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).

Research Topics

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


New Leisure for a New Nation. Art and Entertainment in Italy, from Nation-building to Liberation (1861-1945)

Public event without registration
Nov 22, 2023 09:15 AM (Local Time Germany) - Nov 23, 2023 05:30 PM
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rome and online

The Art of Decolonization

Maureen Murphy
Public event without registration
Oct 30, 2023 11:00 AM - 01:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rome and online

Memorie coloniali e Nation Building. Italia e Germania a confronto

Evento fuori sede
Oct 6, 2023 - Oct 7, 2023
Goethe Institut Rom, Auditorium (Via Savoia 15, Roma); Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche, Sala lauree, Università La Sapienza, Roma (Piazzale Aldo Moro, Roma)

Gnoseology, Aesthesis, Decoloniality

Walter D. Mignolo
Public event without registration
Jun 15, 2023 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
Museo delle Civiltà, Piazza Guglielmo Marconi, 14, Rome, Sala Conferenze

Imperial Games: Visuality, Tactility and Synaesthesia

Ting Chang
Public event without registration
May 23, 2023 11:00 AM - 01:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, RM 00187 Rome and online (Vimeo)

From the Epic Poem to the Postcolonial History of Art, Fragments of a Reflection

Elvan Zabunyan
Public event without registration
May 9, 2023 11:00 AM - 01:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, RM 00187 Rome and online (Vimeo)

Spazialità e identità in Italia (1796-1943). Definizione e metodologia

Conferenza interdisciplinare
Oct 13, 2022 - Oct 14, 2022
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom
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