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Abstract

Fascism, it is commonly argued, was a thoroughly homogenizing force. According to this leading perspective, Mussolini’s Fascist regime set out to eliminate all diversity. This study shows instead that just as Fascist thinkers attempted to crush difference, they also generated new realms of difference and mobilized them for political aims. Nowhere was this to be revealed more plainly then at the 1942 Universal Exposition of Rome (E 42). The Italy of corporatism, autarky, and empire was to achieve spatial representation for an estimated 20 million visitors at the E 42, providing the regime with a remarkable opportunity to communicate Fascism’s alternative ethos before a global audience. With Fascism pitched as a revolt against a sickly global system in crisis, the dominant modern universality on display at previous world’s fairs was seen as wholly inadequate for the E 42. Fascist thinkers, this project shows, were instead keen on holding an exhibition that disseminated carefully selected representations of Italian cultural difference in order to strengthen a sense of “rupture” with a universalizing global system in crisis. Based upon an exceptional source collection that illuminates everything from the highest reaches of intellectual and aesthetic production in Fascist Italy to the musings of a day laborer over the cost of bread, this project yields critical new insights into the regime’s system of representation at the E 42. Thematically, this project moves “top-down” from distinct spatializations of Fascist ideology to the “everyday” practices of workers and security guards within the space of the E 42 so as to provide new insight into Fascist subjectivization during the period 1936-43.

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