Fascist Legacies: The Afterlife of Fascism in Italy and Beyond

AHA Session 20
Society for Italian Historical Studies 1
Thursday, January 4, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Maryland Suite C (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
Pamela L. Ballinger, University of Michigan
Pamela L. Ballinger, University of Michigan

Session Abstract

This panel contributes to the 2018 Theme “Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism in Global Perspective” by examining the national and international legacies of Italian Fascism. Until recently, historians have evaluated Italian Fascism as a nationalist political regime whose successes and failures could be measured by its ability to mobilize mass popular support, repress political opposition, and foster participation to the party within the limits of the nation-state. Ultimately, historians tried to understand the fascist regime and its ideology through the lens of its ending trajectory in World War II. The panel presents emerging scholarship that challenges such a narrative in space and time. We intend to connect the history of Italian Fascism with broader themes in the history of nationalism, empire, and decolonization.

All papers expand Fascism’s history by highlighting its national continuities into the post-war period, its international connections, and global legacies. The promotion of an aggressive policy of colonial expansion in Africa spurred interest in Fascism’s imperial projects before and after World War II. Patrick Bernhard highlights how Italian imperialism inspired German colonization programs. From the perspective of the history of science and environmental history, Angelo Caglioti argues that the political economy of Italian colonialism animated also the efforts of the International Institute of Agriculture, the institution preceding the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rhiannon Evangelista’s paper examines the return to politics of fascist leaders as critics of the Italian democratic state in the 1950s. Eileen Ryan reflects on the geopolitical relevance of Italian decolonization, its impact on people’s lives, and the ideological continuities between Italian colonialism and fascist imperialism.

All contributions share the same goal of renewing the history of Italian Fascism by offering a broader perspective on fascist colonial and post-colonial legacies. Our target is to widen the audience of scholars involved in the history of Fascism and create new intersections with historians interested in different fields and methods, spanning from the history of science to political, social, and cultural history. We also intend to enrich the history of Fascism through the lenses of political continuity, empire, and decolonization.

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