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Auerbach Lecture | 29.11.2021 | 18 Uhr

Dorothy Zinn (Sociocultural anthropology, Bolzano): Ernesto De Martino’s The End of the World: Apocalyptic Thinking and Orientations to the Future


In recent years there has been increasing attention in sociology and sociocultural anthropology to phenomenological aspects of time, and in particular, to the temporal category of “future”. In the early 1960s, the Italian ethnologist and historian of religion Ernesto de Martino was already drawing on existentialist and phenomenological thinkers in developing what was to become his posthumous magnum opus: La fine del mondo [The End of the World, 2019 (1st ed. 1977)]. In this ambitious book, De Martino examines one conception and experience of the future, apocalyptic thought, in a new perspective that ranges across history and cultures. The End of the World brings together two types of apocalypse, each with its various articulations: apocalyptic orientations toward the end of the world tout court - as in psychopathology or in anticipating a disaster that will end our world – and the end of this world, as in early Christian apocalypse and in modern millenarian movements, which view apocalypse as a process of world regeneration and renewal. This lecture will outline how, through a broad comparative analysis that embraces modern literature and art, psychiatry, religious history, ethnology and philosophy, de Martino sketches a groundbreaking theory of human Dasein and culture. At the same time, with a deep ethical engagement, he offers a utopic prospect by promoting what he calls “ethnographic humanism”.

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