Tasting Fascism: Food, Space, And Identity In Italy

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This thesis presents the multiple relationships between food, space, and identity during Benito Mussolini's fascist regime (1922-43), and how foodways, politics, and policies shaped a new national consciousness in Italy. Beginning with a brief study on the formation of a national cuisine in the late nineteenth century, this examination focuses on food's central position within fascist Italian society and the diverse agents, ranging from the State to individuals, who built a new physical and mental space of the young nation through the manipulation of food and food habits. The regime's drive for alimentary sovereignty dictated many of its political goals concerning food, especially after the League of Nations imposed sanctions on Italy in 1935. By launching food propaganda campaigns and solidifying the concept of a national cuisine, the State constructed a unified Italian identity that aimed to be impervious to foreign influences. Its policies were resonated and aided by unlikely groups and individuals such as the avant-garde Futurists and the female domestic scientists. Written by the poet F.T. Marinetti and the artist Filla, The Futurist Cookbook championed a new and radical way of eating that favored the bodily experience of food and taste. Though irreverent and extreme in its tone, this manifesto-like cookbook simultaneously addressed Italy's national identity and the making of Italians, echoing in many respects the political ambitions of the fascist regime. Taking a different approach, the Italian female domestic scientists, in concert with governmental initiatives, advocated for household rationalization "especially that of the kitchen" as a modernizing catalyst in Italy. The transformation of the kitchen space into a command center for housewives explored the possibilities and limits of the quotidian and visceral acts of preparing and consuming food. The goal of liberating fascist women from drudgeries also revealed the strategic nature of fascist ideologies in ensuring that women would have time to perform their patriotic duties to the State. The reconception of the kitchen space and the introduction of a new consumer culture served to further reinstate the gender hierarchy within the fascist society. As such, this thesis focuses on the sensory perception of taste as a cultural and social construction, and its ability to delineate different types of spaces that together defined a national identity. A visually-oriented history, this case study demonstrates the power and potential of food in serving political, sensual, aesthetic, and everyday purposes. These explorations also serve to elucidate the central role of food in contemporary Italy and their seemingly inseparable identity.

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