Ana Prieto's interview with historian Carlo Ginzburg first appeared in the Argentinian daily Clarin. Translated by David Broder.
He does not like to pontificate. He does not like to generalize or make simple comparisons. And when he passes judgement on a question without having dissected it to its core, he fears that his response will seem trivial. The Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg — who came to Buenos Aires in order to participate in the conference on ‘The crossroads of historical knowledge’ organised by the Universidad Nacional de San Martín in homage to his colleague José E. Burucúa — is author of the famous The Cheese and the Worms and one of the founding fathers of "microhistory." This micro-scale analytical approach recovers marginalised figures and phenomena from the past not, as the common misinterpretation has it, in order to redeem them or to build up a cult of excluded voices, but rather to generate further questions, perhaps also better generalisations, and, in the last analysis, to test the validity of the great explanatory paradigms. It is here that Ginzburg’s favourite historical figures appear, from millers to witches and shamans.
Ginzburg is unable to speak without giving context or indeed without being as specific as possible: a strange virtue in a world brimming with uninformed "opinion" pieces and superficial, quick-fire analyses. This interview, where the roles of the distinguished historian criss-cross with those of the clear-eyed analyst of the immediate, itself ranges from the surface level to the profound.