Thinking geographically about Fascist Italy

Wednesday 22 February, 18.00–19.30

David Atkinson (Hull)

This lecture explores how Italy’s Fascist regime mobilised geographical knowledge and practices as part of its totalitarian project.  It also suggests that geographical perspectives can contribute to our broader, interdisciplinary understanding of the nature of the regime and its legacies.  I address both issues with three case studies.  The first outlines the politicisation of geographical knowledge, practices and education under the regime, and the agenda to make Italians conceptualise their nation, and its roles in the wider world, anew.  The second explores how geographical field science and surveys were employed to construct Italian Libya as a colonial domain in the early 1930s.  The third addresses how geographical contexts shaped the memorial form created on the site of a Nazi concentration camp in Trieste, and how this process is illuminated by geographical theory.  Throughout I argue that understanding the regime’s nature and practices are enhanced by geographical perspectives.

David Atkinson studied at the Universities of Bristol and Loughborough, and worked at the University of Wales before moving to Hull in 1998.  He works in the humanities tradition of human geography and was one of the first generation of ‘new cultural geographers’ who helped to establish this now flourishing sub-discipline.  Atkinson also pioneered research into the geographies of modern Italy, Italian Fascism and Italian colonialism in North Africa – all fields previously neglected by human geographers, but all fields where geographical perspectives have much to contribute.  He has edited four books and published across disciplines including Geography, Italian Studies, History, North African Studies, social theory and heritage studies.  This work has been funded by organisations including the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the Italian Government and the Leverhulme Trust.  He was a panellist for the Italian Research Assessment Exercise twice. He has served on various British Academy and Royal Geographical Society – Institute of British Geographers committees, plus the BSR’s Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters.  He has supervised over 20 research postgraduates and has presented over 30 Plenary and Keynote lectures around the world.  He currently serves as Associate Dean for Research, Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Hull.

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