That human ability of making discoveries of value thanks to unexpected events that has the name of serendipity is surrounded by an almost legendary aura that has contributed to the popularity of the notion in the social sciences. It is precisely this aura that I will try to dissolve in the article, reflecting on the ethnographic pitfalls that lie behind an uncritical incorporation of serendipitous discoveries into anthropological theory and practice. After a brief reconstruction of the social life of the concept from its first appearance in the eighteenth century up to date, I will focus on three fundamental issues: First, I will describe the main reasons for the fascination that serendipity arouses in academic circles; then, I will describe its growing adoption in social anthropology; finally, I will analyze the risks of exoticism and ethnographic romanticism deriving from its usage. In the conclusions, I will propose a reflection on disaster research to show the anthropological limitations implicit in the “magical romance of serendipity” in times of crises and catastrophes.

La magica romanza della serendipità. Sul campo, l'accidentale e il sapere antropologico / The Magical Romance of Serendipity: On Fieldwork, Accidentality and Anthropological Knowledge

Mara Benadusi
2022

Abstract

That human ability of making discoveries of value thanks to unexpected events that has the name of serendipity is surrounded by an almost legendary aura that has contributed to the popularity of the notion in the social sciences. It is precisely this aura that I will try to dissolve in the article, reflecting on the ethnographic pitfalls that lie behind an uncritical incorporation of serendipitous discoveries into anthropological theory and practice. After a brief reconstruction of the social life of the concept from its first appearance in the eighteenth century up to date, I will focus on three fundamental issues: First, I will describe the main reasons for the fascination that serendipity arouses in academic circles; then, I will describe its growing adoption in social anthropology; finally, I will analyze the risks of exoticism and ethnographic romanticism deriving from its usage. In the conclusions, I will propose a reflection on disaster research to show the anthropological limitations implicit in the “magical romance of serendipity” in times of crises and catastrophes.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11769/535917
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