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Title: Italian Migrants in Italian Exhibitions from Fascism to the Early Republic
Authors: Pretelli, Matteo
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Source: Matteo Pretelli, "Italian Migrants in Italian Exhibitions from Fascism to the Early Republic", in: Guido Abbattista (edited by), “Moving Bodies, Displaying Nations National Cultures, Race and Gender in World Expositions Nineteenth to Twenty-first Century”, Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2014, pp. 173-196
Between the 1880s and the outbreak of WWI, Italy experienced an outflow of 13
million migrants who settled in particular in Europe and the Americas. This movement
started a couple of decades after the national unification of the country in 1861. In
addition, from the late 1800s Italy became a colonial power through penetration into
the Horn of Africa and later a full annexation of Eritrea and Somalia, Libya in 1912, and
Ethiopia in 1936, the year of proclamation of Mussolini’s empire.
From the time of national unity onwards, Italy became part of an international
scenario in which the European powers and the United States organised their own
national exhibitions, or took part in international fairs where national pavilions raced
to affirm each country’s particular economic and nationalist achievements. Late 1800
Italian exhibitions proved to instill a sense of national belonging that was traditionally
lacking in the Italian population since Italy had always functioned as a collection of
small- to medium-size states.
A small number of scholars has studied how Italian migration has been portrayed
in national exhibitions during the liberal era of Italy’s history (1861-1922), but these
same scholars have not as yet undertaken a thorough analysis of the fascist period
(1922-1943) and the early postwar period, when Italy moved from a dictatorship to a
republican political system. Based on an intensive study of primary sources and taking
into account certain major national exhibitions ‒ specifically the 1932 Exhibition of
Fascist Revolution, organised for the celebration of fascist takeover of power; the 1940
Exhibition of Italian Overseas Lands; the plans for 1942 Rome World’s Fair (never held
because of the outbreak of WWII); the 1952 Exhibition of Overseas and Italian Labor
in the World ‒, and even relating to the participation of Italy to main international
exhibitions such as the 1939 New York World’s Fair, this essay aims to answer the
following questions: what role did Italians outside of Italy have in national exhibitions
promoted in Italy by the fascist regime? Were these Italians conceived of as part of
a process of fascist nation-building and construction of a totalitarian state? After the
proclamation of the Italian empire in the Horn of Africa in 1936, what role did Italians
abroad - including both migrants in foreign countries and settlers in Italian colonies -
play in events like the Exhibition of Italian Overseas Lands held in Naples in 1940, or in the plans for the 1942 World’s Fair in Rome? Lastly, after the collapse of the fascist
regime, the end of WWII, and return of Italy to a democratic political system how
did the perception of Italians outside of Italy change at the 1952 reopening of the
Neapolitan exhibition now renamed as the Exhibition of Overseas and Italian Labor in
the World? Did Naples’ new exhibition experience fractures or similarities with former
events organised under Benito Mussolini’s dictatorship?
All in all this essay aims to reconstruct the depiction of Italian migrants outside Italy
in the context of national exhibitions in the crucial period of recent Italian history of the
fascist age, WWII, and the period of transition to the new republican system.
Type: Book Chapter
ISBN: 9788883035821
eISBN: 9788883034923
Appears in Collections:Moving Bodies, Displaying Nations. National Cultures, Race and Gender in World Expositions 19th to 21st Century

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