Compiled and translated by Carlos Feixa, El folclore progresivo y otros ensayos brings together some of the essential texts of the debate around subaltern culture that took place in Italy from 1948 to 1955. The country had just lived through the tragic experience of fascism, defeated by the allied intervention and the resistance of partisan groups. The debate was sparked by the posthumous publication of the thirty-plus notebooks written by Antonio Gramsci while in jail. The work of Gramsci – in particular his comments on folklore – gave rise to an intense theoretical, methodological and political discussion, in which the most relevant and lasting contributions were to come from the ethnologist Ernesto de Martino. Many of the leading intellectuals of the period participated in the debate, which was influenced by activism linked to the issue of the south and neorealism in film and literature (with the 1948 publication of the Carlo Levi novel Cristo di è fermato a Eboli). The discussion converged on «progressive folklore», proposed by De Martino as a theoretical umbrella concept with which to analyse the liberating function that the subaltern, traditional culture can play in specific circumstances. This book recovers the essential texts of these debates and attempts to situate them in the context in which they emerged.

I like to work with what is often called "cultural heritage", but the materials that I use are banal and clichéd, like sugar blocks, doors, couscous, rugs, official documents.
Latifa Echakhch