By publishing Alessandro Pizzorno’s essay on the mask in English translation for the first time, IPA not only enabled an important piece of work to become recognised finally as a classic, but made a more general contribution to calling attention both to the work of Pizzorno in social theory, and on the theme of the mask. One of the main reasons why Pizzorno’s work is not as widely known as it should be, given that he was Professor and often Head of Department in such high profile places as Harvard University, Nuffield College, Oxford, the University of Milan, or the European University Institute, is that much of his most important writings were published in Italian, and some quite late in his life (Pizzorno 2000, 2007, 2008); while his most important English language writings are a series of essays contained in not always easily accessible volumes (Pizzorno 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991). The language of modern social science is English; and if many academics read French or German, perhaps even Spanish, hardly anybody outside Italy reads Italian. Furthermore, as everybody knows that the Italian university system is having serious problems since decades, it is often assumed that Italian thought could not produce important pieces of work. This perception ignores the fact that Italy is not only a country of exceptionally strong cultural roots, but that classical education also survived there better than elsewhere, and that the social sciences are still taught through a strong historical and philosophical filter. Thus, there are some contemporary scholars and essay-writers in Italy who, being educated in such a cultural environment, managed to overcome both the current state of Italian Academia and the excessive specialization of the Anglo-American world and to come up with strikingly important and original works. Such figures include Mario Alinei (a linguist inspired by ethnology and archaeology), Pietro Citati (a comparative historian of European literature), Roberto Calasso (philosopher of the history of culture), or Giorgio Agamben (political philosopher); and hopefully IPA will be able to devote some space to the study of such thinkers in the future. Concerning the mask, preparing and wearing masks as ritual objects promises to be a standard and classical topic in anthropological and ethnological research. Yet, the moment one takes a serious look at the literature, an Alice in Wonderland experience is opened up, as – beyond the seeming triviality – the topic is one of the most ignored and misunderstood areas in anthropological research, and in social theory in general. This claim is not motivated by sensationalist or provocatory intentions. Indeed, a study of the theoretical implications of wearing masks could well be proposed without any such claims. Yet, it seems to me that one is...
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