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  • Visualizing Fascism: The Twentieth-Century Rise of the Global Right ed. by Julia Adeney Thomas and Geoff Eley
  • Brian J Griffith
Visualizing Fascism: The Twentieth-Century Rise of the Global Right. Edited by julia adeney thomas and geoff eley. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020. 336 pp. ISBN 978-1-4780-0376-2. $27.95 (paper); ISBN 978-1-4780-0312-0. $104.95 (cloth).

Between the late-1960s and the turn-of-the-century, scholars specializing in the history of interwar right-wing authoritarianisms and populisms set out to identify a "fascist minimum" (Ernst Nolte, 1968) or [End Page 184] a "working definition" (Stanley Payne, 1996) for (lower-case) fascism. Such an "ideal type" would, as Payne famously put it, "describe what all fascist movements had in common without trying to describe the additional unique characteristics of each individual group."1 While some progress was made in identifying fascism's "generic" characteristics across the twentieth-century's various fascistic movements, political parties, and dictatorships, nearly all of the studies produced during the aforementioned decades assumed, either implicitly or explicitly, that fascism's origins were exclusively European. However, in recent years, scholars of fascism have begun to widen our analytical framework from a variety of disciplinarian perspectives by studying, and highlighting, "pristine" fascist movements from as far afield as 1930sera East Asia to various contexts in Africa and the Americas. And along with these pathbreaking studies has come a variety of new historiographical, as well as methodological, questions: If fascism's origins were not exclusively rooted in the horrors of trench warfare and the chaotic aftermaths of demobilization and, in some cases, revolution in post-World War I Europe, for instance, then what alternative approaches might be required for better identifying fascistic political cultures in their variegated historical and contemporary permutations on a global scale?

Such are the questions and objectives addressed by the various studies featured in Julia Adeney Thomas and Geoff Eley's outstanding anthology, Visualizing Fascism: The Twentieth-Century Rise of the Global Right. Based on two central themes—fascism as a global and aesthetic phenomenon—Visualizing Fascism proposes to "see" fascism not according to what its adherents believed, wrote, or the various objectives they pursued, as some scholars have insisted, but rather by the consistencies between their various "aesthetic strategies" (p. 5) across time and space. Turning away from consulting textual source materials alone, the essays in this volume investigate the ways in which fascistic groups from all over the world deployed the graphic arts, photography, motion pictures, architecture, and monuments towards the articulation of their dystopian programs for promoting ethnic or racial superiority, national regeneration, and collective belonging.

In framing the subsequent studies, Thomas' Introduction articulates the necessary theoretical framework for a "portable definition of fascism," which, as she aptly puts it, "travels across [End Page 185] space and time and is useful in analyzing places where fascist movements failed as well as places where fascist regimes were established" (p. 6), irrespective of their specific regional or national contexts. This "portable" classification of fascist ideology, she explains, is based on five interrelated propositions: Firstly, "fascism cannot be safely consigned to the past" (p. 6) and can, therefore, reoccur "whenever people become alienated not only from the traditional Right but also from liberal democratic and leftwing alternatives" (p. 6). Fascism is "the product of political crisis in modern capitalist states" (p. 6), Thomas' second foundational principle contends. The third and fourth propositions contend that violence is oftentimes viewed by fascists as a "key to propelling the dissolution of civility and governability" (p. 8), which is more often than not pursued via the irrational appeal to popular emotions, especially in regard to notions of "wounded pride" and "resentment … against 'enemies,'" both internal and external (p. 8). The fifth and final proposition brings readers closer to the anthology's historiographical contributions and methodological innovations: "visual presentations of fascist ideology were crucial precisely because the 'message' of the graphic arts, images, collages, movies, monuments, and pageantry was elusive and emotive" (pp. 8–9). Armed with this portable and decidedly visual definition for fascism, the volume delves into a series of inter-connected essays on fascisms from as...


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