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Department of Social Anthropology


Senior Research Seminar with David Ginsborg, (University of Cambridge) and Laura Tradii (University of Cambridge)

David Ginsborg, (University of Cambridge)

Different protagonists: Agency, transformation, and essence between football support and left-wing activism among the ultras of Centro Storico Lebowski football club.

The recent ‘subjective turn’ in the anthropology of activism has highlighted the centrality of the cultivation of transformative subjective dispositions to much contemporary left-wing activism. This rings true also for the Ultimi Rimasti, a group of ultras – self-organized football supporters committed to performing spectacular forms of support and to competing (sometimes violently) with other ultras groups – based in Florence, Italy. The Ultimi Rimasti cultivate protagonismo, which on the one hand is the distinctly ultras disposition to be the active protagonists of the football event rather than its passive consumers; on the other hand, the Ultimi Rimasti see this disposition as equally descriptive of their disposition as activists: the Ultimi Rimasti are also the ‘protagonists’ of their football club, Centro Storico Lebowski (CSL), which they collectively established, own, and run. For the group, running CSL – and thus involvement in the club as ‘protagonists’ – is a form of activism because the club’s organisation constitutes a critique against the commodification, privatisation, and securitisation of football under capitalism (themselves indexes of analogous dynamics throughout contemporary Italian society). In this presentation, based on part of my PhD dissertation, I argue that the continuities between the deployment of protagonismo to describe their disposition as ultras and as activists raises important questions about the nature of the ‘transformation’ provoked by and constitutive of activism; these questions are then only compounded by the substantive slippages that also occur between the two deployments of the term, which signal the stratification of multiple collective subjectivities in what might initially appear as a coherent whole.  

and Laura Tradii (University of Cambridge)

Terra incognita: Living with the war dead in rural Eastern Germany

My research investigates the intersecting afterlives of two defining periods in German history: the Second World War and the German Democratic Republic. Ethnographically, I explore how the inhabitants of former WWII battlefields in Eastern Germany (Brandenburg) relate to the continually resurfacing remains of war, first and foremost the bodies of Wehrmacht soldiers that fell in catastrophic numbers in the last, fanatic resistance of the Third Reich.

For 75 years, the people of Brandenburg have been living alongside the German war dead, as their bodies resurface from gardens, fields, town squares, and cellars. By focusing on how people relate to this category of dead, I depart from the well-established frameworks of ‘memory’ and ‘memory politics’, which have long monopolised the discussion about Germany’s relationship with the war past,  over-emphasisizing the role of formal commemoration, monuments, and heritage sites. Focusing on the local inhabitant's everyday, mundane encounters with the remains of the dead, I explore how the dead lose their association with the bellicose nationalism of the Third Reich and come to encompass the local experience of both the war and state socialism.

Friday, 20 November, 2020 - 16:15 to 18:00
Event location: 
Online - by email invitation