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The Postwar Period and Cultural Transition in Italy and Germany (1945-1963)

Researchers

The project aims to demonstrate that analytical tools geared to the cultural history of war can contribute to a better understanding of the years after the Second World War in Italy and Germany.

The starting point is the conviction that one of the main changes in post-1945 European public opinion was the disappearance of a shared cultural paradigm that not only saw war as a recurring and unavoidable event in the history of communities, but considered participation in defence of the community both a demonstration of one’s courage in battle and a laboratory of individual and citizen virtues. Despite the impact of collective mourning on public opinion after 1918, there was only limited diffusion of a properly pacifist or anti-militarist political discourse in 1920s and 1930s Europe. On the contrary, one may broadly claim that after World War I war continued to work as a fundamental myth of political communities in western Europe, to be celebrated on public holidays as an epic moment capable of uniting nations, and defining the relationship between the individual and her/his identity, both in gender and in political terms. The crisis of representation, of memory and hence of the collective perception of war did not occur until after the Second World War. Perception of the change was slow in the circuits of mass communication. Only in the 1960s, and especially in the generational turmoil of 1967/69, is it possible to speak of a reversal of the patriotic heroic paradigm of war within European culture.

In Germany and Italy the image of war as a not essentially negative event, but rather an opportunity to display the citizen’s best qualities, survived until the early 1960s, largely thanks to the conservative dynamics of mass-culture.

Date: 
Saturday, January 1, 2011 to Tuesday, December 31, 2013