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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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Conclusion 283

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Conclusion In 1953 the second edition of Biasutti’s anthropological volumes Le razze e i popoli della terra1 was published. Much of the book’s origi- nal content (the first edition was published in 1941), which was based on what were held to be scientific, racist classifications, was retained in the 1953 version whereas the passages that explicitly tied this work either to the internationally and nationally discre- dited Fascist regime or to the political contingencies of the time it was produced were removed. For instance, the 1941 preface disap- peared from all of the later editions. These two pages praised Italians for their ‘faith in a greater national destiny’ and ‘the Duce with his inspiring and constructive genius’ and stated how ‘fascist racial politics has brought to the fore, in Italian culture and life, notions and issues which had seemed destined to remain locked in the restricted circles of specialist scholars.’2 It is possible that not even Biasutti had suspected that after 1945, with Fascist racial poli- cy no longer existing, it would have been possible for the same publisher to reprint his book until 1959 without major changes. In 1949 a programme to re-open the Mostra triennale d’oltremare (Three-annual Exhibition of the Overseas) was drawn up. The original exhibition, which closely mirrored the 19th century tradition of great Exhibitions, was planned at the height of Fascist imperialism and was opened in Naples in the spring of 1940.3 The new exhibition was planned to open in the early fifties in the...

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