Questioning what remains: A semiotic approach to studying difficult monuments

Mario Panico

Punctum, 5(2): 29-49, 2019
DOI: 10.18680/hss.2019.0021


In Italy there is a difference between the historical experience of Fascism and what is remembered of it. In many cases, violence and repression have been interpreted as a kind of historical removal. In particular, the lack of the Nuremberg trial, as happened in Germany, allowed the traumatic memories of Mussolini’s dictatorship to be banalized and made nostalgic. To understand these defects of Italian cultural memory, it may be useful to look at urban space. If urban space always speaks of something other than itself, then looking at the monumental traces of Fascism still standing in Italy allows to provide answers about the collective amnesia that has transformed Fascism into a parenthesis, as Benedetto Croce said in 1944. The main goal of this article is to investigate the mechanisms of conservation, a practice able to include new enunciations and remove old ones. In particular, through the analysis of some fascist monuments, I address four semiotic strategies of elaboration and cancellation of the past that weaken the sense of monumental representation. Specifically, I investigate the mechanisms of erasure, normalization, narcotization–latency and the construction of polyphonic memories.

KEYWORDS: Monuments, Italian Fascism, Difficult Heritage, Cultural Memory
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