The Life and Work of Ernesto De Martino

Italian Perspectives on Apocalypse and Rebirth in the Modern Study of Religion


In The Life and Work of Ernesto de Martino: Italian Perspectives on Apocalypse and Rebirth in the Modern Study of Religion, Flavio A. Geisshuesler offers a comprehensive study of one of Italy’s most colorful historians of religions. The book inserts de Martino’s dramatic life trajectory within the intellectual climate and the socio-political context of his age in order to offer a fresh perspective on the evolution of the discipline of religious studies during the 20th century. Demonstrating that scholarship on religion was animated by moments of fear of the apocalypse, it brings de Martino’s perspective into conversation with Mircea Eliade, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Clifford Geertz in order to recover an Italian approach that promises to redeem religious studies as a relevant and revitalizing field of research in the contemporary climate of crisis.
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Flavio A. Geisshuesler earned Ph.D. degrees from the universities of Virginia (USA) and Bern (Switzerland). He is a postdoctoral fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel), where he applies the interdisciplinary perspective of the Italian School of History of Religions to contemplative practices in Indo-Tibetan tantra.

Let the Earth Shake: From Crisis-Born Hero to Master of Civilizational Crisis

1 The Decline of the West (1908–1929): The Rupture of Time in Modernity and the Rise of the Prophets of Crisis
 1 Student Years under Fascism and the Guidance of a Spiritual Prophet of Crisis
 2 The Arrow of Progress and the Unification of a Ruptured Modernity in Need of Orientation
 3 The Crisis of the First World War and the Rise of Oswald Spengler’s Cultural Pessimism

2 Civil Religion (1929–1335): The Return to Something New as Modernist Alternative to Mircea Eliade’s Politics of Nostalgia
 1 Rudolf Otto and the Return to Religion as Experience
 2 Mircea Eliade’s Politics of Nostalgia and the Rebirth of Western Civilization
 3 An Alternative to the Politics of Nostalgia: Modernism and the Dialectic Conception of Palingenesis as the Return to Something New
 4 Questioning the Rupture of Modernity from a Dialectical Perspective: The Self-Secularization of Religion and the Self-Mythicization of Politics

3 The Crisis of the Presence (1936–1944): The Antifascist Sacralization of Politics and the Rise of Magical Thinking during WWII
 1 The Antifascist Turn in the Laterza Circle and the Continued Sacralization of Politics
 2 The Crisis of the Presence: Extreme States of Consciousness in Primitive Societies and the Shamanizing of Hitler in Europe
 3 The Dark Side of the Soul Resurfaces in Religious Studies: The Split between the Insider-Phenomenological and the Outsider-Explanatory Approaches
 4 The Savior of the European Sciences: The Redemption of the Presence and the Unifying Power of Magic

4 De-Historification (1944–1948): Shamanic Magic and the Dialectic Movement between Mircea Eliade and Claude Lévi-Strauss
 1 The Integration of Eliade and Lévi-Strauss: Sacred Poles and Songs of Labor as Forms of De-Historification
 2 Historicizing the De-Historifying Tendencies of the Modern Magicians in the Study of Religion
 3 The Magic Christ of Science: Heroic Historicism and the Active Provocation of Crisis in Pursuit of Critical Thinking

5 Critical Ethnocentrism (1949–1959): The Southern Period and the Articulation of a Post-Colonial Anthropology alongside Claude Lévi-Strauss
 1 Notoriety without Success: Controversies with the Philosopher and Intellectual Isolation within the Roman School of History of Religions
 2 Shaking Earth and Intellectual Transitions: Political Militancy and Ethnographic Journeys in the Italian South
 3 The Rise of the Cultural-Discursive Paradigm and Self-Reflexive Anthropology
 4 Tristes Tropiques, Critical Ethnocentrism, and the Anticipation of the Cultural-Discursive Paradigm

6 Loyalty to the Cultural Homeland (1960–1965): Critical Ethnocentrism as an Anticipatory Defense against Relativism and Interpretative Anthropology
 1 A Critic of Interpretative Anthropology Ante Litteram: The Anthropologist of Guilt Becomes a Philosopher of the Apocalypse of Relativism
 2 Moving with and Beyond Antonio Gramsci: From Progressive Folklore to a More Successful Colonialization
 3 Nostalgia for the Lost Homeland: An Anticipatory Analysis of the Cultural Turn and the Surprising Parallels between Cultural Relativism and the Insider-Phenomenological Approach
 4 Science Is Not for the Stateless: An Anticipatory Critique of the Cultural Turn Based on the Ethnocentric Imperative

7 The Ethos of Transcendence (1965–1977): Decision and the Moral Imperative as Anticipatory Response to Postmodernism
 1 The Philosophical Afterlife of The End of the World: Enzo Paci’s Existentialist Historicism and the Moral Imperative Grounded in the Contemporaneity of History
 2 Impossible Nostalgia and the Anticipatory Analysis of the Discursive Turn
 3 The Ethos of Transcendence of Life in Value as an Anticipatory Critique of the Discursive Turn

Conclusion: Let the Earth Shake (Again) or Why Rebirth Must Lead to a New Crisis
Given de Martino’s diverse activities, this book will be of relevance to scholars of religion, European intellectual history, continental philosophy, and anthropology, as well as anyone curious about the idea of the apocalypse in modern times.
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