Passerini, Luisa 1941-

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PASSERINI, Luisa 1941-


Born 1941. Education: University of Turin, Italy, degree in philosophy and history (magna cum laude), 1965.


Office—Dipartimento di Storia, Universita' di Torino, Via Sant'Ottavio 20, 10123 Torino, Italy. E-mail—[email protected].


Teacher in high schools in Turin, Italy, 1969-73; University of Turin, assistant professor of contemporary history, 1974-84, associate professor of methodology of history, 1984-93; European University Institute, Florence, Italy, professor of history; fellow at Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut, Essen, Germany, 1991, and Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin, Germany, 1992-93. Visiting professor at University of Western Australia, Perth, 1989, New School for Social Research, New York, NY, 1990, and New York University, 1993, 1998; director of studies at Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, Paris, France, 1990; visiting professor at University of California—Berkeley, 2001; coordinator of Advanced Oral History Summer Institute at University of California—Berkeley, 2002; resident fellow at the Kulturwissenchaftliches Institut, Essen; external professor at the Department of History, European University Institute (EUI), Florence; director of the Gender Studies Programme, Robert Schuman Centre, EUI; full professor of Cultural History at the University of Turin, Italy, 2004—. Member of the Centro Interdisciplinare Ricerche e Studi delle Donne at Torino University and of the Fondazione "Lelio Basso" in Rome, Italy.


Società Italiana delle Storiche, Società Italiana per lo Studio della Storia Contemporanea.


Has received grants from Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, 1965-66, Municipality of Turin, 1976-77, Ministry of Education, Italy, 1977-82, and other grants; "Clio" Prize for History, Accademia Internazionale delle Muse (Firenze, Italy), 1999; Pierro Martinetti prize, for Ph.D. dissertation; awarded the Research Prize of the Land of Nordrhein-Westphalen, 2002-04.


(Editor and author of introduction) Colonialismo portoghese e lotta di liberazione nel Mozambico, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1970.

(Editor and author of introduction) Storia orale: Vita quotidiana e cultura materiale delle classi subalterne, Rosenberg & Sellier (Turin, Italy), 1978.

Torino operaia e fascismo: Una storia orale, Laterza (Rome, Italy), 1984, translation by Robert Lumley and Jude Bloomfield published as Fascism in Popular Memory: The Cultural Experience of the Turin Working Class, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1987.

Storia e soggettività Le fonti orali, le memoria, La Nuova Italia (Firenze, Italy), 1988.

Autoritratto di gruppo, Giunti Gruppo Editoriale, 1988, translation by Lisa Erdberg published as Autobiography of a Generation: Italy, 1968, University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1996.

Mussolini immaginario: Storia di una biografia, 1915-1939, Laterza (Rome, Italy), 1991.

(Editor, with Aldo Agosti and Nicola Tranfaglia, and contributor) La cultura e i luoghi del '68, F. Angeli (Milan, Italy), 1991.

Storie di donne e femminste, Rosenberg & Sellier (Torino, Italy), 1991.

(Editor) International Yearbook of Oral History and Life Stories, Volume 1: Memory and Totalitarianism, Volume 4, with Selma Leydesdorff and Paul Thompson, Gender and Memory, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.

(Editor) Identità culturale europea: Idee, sentimenti, relazioni, La Nuova Italia (Firenze, Italy), 1998.

L'Europa e l'amore, Il Saggiatore (Milan, Italy), 1999, translation published as Europe in Love, Love in Europe: Imagination and Politics between the Wars, New York University Press (Washington Square, NY), 1999.

(Editor) Across the Atlantic: Cultural Exchanges between Europe and the United States, Bruxelles (New York, NY), 2000.

Il mito d'Europa: Radici antiche per nuovi simboli, Giunti (Firenze, Italy), 2002.

(Editor and contributor) Images and Myths of Europe, Bruxelles (New York, NY), 2003.

Memoria e utopia: Il primato dell'Intersoggettività, Bollati Boringhieri (Turin, Italy), 2003.

Contributor to numerous books and periodicals.


Cultural historian Luisa Passerini has attempted to convey the ways readers remember and misremember such dramatic events as the African liberation movement and the 1968 student upheavals, as well as such experiences as living under totalitarianism. In Torino operaia e fascismo: Una storia orale, translated as Fascism in Popular Memory: The Cultural Experience of the Turin Working Class, for example, she combines oral history with close analysis of the different "narrative modes" that men and women, Catholics and Communists, and various types of workers fall into. More recently, she has delved deeply into the European heritage of emotions, drawing connections between the cultural legacy ofcourtly love and the hopes for European unifications, and exploring the complexities of the cultural relationship between Europe and the United States.

