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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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1. Hunting and the Appropriation of Africa 181

Extract

Chapter 1 Hunting and the Appropriation of Africa The following reflects upon two historical documents. Both, in spite of their belonging to the rare cinema-released documentary- reportage genre were extremely popular films. The first, Il sentiero delle belve (The Path of the Wild Beasts)1 belongs to the most confident phase of Italian colonial expansion. The other, Africa Addio2 was produced in the era of African independence. Both films are pro-colonial, but the subordination of Africa is justified in opposite ways: unrestrained hunting in the thirties and conser- vation in the sixties. These opposites are nevertheless shown to be the quintessence, in their respective moments, of progress, science and law, as western-white prerogatives. This metamorphosis high- lights how a whole system of meaning concerning nature changed over the thirty years which passed between the production of the two movies. The asymmetrical relationship between Europeans and Africans however remains practically the same in both nar- rations. Furthermore, the first film portrays colonialism as a viable system for the present, while the second as a positive past. The incongruence between these two pro-colonial representations becomes evident only by comparing these two films. Africa Addio, in fact, negates that Europeans ever had different conceptions of nature, the White man’s enourmuos blood letting and its Imperial hunting tradition are erased, thus deforming the memory of the past. The obliteration from representation of this system of meaning tightly intertwined with European expansion allows for the creation of a screen memory of the past that still...

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