This essay critically approaches the use of “1968” as a periodizing category by contrasting historiographic and political debates on the event and aftermath of the French May with the spatial and temporal unevenness that attaches to Italy’s “long” 1968. We explore two interlocking dimensions of the latter: the reprise of the “Southern question” in the midst of this sociopolitical upheaval, on the one hand, and the potent if enigmatic image of an Italian “creeping May,” on the other. A political and historiographic reflection on the Italian case suggests the need to dislocate a linear, if punctuated, periodization of 1968, and to move toward an understanding of the crises and movements that cluster around this date through a framework anchored around the notion of rhythm conceived as the site of political and spatial unevenness.

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