Visualizing fascism might seem an easy endeavor. Most of us can easily conjure mental pictures of right-wing regimes. Uniformed men on the march, children performing in sports arenas and the dictator in his uniformed splendor, all come up from a cursory Google search. This talk looks at the possibilities and perils of utilizing an image bank that replicates Fascism’s leader/mass dynamic and its erasure of the individual, and suggests ways to use Fascism’s propaganda archive to uncover small moments of resistance and ambivalence that too often go unexplored.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University, is a political commentator and cultural critic who has received Guggenheim and other fellowships for her work on fascism, war and visual propaganda. In Fascist Modernities and Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema, she looks at what happens to societies when authoritarian governments take hold and why they appealed to so many. Her New Yorker article on the normalization of Fascist monuments at a time of resurgent right-wing politics in Italy prompted a national debate about how to consider fascism’s heritage today.