Instructor: John Boonstra
Meeting time: Monday, 3:00-5:00 pm
Far-right movements have, in recent years, gained striking momentum across Europe. From France’s anti-immigrant National Front and neo-Nazis in Germany to efforts to rehabilitate Franco and Mussolini in Spain and Italy, forces of extreme nationalism, xenophobia, and imperial nostalgia have increased in prominence as well as popularity. The current moment is not the first time that the continent has experienced a rise in right-wing extremism. Fascism, from the 1920s onward, offered violent, totalitarian solutions to the tensions of mass politics and populist resentment in polarized societies. How do today’s reactionary political formations relate to their fascistic forebears? What social and cultural dynamics is each responding to, and, perhaps just as significantly, what historical legacies are they drawing on? In this seminar, we will ask, first, how the present wave of far-right parties in western and central Europe tapped into notions of national decline, instability, and changing demographics; second, what we can learn about these movements by studying histories of European fascism in France, Germany, Spain, and Italy; and finally, how these histories have been obscured and rehabilitated in different ways in each of these countries. By moving from contemporary cases of resurgent nationalist sentiment to their interwar predecessors and back again, and through a consideration of novels, films, historical documents, speeches, and monuments, among other sources, the course will seek to uncover how anxieties of migration, race, and empire—as well as changing roles of religion, gender, and nationhood—shaped political animosities and allegiances within the European Far Right.