Italian Migrants in Italian Exhibitions from Fascism to the Early Republic
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.
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
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