“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 II years. 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 historian and cultural critic who has received Guggenheim, Fulbright, and other fellowships. She’s an expert on fascism, authoritarianism, war, propaganda, and Donald Trump, and is a frequent presence in the media speaking and writing on those topics. Her latest books are the award-winning Italian Fascism's Empire Cinema (Indiana, 2015), and Italian Mobilities (co-edited with Stephanie Malia Hom), 2015. She's now writing Strongmen: A Global History.