Ruth Ben-Ghiat (New York University) - "Visualizing Fascism"
Thursday April 13 at 5pm in Special Collections, Hesburgh Library
“Visualizing fascism” might seem an easy endeavor. Most of us can easily conjure mental pictures of the right-wing regimes of the interwar and World War Two years. Uniformed men on the march, children performing in sports arenas, the dictator in his uniformed splendor, state-sponsored violence on the street and in disciplinary spaces (prisons, camps, penal colonies) likely figure in this repertoire. Our mental reflex to default to these two poles, the individual and the anonymous crowd, captures an essential truth about the workings and appeal of fascism in its own time.
Yet when we rely on this image bank that oscillates between the unique One and the undifferentiated Many we are replicating, unwittingly or on purpose (depending on our politics) fascism’s own point of view, including what it deemed unrepresentable and what it most feared: the agency and subjectivity of the individual, and the everyday that existed apart from or in spite of the regime. This talk disrupts these habits by going into the crowd to examine faces taken from everyday life. It asks us to consider other ways of visualizing Fascism, and other ways of utilizing the archives we now have to bring forth other faces of fascism and the fascist era that still find relatively scant representation.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat is Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University and a cultural critic who has been the recipient of Guggenheim, Fulbright, and other fellowships. She writes and speaks frequently on fascism, war, Donald Trump, and the politics of images. Her latest book is the award-winning Italian Fascism's Empire Cinema (Indiana, 2015). Ben-Ghiat also writes frequently for the media. She covered the 2016 Presidential election for CNN.com, and continues to write about Trump's America.