979.

[76www.frankcancian.net; last consulted on 21 November 2019.

[77FC; interview by Michele Citoni dated 10 August 2017.

[78www.frankcancian.net; last consulted on 21 November 2019.

[79G. Bateson, M. Mead, Balinese Character, cit., p. 49. For a broader consideration of Bateson’s (and Mead’s) positions on ethnographic photography, see also “For God’s Sake, Margaret. Conversation between Stewart Brand, Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead”, CoEvolutionary Quarterly, 10, 1976, pp. 32-44. The writing is now also reported in A. Ricci (ed.), Bateson & Mead e la fotografia, Roma, Aracne, 2006, pp. 61-68.

[80With regard to this perspective, see the work carried out in collaboration with Arturo Zavattini (also supported by Giacomo Daniele Fragapane) on his archive (cf. F. Faeta (ed.), Arturo Zavattini fotografo in Lucania, cit.; F. Faeta, G. D. Fragapane(ed.), AZ - Arturo Zavattini fotografo. Viaggi e cinema 1950-1960, Roma, Contrasto, 2015; Idd. (ed.), Arturo Zavattini. Passeggiata napoletana, Roma, Postcart, 2017; Idd(ed.), Zavattini & Zavattini. Cesare nelle fotografie di Arturo, Roma, Postcart, 2019). The aforementioned investigation carried out in Ragonà, to give another type of example, served closely to lay out a sort of screenplay for images for a documentary film on the community made by another author, pursuant to the principle invoked by Cesare Zavattini to have “a story [that] proceeds from the image rather than moving later towards the image’. See L’assenza del presente. Storia di una comunità marginale, directed by M. Boggio, REIAC Film production for Rai-Radiotelevisione Italiana, Roma, 155 minutes, 16 mm., colour, 1980. A book by the same name was made from the film edited by M. Boggio, published by Marsilio on behalf of Cassa di Risparmio di Calabria e Lucania in 1981. Regarding the theoretical aspects related to the contamination experience between different audio-visual techniques, see my written work “Lontano da dove?Lontano da tutto. Breve resoconto di un’indagine di etnografia visiv”, Voci. Annuale di Scienze Umane diretto da Luigi. M. Lombardi Satriani, I, 1, 2004, pp. 69-91.