In spite of his familiarity with the mountains of South Tyrol and their peasant population, Bronislaw Malinowski neither engaged himself in anthropological research in the Alpine area, nor did he encourage any of his pupils to do so. This should not be seen, however, as proof of a totally missed encounter between Malinowski and the anthropological study of the Alps. For one thing, Malinowski exerted a direct influence on the ethnographic investigations carried out by the historian Lucie Varga in two Alpine valleys in the 1930s. Indeed, a short piece of counterfactual history of Alpine anthropology suggests that if Varga’s works had not been so long overlooked, post-war anthropological studies might have avoided some of the theoretical and ethnographic shortcomings that plagued them. In addition, although a systematic search of the literature reveals that Malinowski is only very rarely referred to by Alpine anthropologists, there can be little doubt that his methodological approach decisively shaped the community studies conducted in the Alps especially by American anthropologists in the second half of the 20th century. It is actually one of the contentions of this chapter that a Malinowskian approach is still badly needed today to counteract a tendency to settle for hasty and fatally superficial shortterm research. On the basis of some evidence presented in the chapter, it is also contended that Malinowski’s attitude to both history and folklore should be reconsidered.
Anthropology and History in the Alps. Intricate Chronologies and References
The contribution aims to trace the relationship between field research and history in the Alps beginning with Lucie Varga. Varga wrote two texts on the Alpine region – the Montafon in Vorarlberg and the Val Badia in South Tyrol. She was influenced by the French Annales, which represented new approaches to historical research, and she was in contact with Malinowski during this time. The main interest is directed to-wards connections between field research and history in the following decades, which start from different angles. These connections can be established through people who practised both, like Lucie Varga or – albeit with a completely different approach – Hermann Wopfner, through research concepts and methods as represented by the Annales, histoire totale and microhistory and opposed to the history of events. These links can be found not least in the anthropological studies of villages and regions in the Alps which became noticeably intense in the 1960s and 1970s. These mainly American anthropologists asked different questions, introduced new sociohistorical, demographic and ecological approaches and perspectives and, last, but not least, brought the computer into this research.
On the Tracks of the Malinowskis in Oberbozen and Bozen
Using biographical bibliographical sources, especially Wayne (1995b), in the frame of the history of anthropology, this chapter contributes to trace the presence of Bronislaw Malinowski (1884–1942), his wife Elsie R. Masson (1890–1935), and their children in Oberbozen and Bozen in the 1920s and 1930s. It focuses on the houses where the family lived, such as the villa they bought in Oberbozen, and the flats they rented in Gries (Bozen), highlighting the historical and sociocultural context of these places. Drawing on the correspondence of the couple, published by their daughter Helena Malinowska Wayne (1925–2018), on some of their writings, and on newspaper articles of that period, this article describes both the local and the cosmopolitan social networks in which the Malinowskis were involved during the time they spent in Oberbozen and Bozen. It reconstructs the relations of the couple with friends, relatives and colleagues who used to visit them, as well as those with new friends, acquaintances, and neighbours in Oberbozen and Bozen, paying special attention to Elsie Masson’s relationships and to her critique of the Fascist regime, looking at the Malinowskis’ family story within the context of the history of this Alpine region.
Lucie Varga, née Rosa Stern (1904–1941), was an Austrian historian from a Jewish family who emigrated to Paris in 1933. For some years she became the first woman to collaborate on a regular basis with Lucien Febvre and the journal Annales d’histoire économique et sociale. During her summer holidays of 1935 and 1936 and after consulting Malinowski she undertook fieldwork in two alpine valleys in Vorarlberg and in South Tyrol. In the resulting essays, which today appear as a kind of “historical anthropology” avant la lettre, she describes the gradual transformation of the valleys and the transition from the old mountain economy to the modern tourist business. However, she not only deals with economic change, but also with the difficult overcoming of the traditional world of beliefs, in which German Nazis or Italian Fascists appear as competitors not only to the catholic priests, but to witches and demons.
In a Valley in Vorarlberg: From the Day before Yesterday to Today
Lucy Varga. Translation by Francesca Bettocchi and Maria Lord.