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Subaltern Studies 1 and Collective Memories in Piana degli Albanesi: Methodological Reflections on a Historiographical Encounter

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The following essay is a set of reflections prompted by my encounter with the writings of several Subaltern Studies authors during the period in which I was working on collective memories in the Siculo-Albanian village, Piana degli Albanesi. My encounter with Subaltern Studies, though limited, has been richly suggestive in providing new ways of thinking about collective memories, and perhaps also in rethinking a major point of theoretical contention within Subaltern Studies itself. This essay will address both of these issues. It is organized around two problem complexes emerging from the historiographical affinities between Subaltern Studies and Pianese peasants, both immediately pertinent to the study of collective memory: the delineation of collectives and the class framework of experience; and (subaltern) bodies as sites of memory. Encounters, however, are seldom one-way streets. Woven into my analysis of collectives and their memories is a comment on, possibly a contribution to, the theoretical debate that resulted in an abrupt shift in the intellectual history of Subaltern Studies from its initial focus on reconstructing forms of peasant consciousness to its later concern with deconstructing discourses.


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