Legally Contextualizing American Confederate Monuments and Italian Fascist Monuments

n October 2017, shortly after violent clashes over the summer and the decisions of the city of Charlottesville, Virginia in The United States to remove monuments of the confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, Ruth Ben-Ghiat wrote an article for The New Yorker entitled “Why are so many Fascist Monuments in Italy still standing?”. The article provoked outrage in the Italian press and more general perplexity at the cultural heritage practices of Italy. This paper, through a comparative analysis of The United States’ historic preservation law and Italy’s cultural property law, explores why a superficial parallel between confederate monuments in The United States and Fascist monuments in Italy is inadequate. It asks whether the discussions surrounding confederate monuments in The United States easily translate to the Italian territory. Indeed, a parallel between the existence of confederate monuments in The United States and the existence of Fascist monuments in Italy requires a profound consideration of a host of issues which surround these monuments as they exist in their respective countries and in their respective national cultural identities. These issues include the complexity of culture, legal nuances, and architectural and art historical narratives, to name just a few. The paper comparatively examines the two legal contexts in which the respective monuments find themselves, contextualizing specific monuments’ legal classification as historic property and cultural property, respectively, within the identity struggles and historical cultural heritage legal frameworks present in each monument’s respective country.

The role of cultural heritage policies in the definition of a national identity

Cultural heritage, both in its material and immaterial forms, has been, and still is, one of the key elements that a State aims to identify and protect as part of its national identity. The first cultural heritage regulations, particularly in Italy and also globally, were structured with the purpose of retaining cultural property within national borders and avoiding, in this way, the dispersal of cultural property. This is the origin of the idea of a national cultural patrimony. How do legislations identify and recognise their national cultural patrimony today? Is the core goal of regulations concerning the protection of cultural property still to retain cultural property within national borders or, possibly, to facilitate the economic exploitation of cultural property? This paper aims to trace the main definitional features of what we consider ‘national cultural patrimony’ and the evolution of this concept, tackling the recent evolutions of cultural heritage policies in defining a national identity.

A Square, a Museum and a Monument: Piazza Venezia in Rome after World War II

Piazza Venezia in Rome has been heavily characterized by its connection to the Italian Fascist Regime. First the Venetian and Austrian embassy, then Benito Mussolini’s headquarters, Palazzo Venezia represents the incarnation of the Fascist Regime in the Italian cultural memory. Despite being the headquarters of the Italian Prime Minister during the 1920s and 1930s, Palazzo Venezia never stopped being a museum. This paper aims to point out how both the Museo di Palazzo Venezia (and the Vittoriano) have managed their Fascist inheritance after World War II in the shadow of constitutional law and how this inheritance has shaped the cultural and political history of this site.

Constructions of Identity and the Carabinieri Force for the Protection of Cultural Heritage

The Carabinieri Force for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, a special unit of the Italian federal police force, combats crimes against cultural heritage within the Italian territory and has an international impact through its activities. As a part of the Italian Ministry of Culture and with its emphasis on the protection of national heritage, the Carabinieri Force for the Protection of Cultural Heritage naturally privileges Italy’s construction of its own national identity by, for example, frequently playing a role in the return of Italian cultural property to the Italian territory from abroad. This presentation problematizes the role which the Carabinieri Force for the Protection of Cultural Heritage plays in enforcing the Italian State’s decisions to repatriate and return certain items of cultural property and not others.