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The 'selective memory' of Italy's populist radical right shapes attitudes to immigration

Political parties of the populist radical right in Italy demonstrate “selective memory” when it comes to acknowledging the country’s colonial past, according to a new study.

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The populist radical right has seen electoral success in Italy. Picture: STOCK IMAGE

Parties such as the Lega and Fratelli d’Italia (Fdl) tend to obscure the brutalities of Italy’s colonial history while attempting to create a positive image around other aspects, traits which then shape the contemporary attitudes of both parties towards immigration and immigrants.

The findings were revealed in a new paper, How can you feel guilty for colonialism? it is a folly’: colonial memory in the Italian populist radical right, published by Dr Marianna Griffini in the journal European Politics and Society.

Dr Griffini, from the Department of European and International Studies at King’s, said: “I argue that the Lega and FdI selectively shape the memory of the Italian colonial past, mainly expunging it from its most difficult aspects and casting light onto those considered as the most positive ones.

“Even when the Lega and the FdI acknowledge the existence of colonial brutalities, they deflect attention away from them and instead redirect blame onto other European colonial powers and onto the Italian left, which are accused of seemingly more serious crimes.

“The fact that the Italian populist radical right parties examined do not fully acknowledge the controversial aspects of Italy’s colonial past may contribute to the deployment of colonial discourse by these same parties, evident in their construction of the image of the immigrant as ‘other’, criminal, inferior, and dirty.”

Dr Griffini carried out interviews with members of both the Lega and Fdl for the study, with more than 30 representatives interviewed at various levels of the political hierarchy, from town councillors to members of the Italian parliament. The interviews took place over a two-year period and included a wide range of regions across the country.

As well as evidence of selective colonial memory, Dr Griffini’s analysis of the interviews also found that colonialism continues to permeate the way the populist radical right articulates immigration by “criminalising, inferiorising, and abjectifying the ‘other’”.

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You can read the paper in full here.

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Marianna Griffini

Marianna Griffini

Lecturer (AEP)