Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

It gives me great pleasure to thank the many people who assisted me with this book. I have mentioned those whom I consulted on specific issues in the notes, to make clear their individual contributions. I am grateful to all of you. This study has necessitated the consultation of a variety of film and military archives. I thank Paola Castagna, Emiliano Morreale, and Enrico...

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Introduction

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pp. xiii-xxvi

Ennio Flaiano’s take on the gap between imperial fantasy and reality, written while he was in Ethiopia during the 1935–1936 Italian war on that country, is an apt introduction to a book on Italian Fascism’s empire cinema. The allusion to American cinema as the reference for Italian popular imaginings of exoticism sums up the challenges and possibilities Mussolini’s...

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1. Empire Cinema: Frames and Agendas

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pp. 1-20

On October 2, 1935, Benito Mussolini stepped out on the balcony of Rome’s Piazza Venezia to address the largest rally in the fourteen years of the Fascist regime. Surrounded by microphones and movie cameras, the Italian leader hailed his audience:

Blackshirts of the Revolution! Men and women of all of Italy! Italians all...

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2. Italian Cinema and the Colonies to 1935

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pp. 21-42

This chapter offers an overview of the imbrications and encounters of Italian cinema with the colonies up to 1935. I focus on the 1920s, a decade that has been slow to receive attention in accounts of both Italian colonial and filmic enterprises. During those years, the Fascists developed the ideologies and strategies of conquest that would serve them in Ethiopia...

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3. Mapping Empire Cinema, 1935–1939

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pp. 43-77

“Roads and bridges, hospitals and pharmacies, electricity and cinema: all at once Fascism has given the subjugated populations all the bounties and conquests of progress and civilization,” exalted the young militant Giuseppe Lombrassa, writing from the newly conquered town of Adwa. Marveling at the presence of the “white screen and...

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4. Coming Home to the Colonies

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pp. 78-117

A specter haunted Italian nation building and the imperial histories entwined with it: the emigrant, emblem of a poor country’s inability to provide for its citizens. Other European powers, too, had unprecedented levels of mobility in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries due to migrations and colonial expansions, but the Italian state...

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5. Imperial Bodies, Part I: Italians and Askaris

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pp. 118-166

The narratives of empire film, like empire itself, revolved around the management of imperial bodies. Both colonizers and colonized had value as a productive force (infrastructure, agriculture, conquest). They reinforce, and sometimes transgress, social and racial hierarchies and are marked by the displacements and journeys occasioned...

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6. Imperial Bodies, Part II: Slaves of Love, Slaves of Labor

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pp. 167-213

Chapter 6 moves from films of military conquest to films of colonization and from bodies bound by martial duty to corporeal encounters occasioned by everyday life on Italian agricultural settlements. Both L’Esclave blanc and Sotto la Croce del Sud make spectacle of the dangerous passions sparked in white Italian men by the proximity to...

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7. Film Policies and Cultures, 1940–1943

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pp. 214-242

On June 10, 1940, Mussolini once again stepped onto his balcony in Piazza Venezia. Ending Italy’s nine months of “non-belligerence,” he declared the country’s entry into World War II alongside “its great ally Germany.” His speech, which he delivered in the arms-akimbo stance beloved by Fascist authorities, covered familiar themes in justifying...

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8. The End of Empire

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pp. 243-295

From 1936 to 1941, the Fascist government’s investment in commercial empire films had been largely on an ad hoc basis. While some features had official or semi-official origins (Il grande appello; Luciano Serra, pilota; Sotto la Croce del Sud), others had come to Italy as a last resort or depended on foreign financing (L’Esclave blanc, Lo squadrone bianco). The...

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Epilogue

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pp. 296-308

By 1947 “Aethiopia: Notes for a Little Song,” the jocular annotations Flaiano had penned during the Ethiopian war, had become a novel whose title (Tempo di uccidere/A Time to Kill) expressed the problems of memory Fascism’s empire now presented. Its protagonist, an Italian officer in service in East Africa, is haunted by a crime he committed. Having...

Notes

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pp. 309-334

Bibliography

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pp. 335-368

Filmography

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pp. 369-374

Index

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pp. 375-393

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About the Author

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Ruth Ben-Ghiat is Professor of Italian Studies and History at New York University. The recipient of Guggenheim, National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright, and other fellowships, she is the author of Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922–45 (2001, 2004), the editor...