Fascist Imperialism and Imperial Fascists in Europe and Asia, 1930–45

AHA Session 18
Thursday, January 6, 2011: 3:00 PM-5:00 PM
Room 101 (Hynes Convention Center)
Philippa Levine, University of Texas at Austin
Eurafrica: Fascist Italy's New Imperialism
Lidia Santarelli, Center for European and Mediterranean Studies, New York University
Andrew Zimmerman, George Washington University

Session Abstract

This proposed panel will explore intersections of fascism and imperialism during this pivotal moment in world history, as seen in Italy, the Netherlands, and Japan—societies whose ruling regimes ended up on different sides in World War Two, each with a distinctive imperial history, but all sharing both a “peripheral” identity vis-a-vis the established imperial powers and a fascist movement determined to renegotiate this identity. These papers will not only highlight colonial policies and practices implemented by various metropolitan centers, but will explore more theoretical and intellectual connections propounded by fascist leaders, parties, and their adherents during this pivotal moment in world history. Although each of these proposed papers focuses on a particular imperial setting, the panel as a whole seeks a more transnational approach to these topics; we argue that these three examples may serve as case studies for larger trends, whether in Europe, Asia, or other regions. Whereas studies of fascism (like fascist ideology itself) have typically emphasized domestic policies—demands for a racially, culturally pure nation of “new men,” or the quest for autarky, for instance—our collective work highlights international and relational aspects of fascist ideology and practices in a global order of imperial competition and crisis. 
Whether in Italy, the Netherlands, or Japan, fascist leaders and parties aimed not only to preserve and strengthen existent imperial ties but actively sought to amass new terrain, peoples, and markets. At its very core, fascist ideology was expansionist, aggrandizing, and all-consuming, and just as its proponents sought to remake their respective body politics, so too did they aspire to reshape the world. According to these conceptions, traditional European empires would give way to new fascist ones: Italy and the Netherlands, long overshadowed their larger imperial neighbors, would resume their rightful place as global leaders, while, in Asia, Japan would rightfully displace those foreign rulers of old (an idea advanced not only by Japan but by Dutch Nazis, sullenly acknowledging Japan’s predominance in this region).  The onset of World War Two did little to temper this enthusiasm for a new colonial politics, but, rather prompted the adoption of new tactics, slogans, and grand designs.  By the same token, different global positionings and power alignments produced substantially different imperial formulae, revealing intersections, confrontations, and border-crossings that cut across conventional notions of friend and foe.

Collectively, the papers in this proposed panel probe the very nature of fascism and its relationship to imperialism, calling into question its ideological dynamics and legacies as understood from a conventional nation-centered or Euro-American vantage.  The panel should appeal not only to Europeanists and Asianists familiar with German, Italian, and Japanese fascism, but those interested in global history, trans-national trends, imperialism, and decolonization writ large.

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