A Bedouin Principle of Freedom for the Risorgimento d’Italia: Michele Amari Integrates Ibn Khaldūn with Vico’s filologia

In: Philological Encounters
Markus Messling Universität des Saarlandes

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In the New Science (1744), Giambattista Vico defined filologia as “the doctrine of all the institutions that depend on human choice” of the mondo civile. When nineteenth-century European nationalism was on the rise, supported by narratives of cultural homogeneity and specificity, philological comparatism was the state-of-the-art and it, often, legitimated the obsessions with the purity of origins and genealogies. Italy, characterized by internal plurality and its Mediterranean entanglements, is a model case. Whereas many discourses of the Risorgimento aspired to shape a new Italian nation after the classical model, Michele Amari’s History of the Muslims of Sicily (1854–1872) marked an astonishing exception. For him, going back to Islamic-Sicilian history, its literary, rhetorical and linguistic culture, meant to resume, on a higher level of incivilmento (Vico), what had been obscured by cultural decline: the spirit of freedom and equality, which Ibn Khaldūn had attributed to the Bedouins and their dynamics in history.

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