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The Land of Remorse: A Study of Southern Italian Tarantism

Published Date: 6th August 2015

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De Martino, Ernesto
De Martino, Ernesto

Description

The Land of Remorse (La Terra del Rimorso, first Italian edition 1961) is a classic work by Ernesto De Martino, the founding figure of Italian cultural anthropology and ethnopsychiatry. Based on fieldwork conducted in the Salentine peninsula of Southern Italy in 1959, the study deals with the phenomenon of Apulian tarantism, a form of possession related to the belief in the bite of a mythical tarantula and its ritual cure in the tarantella dance. De Martino draws together the contributions of various specialists who participated in the fieldwork, including a psychologist, a psychiatrist, an ethnomusicologist and a social anthropologist. As both an ethnologist and classically-trained religious historian, the author reviews the fieldwork data through the lens of tarantism’s historical analysis. Never losing sight of his own relationship to the subjects of his study, he is able to restore the connection between the “history-less” peasants of the Salentine and the elites who wrote about tarantism in learned treatises from the Middle Ages on. The result is a compassionate and compelling account of tarantism, which no longer appears as mere mental illness or as a “survival” of shamanistic irrationality, but as a product of a cultural history defined from above, endowed with its own forms of rationality. The Land of Remorse offers an excellent introduction to Ernesto De Martino’s theoretical and methodological perspective. It will be of interest to a wide range of academic fields, including cultural anthropology, folklore, medical anthropology, ethnopsychiatry, ethnomusicology, semiotics, classics, religious studies and the history of philosophy and science. Along with appendices featuring essays on tarantism by specialist members of De Martino’s research team, this annotated edition includes the fieldwork photographs of those afflicted by tarantism as they perform the ritual exorcism, an example of the author’s early use of visual methods in ethnographic research.

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