HAR is pleased to announce one of the latest releases from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article published in three languages (Italian, French, and Spanish), on Italian anthropologist Raffaelle Corso.

Coppola, Maurizio, 2024. “Uno ‘folklorista di ieri’? Un ritratto di Raffaele Corso, tra etnografia legale, erotica ed esotica,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Coppola, Maurizio, 2024. “Un ‘folkloriste d’hier’? Raffaele Corso entre ethnographie juridique, érotique et exotique,”in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Coppola, Maurizio, 2024. “¿Un ‘folklorista de ayer’? Un retrato de Raffaele Corso, entre etnografía jurídica, erótica y exótica,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Raffaele Corso (1883–1965) was one of the leading figures in the history of anthropological disciplines in Italy in the first half of the 20th century. Both in Italy and abroad, particularly during the 1920s and 1930s, he was a renowned scholar in the domain of “folklore”, which he defined as the study of the popolino, that is, the urban or rural working classes of so-called “civilized” societies; but he also dedicated himself to “ethnography”, understood as the study of non-European peoples.

This article intertwines Corso’s intellectual and institutional trajectories dating back to his early evolutionist studies on survivals in customary law. He collaborated with Lamberto Loria on the organization of the Italian Ethnographic Exhibition set up in Rome in 1911 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the country’s 1861 unification. In dialogue with Viennese ethnologist Friedrich Salomon Krauss, Corso’s folklore explorations included an unexpected focus on sexual and erotic practices. From 1922, he was professor of “ethnography” at the Istituto Orientale di Napoli (the first of its kind to be created in Italy) and contributed significantly to the process of institutionalization and consolidation of the discipline in his country – witness the publication of his textbook Etnografia. Prolegomeni (Ethnography: Prolegomena, 1941), which went through several reprints with the aim of providing a teaching tool for university students. In February 1935, Corso travelled to Libya to study the customs and traditions of the Tuaregs as part of a mission supported and funded by the Ministry of Education and the local colonial government. He was one of the architects of the process of convergence that led Italian ethnographic sciences to embrace the ideological demands of Fascist propaganda from an epistemological point of view. This commitment on both the scientific and political fronts led to confrontations between Corso and Italian as well as foreign scholars who were attentive to the shortcomings of ethnological knowledge in its relationship with nationalist societies. Notwithstanding his importance during the period between the two world wars, Corso underwent progressive marginalization soon after, due in part to his relations with the ideology of the fascist regime, and also to the refoundation of ethno-anthropological sciences that rapidly eclipsed his methodological and theoretical approaches as old-fashioned.

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