Organizer: Sanders I Bernstein
Co-Organizer: Kristin CanfieldContact the Seminar Organizers
In The Anatomy of Fascism, Robert Paxton reminds us that fascism has always proved difficult to define. Fascism “seemed to come from nowhere.” Though it “took on multiple and varied forms” and “exalted hatred and violence in the name of national prowess,” it still “managed to appeal to prestigious and well-educated statesmen, entrepreneurs, professionals, artists, and intellectuals.” Despite this, “everyone is” nonetheless, “sure they know what fascism is.” And yet the question of definition becomes all the more urgent when making comparisons among different contexts and historical periods. Foucault warns in Power/ Knowledge that the failure to adequately interrogate the term itself leads to fascism frequently becoming “a floating signifier, whose function is essentially that of denunciation.” More recently, in “Notes on Late Fascism,” Alberto Toscano complicates the “analogical thinking” that promises to provide “guidance” to “those who find themselves living in times of crisis and disorientation,” suggesting that “dis-analogues” offer a more generative means to describe contemporary movements that are often labeled fascistic. On the other hand, Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism demands a revision of imperialism as fascism avant la lettre. Likewise, Orson Welles famously declared, “history has widened the meaning of the word” such that long after governments dare to call themselves fascist, fascism will live on as “a word for race-hate.” This seminar takes up the question of what the usefulness of comparison might be for studies of fascism and fascist culture. What does it mean for a work to be fascist? And what function does this term serve not available to the host of related vocabulary that we as scholars could deploy—anti-blackness, anti-semitism, (ethno)nationalism, white supremacy, reactionary populism? Why might we insist on a narrow definition of fascism or argue for, as Orson Welles did, the widening of the term? How do transnational approaches contribute to studies of fascism or dilute them? Committed to interdisciplinary and intermedial approaches, this seminar welcomes work on popular as well as canonical literature, film, and photography. It is neither temporally nor geographically limited (transnational projects encouraged!), though it does encourage historically specific work. We are likewise interested in work that utilizes feminist and queer approaches as well as critical race theory.