The volume “The Words, the Practices, the Citizenship”, which contains the proceedings of the conference held by Michele Dantini and Debora Spini at Villa Le Balze in Fiesole, home of Georgetown University, on 24th October 2014, is an important opportunity to reflect on the relationship that today the Humanities entertain with the public sphere.
The approach of this discourse is strongly interdisciplinary: indeed, the speakers deal with sociology, art history, aesthetics, political and social theory, political philosophy. Different and distant languages and instruments, for which today we need to create intersections, common platforms, translation and mutual communication systems: according to the two editors, it is necessary to adopt a rich and multifaceted approach, in order to develop an effective interpretive model of the present and to avoid what Michael Dantini called “the separation of antiquarian studies”. The goal is still and always to recover the civil responsibility of the humanities. Moreover, in his essay – regarding the need for the Humanities to open up to the “outside”, to the reality that surrounds them – Dantini clarifies: “A deeper friendship between philology and (counter) information opens up opportunities that the humanities should hasten to seize. A specialist research confined to a distant past can be combined with an essay-survey on current topics, still devoid of bibliography, or with the invention of new disciplinary “objects” involving different fields of research. When meant as a conversation in public, art history has no need to seek shelter exclusively in the printed pages of journals. On the contrary, it dialogues with social criticism and with cultural anthropology in terms of “participating observation”. And Debora Spini writes: “This bond between critical theory and aesthetic criticism seems, if not stopped, at least weakened; in order to revitalize it, however, a work of reconceptualisation and renewal of categories is necessary, starting from a renewed understanding of art as a form of social language, from which it follows that the practices of art (its production, its use) can legitimately be understood as “practices of citizenship”. This task of reconceptualization is far from immediate. […]My thesis is that the link between the reflective use/production (“practice”) of art and social criticism not only continues to exist, but becomes even more relevant in this particular context of decline of modernity. I think that the interpretation of the phenomenology of our time is full of elements that confirm the validity of the experiment carried out together and testified in this collection of essays.”
It is with great pleasure and pride, then, that “Critical Grounds” hosts this original and relevant contribution, which establishes a useful dialogue among disciplines and, in perspective, among the priorities of research and methodology, thus providing readers with a proposal for an intellectual equipment aimed at a critical interpretation of today’s complexity.
Christian Caliandro, December 2015