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Memories and Silences Haunted by Fascism

Italian Colonialism MCMXXX-MCMLX

Daniela Baratieri

Fascist and colonial legacies have been determinant in shaping how Italian colonialism has been narrated in Italy till the late 1960s. This book deals with the complex problem of public memory and discursive amnesia.
The detailed research that underpins this book makes it no longer possible to claim that after 1945 there was an absolute and traumatic silence concerning Italy’s colonial occupation of North and East Africa. However, the abiding public use of this history confirms the existence of an extremely selective and codified memory of that past.
The author shows that colonial discourse persisted in historiography, newspapers, newsreels and film. Popular culture appears intertwined with political and economic interests and the power inscribed in elite and scientific knowledge. While readdressing the often mistaken historical time line that ignores that actual Italian colonial ties did not end with the fall of Fascism, but in 1960 with Somalia becoming independent, this book suggests that a new post Fascist Italian identity was the crucial issue in reappraisals of a national colonial past.

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2. Cinema and the Persistence of Desire 93

Extract

Chapter 2 Cinema and the Persistence of Desire Another recent affirmation will now be taken as a locus of contention to gain a further insight into postwar cinematographic production and some of its developments. This scholar, reiterating Brunetta, adds an important dimension fundamental to memories and representations of the African colonies. In the years immediately following Italy’s withdrawal from Africa, cultural energies were shifted to other geopolitical regions [...] economic and libidinous investments were withdrawn from Italian East Africa; and the colonialist enterprise was quickly demonized as a fascist enterprise. Karen Pinkus47 From the present research it appears that the so-called fantasia africana, the tom-tom or tribal dance has been a persistent symbol of a tantalising primordial sexuality. If Brignone48 staged a fantasia while the young Italian engineer, Paolo, kisses the mixed race levantina Mailù, to comment on the protagonist’s instinctual and overwhelming passion which he should have resisted and in fact was relinquished in the finale of the 1938 film, the exotic appeal which they attempted to create with titles such as Tam tam nell’oltre Giuba, which included a Somali dancer, and Tam tam Mayumbe, leave little doubt as to the persistence of this symbol into postwar Italy. On many occasions the appeal of the exotic has been singled out in the analysis of other theatres of memory as part of a narrative of African inferiority. Even in Tripoli bel suol d’amore 47 Karen Pinkus, “Empty Spaces: Decolonization in Italy”, in A Place in the Sun, ed. Patrizia Palumbo (Berkeley:...

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