Margot’s post on Mass Mediated Fantasies

This article came at a good time because I read it after having the discussion group on Regina di Fiori e Di Perle, which put me in a very skeptical place regarding the portrayal of what happened in Ethiopia. In the discussion group I argued that the book includes Italian colonizers who we can relate to, who are “good” Italians. The “bad” Italians in the book are all generals and high-ranking soldiers who we knew were “bad” before even reading the book. Ghermandi portrayed the “real” Italians who we understand as good people, therefore they were unaccountable for their actions.

Pickering-Iazzi talked about this unaccountability in her article. When she was talking about the transportation of the Axum obelisk back to Adddis Ababa, she described different rationales for this gesture. One that she mentioned which fits in with the idea of unaccountability is  that the emptiness of Piazza Capena (where the obelisk was housed) unburdens the Italians from the constant reminder of the fascist reign and the brutality they inflicted. Along with this, Pickering-Iazzi argued that the apologies by the President tried to erase Italy’s brutality from historical memory.

(re-erecting of the obelisk)

(an interesting article about Presidente Scalfaro’s death with a picture of him on a visit to Ethiopia)

America’s “Liberty” and Colonial Ethiopian

The comparison that I first drew after reading this article was between the feminine propaganda of the Italian Ethiopia and the American feminizing of Liberty at the end of the civil war. In America, “Liberty” appeared as a powerful woman, draped in robes or even American flags in a  relatively seductive way, that at the time was probably sex appeal. Later she is shown leading the way into the American West during the idealistic period of “Manifest Destiny.” Both of these situation give the woman, “Liberty” and the idea of freedom and American power a feminine spin that both make it seductive as well as matriarchal. Comparison that was most surprising from the Pickering-Iazzi article was in the last paragraph she writes, “Furthermore, in this romantic tale and the fictions of Africa published in the press, the representations of women as the subjects of adventure, independence, mobility, and desire invent powerful terms of identification.” In both cases, the women encourage adventure, expansion, mobility and tempt people with their feminine charm. Very interesting article, big fan.



Colonizing as Feminizing

Given the “alpha-male” tendency of fascist ideology, it makes sense to examine phenomena relating to it, such as colonialism, in gendered terms. In Robin Pickering-Iazzi’s Mass-Mediated Fantasies of Feminine Conquest, 1930-1940, a lot of the main parallels between the male fantasy of the female and the colonizer’s fantasy of the colonized are put on display.

The most obvious parallel, I would say, is the idea of dominance and power. Not only do these ideas reinforce the colonial power, they also reinforce masculinity. The colonizer is dominating the colonized, as (in this very heteronormative comparison) the male dominates the female. Ideas of power and masculinity at this time were so heavily intertwined that they actually could not be separated.

The other idea that Pickering-Iazzi posits, though, is that both the colonies and women shared an air of exoticism. There was not only a feeling of power in colonizing, but there was a seductiveness, a sensuality, to the colonies themselves.

I found a picture that I think illustrates both of these ideas in action in the colonies. There is not much information surrounding the photograph, but it was taken in a colony with a native woman and an Italian soldier.

Mass-Mediated Fantasies of Feminine Conquest, 1930-1940

I found this article, specifically the aspect of propaganda, to be especially interesting. I have enjoyed the presence and analysis of propaganda during Italian fascism throughout the readings we have done so far. The colonies were portrayed to the women of Italy as an exotic and exciting place. Through the use of propagandistic images and selective words to describe the environment, the colonies seemed to be romanticized in a way that made them appealing to women. It is interesting that the method used to encourage women to visit the colonies focuses on these stereotypes of female fantasy that include aspects of various housewife duties. The appeal made to men to visit the colonies, however, was a representation of war and of conquering and improving. It was made appealing to men through its abundant presence of ways in which to exert masculinity.