Fascism in Popular Memory, explained reviewer Joe Foweraker in the British Journal of Sociology, is an "ambitious and inventive book [that] uses oral histories to reconstruct a particular cultural universe. The boundaries of this universe are buttressed by references to general social theory … so allowing the author to concentrate not so much on what is said, but on the way it is told." For Passerini, the ways of telling are as interesting as the stories themselves, and she finds a number of patterns, such as the fact, in historical context, that men habitually spoke of themselves as capable workers while women tended to be more self-deprecating about their jobs. On the other hand, she finds more "born" rebels and socialists among the women than the men. Passerini also investigates the use of jokes, parodies, and graffiti as instances of rebellion, making clear that this is not a simple tale of passive, oppressed workers. "For me, part 3 … is the most interesting," wrote American Historical Review contributor Charles F. Delzell. "Here the author explores, in turn, the degree to which workers expressed some social acceptance of Fascism, their widespread resistance to the regime's efforts to increase the birthrate … and their cold reception for Mussolini when he visited." Noting that most of Passerini's subjects "took no part in active politics," International Affairs contributor Richard Knowles observed that her "study shows how the fascist regime decisively shifted the boundary between private life and politics at the expense of the former.… Fascism itself made such minor acts of opposition to the regime as joke-telling, graffiti and legal abortion into political actions."

In Autoritratto di gruppo, translated as Autobiography of a Generation: Italy, 1968, Passerini tells the story of her own contemporaries, whose memories of Mussolini are dim at best. According to Rethinking History contributor Perry Wilson, the "author's primary purpose is not to write an orthodox history in any sense but rather to draw upon the insights raided by her own experience of psychoanalysis to continue exploring the thread which links much of her published work—how we remember and make sense of the past." Inevitably, much of this is autobiographical, as the title implies, and Passerini freely discusses her sex life, her abortion, and her experiences with psychoanalysis. At the same time, she "weaves the oral history testimony of forty-seven other participants in the 1968 student movement in Italy among her own reflections on her past and her day-to-day life now," reported Valerie Raleigh Yow in the Oral History Review. Not all reviewers were entirely pleased with the proportion between her voice and that of other participants. For example, Village Voice contributor James Marcus maintained, "Sure, Luisa Passerini may well have set out to write a panoramic portrait of what the Italians call the sessantottini—the generation that went to the barricades in 1968.… What she's ended up with, however, is something quite different: an autobiography of, well, herself, with the rest of her generation relegated to the role of a muffled Greek chorus." Nevertheless, Marcus found the book "oddly endearing."

Passerini takes another penetrating look at a previous generation in L'Europa e l'amore, published in America as Europe in Love, Love in Europe: Imagination and Politics between the Wars, which looks at the role of courtly love in shaping Europeans' self-perceptions and the attempt to unify Europe. This "well-written and erudite work of cultural and intellectual history deals with questions of European identity, unity, and the emotional basis of the idea of a unified Europe as it was expressed mainly between the world wars," explained Canadian Journal of History reviewer Rosemarie Schade. An ambitious project, it is "the product of formidable research, and few academic fields lie outside her scope. Novels, poems, political tracts, mythology and wartime love letters … feature among her sources," observed Political Quarterly reviewer Mark Garnett. Although political figures such as Winston Churchill do enter the scene, the focus is on cultural figures, from religious writers like C. S. Lewis and historian Christopher Dawson, to Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, novelists and poets, and a surprising number of esoteric figures, such as the Yugoslavian mystic Dmitrije Mitrinovic. The result is "guaranteed to renew one's interest in the passions, loves, hopes, dreams, and emotional worlds of the men and women reconstructed in this book," concluded Schade in her review.



American Historical Review, October, 1988, Charles F. Delzell, review of Fascism in Popular Memory:The Cultural Experience of the Turin Working Class, p. 1082.

Asian Folklore Studies, October, 1995, James R. Dow, review of Memory and Totalitarianism, p. 326.

British Journal of Sociology, March, 1989, Joe Foweraker, review of Fascism in Popular Memory, p. 167.

Canadian Journal of History, April, 2001, Rosemarie Schade, review of Europe in Love, Love in Europe: Imagination and Politics between the Wars, p. 147.

Contemporary Sociology, September, 1988, Richard Bellamy, review of Fascism in Everyday Life, pp. 626-627.

History Today, June, 1993, Martin Evans, review of Memory and Totalitarianism, p. 55.

International Affairs, spring, 1988, Richard Knowles, review of Fascism in Popular Memory, pp. 291-292.

Journal of Modern History, December, 1989, review of Fascism in Popular Memory, p. 823.

Journal of Women in Culture & Society, spring, 1999, Ernestina Pellegrini, "Book Reviews," pp. 798-802.

Modern Language Review, April, 1998, Derek Duncan, "Corporeal Histories: The Autobiographical Bodies of Luisa Passerini," p. 370.

Oral History Review, summer-fall, 1999, Valerie Raleigh Yow, review of Autobiography of a Generation: Italy, 1968, p. 167.

Political Quarterly, July-September, 1999, Mark Garnett, review of Europe in Love, Love in Europe.

Publishers Weekly, August 26, 1996, review of Autobiography of a Generation, p. 84.

Rethinking History, spring, 1998, Perry Wilson, review of Autobiography of a Generation, pp. 107-109.

Village Voice, January 21, 1997, James Marcus, review of Autobiography of a Generation, p. 53.