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Sulle orme della tradizione. Gli Indiani d’America e noi

It is as if the sound of the drum accompanies us as we read In the Footsteps of Tradition: a rhythm that is at times pressing, provocative, stimulating, at times calm, full of historical and cultural information, writes Naila Clerici in the preface to this work. The book outlines a path ‘in the footsteps’ of North American native traditions, in search of the trace of humanity of these peoples, denied and stifled by the processes of colonisation and assimilation over more than five centuries. The trace that native traditionalists have searched for is the same trace that anthropologists have searched for. This search, from both sides, was particularly intensified with the revival of native shamanic traditions in the second half of the 20th century and, in the same period, with the resurgence of ethnographic research in postcolonial and postmodern anthropology. The book attempts to grasp this particular intersection, from the two sides, trying to avoid schematisms and clichés: in this sense the subtitle ‘American Indians and Us’. The book covers general themes, such as the relational cultural conflicts between Natives and Whites during the colonial era, and specific aspects, such as the boundaries of reservations and native territories, the claims against the new forms of dispossession and abuse of these territories, as well as the revival and defence of shamanic religious traditions from new forms of spiritual consumption and abuse. The theme of the conflict between North American native cultures and the dominant culture is only fully readable from a historical perspective that does not deny those aspects of mingling and cooperation that have ‘made America’ in the collaboration between the protagonists at play, on levels as diverse as technological, linguistic and religious. The book draws attention to how the denial of this trace of encounter, metissage and collaboration between cultures is another ‘mark’ of modern colonialism, which has pitted ‘primitive’ and ‘civilised’, races, irreconcilable religions, essentially opposing cultures, categories in conflict.

Francesco Spagna, born in 1962, has been teaching Cultural Anthropology at the University of Padua for over twenty years. He completed studies in Philosophy and a PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology, during which time he undertook ethnographic trips to North American native communities in the United States and Canada; as well as to Africa, Lapland and India. He has published about seventy titles, including books and articles related to the subject of teaching and research.