Photography in “Mass-Meditated Fantasies”

I found the section titled “Mass-Meditations of Feminine Colonial Fantasies” in Pickering-Iazzi’s piece “Mass-Meditated Fantasies” to be exceptionally interesting. The way the colonies were presented to Italian women seems like a travel guide or an excerpt from the magazine Travel + Leisure. “From the comforts of home…they could travel to faraway lands…enchanting landscapes feature vast open spaces, majestic trees, and lush fauna” (201). Even the native people are presented as a spectacle in their bright, exotic clothing. Curti likens this to a romance rather than a travel magazine but regardles–both are designed to take the reader away from their home to an exotic, faraway place where their at-home worries seem as strange to them as the people they are surrounded by in this distant land.

I believe that photography is a very unreliable source of information, especially when used to convey culture and the “realness” of any situation. Although photography can be extremely reliable, relating 1,000 words and describing things that are beyond language, it is also subject to extreme perceptionism where editing and angling can either make a picture seem so much ‘better’ or ‘worse’ to the viewer. Of course the photographs used to sway women into thinking of the colonies as a far away destination did not depict the suffering, helplessness, or disabilities of any of the colonized people.

Response to Pickering-Iazzi

Again, we focus on the symbolic meanings of the Axum obelsk and its relationship to the discourse framework from pre-colonized Ethiopia and post-colonized, modern day Ethiopia. While the symbolism is highly debated, there is synthesis in recognizing its return as a part of Italy’s political agenda, as the world’s perspective begins to criticize the fascist regime. What it interesting is how the very attempt to restructure the historical memory in fact, ironically, resurrects the painful memories of colonization. Also, ironically, the Italians make similar promises to the Ethiopians as they once did during colonialism while returning the Axum obelsk, thus promoting an ideology of unity. This unity is still supported by the notion that Italians are superior to the Ethiopians. By stating that the Italians will help the Ethiopians with employment issues and will bring progress, the Italians inherently assert their belief that they are more capable than the Ethiopians themselves.

Aside from using the return of the Axum obelsk to demonstrate a pivotal moment in the discourse of Ethiopia’s current framework and memory of Italian colonialism, Pickering-Iazzi also focuses on maps and their influence on power relations. Also relevant is the focus on the shift of demographics as a response to colonizer’s reign over tribes in Ethipoia.

What I found most interesting, however, was the way in which colonizers approached women and incited them to participate in their camps by offering education. This education, however, was clearly manipulated to facilitate support for the colonizers themselves. This is one of the most important/influential mentioned fantasies because it gave a false sense of benevolence on the colonizers side and a false sense of capability (begotten through “proper” and “exclusive” education) on the side of women.
And again, the role of the media and focus on the exoticism and appeal of the African women to Italian men is interesting. And the discourse was facilitated by the combining of fascist colonialism ideologies and romantic pursuits.
Ultimately, I found this article to be a more generalized reading of our previous articles which included better and more examples. Getting to the point of the title, however, took longer than anticipated and was delayed by the inclusion of irrelevant yet not unrelated information regarding other fantasies that influenced the discourse framework in general.


This took me a while to get through, and I honestly have not finished (this article is in Italian).  But, from what I’ve gathered, it explores the ideologies behind the racial laws, and ultimately serves to provide an analysis of the abuses of Italians on African women in particular.  If you have time, skim it! Of the things I could pick up, I found every point made to be very interesting!

Additional Literature

This article explores the identity of colonized women and children, which a focus on the difficulties of multiplicity and long term effect-specifically in areas such as Ethiopia. I felt this academic article would be a great addition to our past coversations regarding gender.

Furthermore, I would like to add that this article explores the ways in which the women themselves recall history and how they now express this memory.  It’s more or less the evolution of historical rhetoric.  It serves as the opposite of how the Dodacanese have reacted to their historical past with the Itlaians.  Instead of dismissing the horrific treatment of their natives, like the Dodacanese, these women now voice the injustice of such past treatment.