Reclamation : an archaeology of agricultural reform in fascist Sicily
- For Italians today, the legacy of Fascism resists easy characterization. Although Mussolini's dictatorship fits squarely within the ranks of 20th century totalitarian regimes, its memory and material remains are rarely understood in exclusively negative terms. This dissertation investigates the popular ambivalence towards the Fascist past in the context of widespread land reforms and building programs undertaken in Sicily in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Fascist land reform was described as a "reclamation" of arable land, part of a broader rhetorical trend focused on reclaiming Italian "spiritual potential" and national vigor. The research presented here extends the trope of "reclamation" to include the ways in which Fascist land reform and its material remains are today being used as a form of heritage. Methodologically, it juxtaposes archival, archaeological, and ethnographic data to investigate how Sicily's rural populations negotiated Fascism's agricultural interventions in the years leading up to WWII, and how their experiences in turn articulate with popular discourses of Fascism today. In order to break the power of the endemic and exploitative semi-feudal agricultural system known as latifondismo, the Fascists envisioned a 'new urbanism' described as "the pulverization of the city center onto the agricultural surface...an organization of urban character over vast extensions of rural space" (Caracciolo 1942: 286). This included constructing a significant number of agricultural settlements, called borghi, across the island. Similar to the New Towns of the Agro Pontino south of Rome, the Sicilian borghi generally consist of a central piazza bordered by the church, school, post office, police station, medical dispensary, workshops, store, and Fascist Party headquarters. Landowners were then obligated to resettle farmers from nearby towns on the fields surrounding each borgo, providing them with an individual agricultural plot and a farmhouse where their families would live. The bulk of the literature on Fascist land reform concentrates on the New Towns and borghi, and emphasizes their rhetorical power by focusing on planning, architecture, and propaganda. This dissertation complements — and challenges — these studies by incorporating new data about how these spaces were used and transformed in practice. It begins by tracing the relationship between Fascism and agriculture on the Italian mainland and in its African colonies, particularly Libya. It then examines specific plans from the 1920s through 1943 for agricultural reclamation in Sicily, arguing that models describing Fascist land reform as utopian or dystopian do not adequately capture the facts on the ground. Aerial photographs and archaeological field survey are therefore used to reconstruct how the government's reforms relied heavily on pre-existing local networks of power: the authority of relevance to farmers was that of the landowners or local agricultural cooperatives, not the government. This point is underscored by the subsequent post-war transformation and re-use of borghi and farmhouses, which underscore the relative unimportance of their Fascist origins. However, their presence in the landscape could be problematized effectively and ethically through a heritage narrative centered upon "reclamation.".
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Samuels, Joshua William
|Stanford University, Department of Anthropology.
|Fuller, Mia, 1958-
|Fuller, Mia, 1958-
|Statement of responsibility
|Joshua William Samuels.
|Submitted to the Department of Anthropology.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2012.
- © 2012 by Joshua William Samuels
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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