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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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4. Conflicting Memories 229

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Chapter 4 Conflicting Memories As has been shown, attention to the African decolonisation process of the late fifties and sixties did not provoke a straightforward re- examination of the impact of colonialism on those regions. In the best cases it meant discarding colonial domination as an anachro- nistic way of taking advantage of world resources. After all, this should not appear strange as talking badly about other colonia- lisms had always reflected well on one’s own. In the period of the League of Nations’ sanctions against Italy (over the 1935 invasion of Ethiopia), much was made of the greed and voraciousness of other colonial powers. For example, the League’s members were often depicted as pigs bent over their swill or more nationally defined as animals tearing the world apart with sharp teeth at a monstrous banquet. The cartoon film,124 parody of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, made in Italy during the war shows Churchill in his ‘true nature’ as arch imperialist and moneygrubber. The cinemato- graphic portrayal of British colonialism in Valori’s Equatore (1939) or in Genina’s Bengasi (1942) comes to mind, as does that of the French in Camerini’s Il grande appello (1936). Magazine articles also took up the theme: La Domenica del Corriere’s ‘Racism; the smuggling railway: Djibuti-Addis-Ababa’125 is just an example. However in the postwar years, Italian magazines did take up divergent positions over individual struggles for independence, especially considering that each paper influenced its almost exclusive audience. After a brief illustration of how the contrasting...

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