Decolonizing Italian Visual and Material Culture:
From Nation Building to Now
Art and visual culture contributed extensively to consolidating the process of nation building in modern Italy, which intersects with the policies of colonial expansion of the new Italian State.
This research unit focuses on works of art, images, and objects that actively participated in the development and affirmation of a colonial collective imaginary based on artificial constructions of identity and otherness, orientalisms within and outside of the nation, transnational diplomatic relations and migrations.
Taking the city of Rome as a point of departure for a polycentric perspective, this research unit explores how the public space was shaped by national monuments and narratives that underlie the conception of major exhibitions and public collections of art and material culture, spanning from liberal Italy to Fascism, up to the present day. Our purpose is to critically rethink chronologies, categories, and taxonomies of Art History through a more complex historical and cultural analysis of objects. In this vein, the project aims to contribute to the global debate on the decolonization of contemporary visuality and cultural heritage.
The research unit is part of the project SPAZIDENTITÀ. Spazialità materiale e immateriale della costruzione nazionale italiana dalla Repubblica Cisalpina alla fine del Fascismo, co-funded by the École Française de Rome (2022–2026).
Race, emigration, transnational relations, Italianità abroad, art and politics, propaganda strategies, colonialism, internal orientalism, fascism, national exhibitions, museum collections, colonial heritage, political use of the body, construction of sexual stereotypes