This article examines breastfeeding propaganda from Fascism to Forza Nuova to investigate how far-right political groups in Italy have historically approached reproductive health care. Visual analysis of posters and films read in context with the urbanism of Roman streets and rationalist obstetric clinics clarifies the specific strategies these groups have used to discredit female health care practitioners and the broader reproductive choices that they have traditionally provided to women. At stake in these artistic antecedents are the constellation of far-right causes and religious concerns that anchor and inform the current call for what I term the “new pronatalism,” defined here as the promotion of higher birthrates among native Italians to buttress nationalist demographic might. Forza Nuova frames their bid for Italian women to birth more children as oppositional, “Births at historic lows/ Italy needs children/ not gay marriage and immigrants.” By tracing the development of far-right breastfeeding propaganda over time, we can better understand authoritarian bids for control over reproductive health care today.
This article uses culinary ephemera from 1896 to 1943 to investigate how Italian food companies have historically framed North and East Africa in terms of consumable goods. Surprisingly, food companies also used colonial imagery to advertise the most emblematically Italian of foods, like pasta. To investigate this paradox, an Italian food cast in colonial terms, this article follows the paradoxical entanglement of pasta, as well as grains more largely, including teff, polenta, and coucous, in Italian commercial narratives of empire. At stake in these inquiry lies the shifting question of national identity as expressed through local cuisine.
This article will examine toys both in terms of the types of Italian Fascist regime-inflected play that they prompted, and also in terms of how the companies who produced these toys were enmeshed in the politics of the regime. Moving from china dolls to collecting games, the article examines divergent treatment of white and black dolls during the Ethiopian Occupation (1935-1941). The acts that they prompted desensitized the players of the game to human suffering, and ultimately wrote the scripts for real life violence in the colonies.
Fascist toys reveal the pedagogy of imperial play. Investigating the apparently innocent realm of toys and play reveals, in miniature how early learning of racism and violence took place during the Italian Fascist period. To this end, this article will examine three types of toys in turn. First, it analyses Farina Lattea Erba’s boardgame “La conquista di Abyssinia” alongside similar war toys like paper soldiers: Italian Alpini, Eritrean Ascari, and Somali Dubat. Close analysis of racing games reveals the broader financial structures that underpinned much colonial propaganda associated with Fascist government projects.
The Fascist regime attempted the mass organization of its young citizens with the ultimate goal of enhancing the vitality of the future Italian race. To combat childhood diseases like tuberculosis, state-affiliated medics recommended fresh air and sunlight. To do so, Fascist medics would need to partner with architects to build youth colonies, essentially Fascist summer camps. Called colonie, translated literally as “colonies,” these camps aimed to promote racial health and hygiene through exposure to the sun, sea, and exercise. Children of industrial workers could visit these residential seats for month-long excursions to experience outdoor living. In this chapter, I argue that the colonie provided the Fascist party with an opportunity to pursue two intertwined political goals. First, the design of the colonie promised to improve Italian children’s health through visibly tidy mass playtime. Second, photographic representations of the colonie could be disseminated as propaganda. This chapter investigates the history of these holiday hostels to shed light on Fascism’s eugenic approach to architecture and urbanism. At a historical moment when evidence of a large, youthful population visually implied national military might, the Fascist regime looked to summer camps to serve as architectural laboratories for building better Italians.
The Italian public’s enthusiasm for dictator Benito Mussolini and the Fascist party peaked in the mid-1930s, with the military occupation of Ethiopia. Troops for the milizia volontaria invaded the sovereign nation in October 1935 to establish Italian East Africa, an area that comprises modern-day Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. The occupation was hugely expensive, both due to its direct cost and in losses due to League of Nations trade sanctions, to which both Italy and Ethiopia belonged. To balance the budget, all Italians were called to participate in the regime’s colonial ventures. Men enlisted in the armed services. Women donated their gold wedding rings on the Giornata delle Fede (Day of Faith, also literally translated as the Day of the Wedding Rings). Children vicariously participated in the Fascist regime’s imperial project, as they threw a pair of dice across the boards of games like La Conquista dell’Abissinia (The Conquest of Abyssinia), Alla conquista economica dell’impero (Economic Conquest of Empire), and Tombola Storica Geografica di Etiopia (Historical Geographic Bingo of Ethiopia).
Interracial wetnursing, or “mercenary breastfeeding” in the regime’s parlance, was a common form of domestic labor in Italy’s East African colonies. In a historical period where the Fascist Italian press actively worked to construct racial difference, this particular form of domestic labor challenged the binary of dark and light at a cellular level. This essay parses the imperial intimacies of feeding and eating through Italian photography of Ethiopian breastfeeding in the Fascist period in order to speak to larger issues of how race and racism are constructed and consumed. Eroticism and anthropology constitute two planks in the platform. But a less obvious element of these images accounts for their resonance: they are, ultimately, about how people figure in foodways. If food remakes the body from the inside out, then an Italian infant that consumes East African milk can no longer be considered wholly Italian – local food begins to reshape the foreign body that consumed it. Every infant meal presents a racial risk. Eating the other is step one. But digestion doesn’t mean disappearance – it means incorporation.