Since late-September 2018, I have been living in Rome on a Fulbright Research Grant completing my dissertation research and manuscript. As soon as my family and I arrived here in the “Eternal City,” I began noticing neo-fascist propaganda posters, as well as the accompanying swastikas and sun crosses. After observing for a few weeks, it suddenly occurred to me that these materials were, in fact, valuable historical sources on this period of Rome’s, and indeed Italy’s, history, which were very likely to be ‘forgotten’, and therefore undiscovered, by scholars and the general public if they weren’t preserved either physically or digitally. This insight eventually led to an idea: Why not collect these posters as they appear, photograph them, and create a digital, Open Access archive?
In his recently-published monograph, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder encourages his readers to “Take responsibility for the face of the world. … Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate.” “Do not look away,” he continues, “and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.” In reflecting on this wisdom, I decided to begin collecting, and sometimes sabotaging, the “signs of hate” I found in my temporarily adopted city.
Since I began gathering these materials from the walls and alleyways of Rome’s predominantly neo-fascist quartieri, I have accumulated quite the collection, amounting to nearly 40 different full-sized posters. In addition to collecting the posters themselves, I have also kept detailed notes on the dates, times, locations, and conditions of the surroundings from which I’ve gathered them. I have sought to acquire at least one poster from each of Italy’s/Rome’s most widespread and influential neo-fascist groups and political parties, including Casa Pound, Forza Nuova, and Fratelli d’Italia, as well as a handful of smaller, less well-known organizations such as Nihil Est Superius and Comunità Militante Raido. I have also sought to gather posters from each of these groups’ accompanying youth organizations: Blocco Studentesco (Casa Pound), Lotta Studentesca (Forza Nuova), Gioventù Nazionale (Fratelli d’Italia), and Generazione Popolare (Nihil Est Superius).
Over the coming year, I intend to put all of these materials and accompanying information together as an Omeka-based digital collections website — a #DigitalHistory project I have tentatively titled “‘Where Monsters Are Born’: Documenting a Fascist Revival in the Streets of Rome, 2018-2019.”