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Raffaele Pettazzoni & Mario Gandini celebration

Sabato 16 novembre alle ore 10 nella Sala consiliare del Municipio, per la collezione “Autori”, si terrà “Il mistero che rivelato ci divide e sofferto ci unisce”, presentazione degli studi pettazzoniani in onore di Mario Gandini, a cura di Gian
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  Raffaele Pettazzoni & Mario Gandini Celebration in San Giovanni in Persiceto November 16, 2013 Dear Professor Mario Gandini, Authorities, Professors, Colleagues, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen, You gathered again today in San Giovanni in Persiceto for celebrating the works and days of the greatest Historian of religions ever as well as the impeccable, painstaking maestria  of his ablest historiographer, Mario Gandini. This may best be done through the launching of the excellently munificent Pettazzoni Gedenkschrift you edited fifty years after his death and which is in the same time the Gandini Festschrift. This is a most fortunate occasion for weighting the present and past results of Italian history of religions in all its vibrant European and international contexts. As you may easily imagine, it is for me a privileged circumstance too for being able to address you (even if alas in absentia ), in a moment which definitely marks the renewal of Pettazzoni Studies in Italy and in almost every responsive corner of the academic world. The volume you launch is full of solid scholarship and bright new vistas, displaying that single collective poise one would expect for Raffaele Pettazzoni manifold and enduring legacy. It is a great pleasure to read it and learn from it. In a sense, as certainly are also the 2011 volume of Studi e Materiali di Storia delle religioni  edited by Giovanni Casadio, or individual studies as the recent ones, in international periodicals, by Bryan Rennie, Valerio Salvatore Severino and many others, the volume edited by Gian Pietro Basello, Paolo Ognibene and Antonio Panaino derived its stamina from the very work of Mario Gandini. All over the world, mentioning Raffaele Pettazzoni today means mentioning Mario Gandini too. This is perhaps the highest homage to and fulfilment of a vow Mario Gandini took decades ago. Even the unusually sophisticated title includes most of what scholars of Pettazzoni who are equally scholars of religion/s expect from the dense and radiant work of the cherished master born – and then born-again! – in San Giovanni in Persiceto.  Il mistero che rivelato ci divide e sofferto ci unisce  embeds a veiled citation, several historical-religious clins-d’œil , a certain “dialectic of the sacred”, insights into the history of Catholicism in Italy, and – I suspect – others. It gives the reader that single opportunity to understand at once the magnitude of Pettazzoni’s oeuvre and of Gandini’s scholarship, precisely because Pettazzoni’s problems as a system of coherent inquiry were unmappable by a single individual both before and after him. Pettazzoni – more than anyone else, perhaps, in the history of our studies – was the right man in the right place. After leaving San Giovanni in Persiceto, a few years before Giuseppe Tucci extricated himself from another province (Macerata), Pettazzoni first assimilated everything that Italian education had to offer in the age of the first public debates about the interfusion between religion and state. And that is in terms of an epistemic solidity and neutrality, in the hypercatholic climate already long responsible for classifying and studying so many extra-Christian religious traditions. He was never in a hurry to affiliate himself to one of the available academic channels, but preferred to meditate in his work about constraint, accepting, and renewal, at a moment when the history of religions did not, in the whole of Italy, hold an institute, a teaching chair, any collections, university courses, channels of specialization, or anything else in the direction of a shared interest and of a constant, composed, systematic  pursuit. Austere and solitary – a timid person perhaps, yet definitely an exceptional colleague, then master – Pettazzoni typifies today the fundamental moment when the history of religions entered modernity. This is to be ascribed to the manner in which he managed to bring together in a single oeuvre – whose bibliography is particularly vast and versatile – every particular religious history, in an effort of joining together as a whole which, a unique example, evened out the balance between what was knowable and the dramatically paltry resources of the knower. The sociology of his continuators – sometimes disciples at once critical and “creative”, but those are by no means the majority – characterises his posterity more fully than the somewhat muted  voices of the oeuvre. It is highly unlikely that anyone today could command an expertise of comparable depth in so many thematic fields, subdisciplines, and fields of problems pertaining to the general and comparative history of religions. And while this has been true of anyone’s direct contact with sources and exegesis, in time it has become unlikely for anyone even to possess equal expertise in the knowledge of Pettazzoni’s whole work! Only the equanimous commitment and the painstaking competence of Professor Mario Gandini have been able, through contributions spanning the last three decades, to amend this collective deficiency, bringing to the attention of historians of the discipline the fact that a laboratory like Pettazzoni’s must be known and revisited every so often by all those that are at labour today and continue to be so in the horizon of the autonomy, integrity and memory of the discipline. O, happy days, when a generalist historian of religions could work – at home  – with only a few thousand books, with all  the significant periodicals, with the off prints and the news from the majority  of the noteworthy colleagues in the mailbox day in, day out. For a better grasp of the huge difference between his age and ours, it will be enough to compare the span of the religious history investigated by Pettazzoni and the number of books in Via Crescenzio 69: Mr Gandini tells us they were only 3500! This is a quantity that today, let us face it, can barely guarantee cohesion and depth for a monographic study on a single religious space, in an ever fragmentary history... Within the bounds of this founding austerity, Pettazzoni proved at every moment to be extraordinarily methodical (without being, with a phrase of Eliade’s, obsessed with methodology), organized and oriented: it remains truly humbling – for those who, neophytes or  provincials as regards the fundamental problems of the discipline, are doing their work today – to grasp how impeccably Pettazzoni, within the confines of the unique superspeciality, knew everything that constituted the current patrimony of every particular field of historical,  philological, archaeological and ethnographic expertise, from south- and Far-Eastern religions to the very peculiar universes of comparative religious ethnology, be they in Africa, in Oceania, or in the Americas. When doing work with such morphological features, the main, when not lethal, danger would have been dissolution into a sea of more or less encyclopaedic minutiae. On the contrary, with exactly those morphological features Pettazzoni serenely militated – I believe the word is not an exaggeration, considering the two generations of scholars that succeeded him – towards defining the autonomy and specificity of the discipline as a whole, or else, from an epistemological point of view, towards the opposite of dissolution. There are many other problems and prospects I would have been happy indeed to discuss with you today, yet I can but comfort myself by knowing your meeting will be fruitful as all the recent Italian ones, for the History of religions in Italy and for all European scholars involved nowadays in the study of these ultimate concerns. With all the best wishes from Bucharest to the friends and aficionados of studi pettazzoniani  in their first grand revival after the master’s death Eugen Ciurtin Editor-in-chief Archaevs. Studies in the History of Religions   (f. 1997) Secretary of the Scientific Council, Institute for the History of Religions , Romanian Academy Publications Officer of the European Association for the Study of Religions  
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