1st Edition

The Poetics of Conflict Experience Materiality and Embodiment in Second World War Italy

By Sarah De Nardi Copyright 2017
    266 Pages
    by Routledge

    226 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Seventy years after the end of the Second World War we still do not fully appreciate the intensity of the lived experience of people and communities involved in resistance movements and subjected to German occupation. Yet the enduring conjunction between individuals, things and place cannot be understated: from plaques on the wall to the beloved yellowing relics of private museums, materiality is paramount to any understanding of conflict experience and its poetics. This book reasserts the role of the senses, the imagination and emotion in the Italian war experience and its remembrance practices by tracing a cultural geography of the everyday material worlds of the conflict, and by digging deep into the multifaceted interweaving of place, person and conflict dynamics. Loneliness, displacement and paranoia were all emotional states shared by resistance activists and their civilian supporters. But what about the Fascists? And the Germans? In a civil war and occupation where shifting allegiances and betrayal were frequent, traditional binary codes of friend-foe cannot exist uncritically. This book incorporates these different actors’ perceptions, their competing and discordant materialities, and their shared – yet different – sense of loss and placelessness through witness accounts, storytelling and memoirs.

    Introduction: a poetics of civil war and resistance

    Baldini dies in the end: journey through a world at war

    Armchair strategists vs. affective archives

    The materialities of absence

    The interview process

    1 8 September 1943, ‘end of days’: Italy’s capitulation and its dystopian aftermath

    1.1 My family history as a story of the resistance

    1.2 The genesis of civil war and German occupation

    1.3 Materiality and memory

    1.4 The poetics of storytelling: interviewing, imagining, mapping

    2 Unsettling identities


    2.1 Identities and the uneasy materiality of conflict

    2.2 Materialities and the uncanny

    2.3 The partisan experience

    2.4 Understanding the Fascists

    2.5 Who were the Germans, and what did they want?

    Germans . . . or Austrians?

    German self-reflections

    2.6 Why weren’t the Allies more helpful?

    2.7 Spies: the ultimate uncanny element


    3 The lost bodies of the Italian resistance and civil war

    3.1 Bodies in the snow

    3.2 The body of the fighter


    Bodily hygiene

    3.3 The female body

    3.4 The Jewish body in the resistance

    3.5 Other bodies

    3.6 Saved or dead: the body’s tale

    3.7 Reconnaissance in no man’s memory: the grim legend of Buss de la Lum

    4 The haunting materiality of storytelling

    4.1 Storying affects: wartime rumour as inter-corporeal practise

    4.2 The ontogenetic nature of storytelling: the snowball effect

    4.3 Action! The historical workings of affect

    4.4 Story one: constructing an American OSS agent as the Other

    4.5 Story two: the Golden Column of Menarè

    4.6 Story three: expected and unexpected emotions

    4.7 Conclusion

    5 Competing materialities: presence and absence in the material world of the war

    5.1 The material turn in the social sciences: things ‘matter’

    5.2 The materiality of the interview

    5.3 Wartime tangibilities: on emotional absence-presence

    5.4 Frontline materialities: evocative objects and booby traps

    The eagle and the death cult: Fascists and their materiality

    Frontline objects

    5.5 Absence as an affect: the shadow-play of memory

    5.5.1 A paper cenotaph: Bruno’s memento

    5.5.2 The night is a thing: the poetics of sleep and sleep deprivation

    5.5.3 ‘I shouldn’t have asked them for it’. Wilma’s guilty prize

    5.6 Reflections

    6 Landscapes of fighting, feeling and hoping: place as material culture

    6.1 Hostile landscapes and the vernacular of terror

    6.2 The making of places: opportunity and consolation

    6.3 The unmaking of places

    Home, falling apart

    The unlikely comfort of the uplands

    6.4 Searching for invisibility: stealth and secrecy in everyday materialities

    6.5 The marginality of bodies, the liminality of the river

    6.6 Going back

    7 The conclusion of a journey through regions of silence

    By way of foreword

    7.1 Compassionate scholarship: using affect and postmemory towards a recognition of the uncanniness of civil war

    An intermission: Levi, the partisan

    7.2 Making place for a future

    7.3 Engaging with the poetics of conflict experience

    7.3.1 The poetics of violence

    7.3.2 The poetics of exclusion

    7.4 A past we can know

    7.5 Engaging humanely with the materialities of others





    Sarah De Nardi is a Research Associate in Cultural Geography at the University of Durham. Her focus on embodiment and identity frames war and conflict as lived experience in the everyday. She has published in cultural geography, anthropology, history and archaeology journals and volumes, and is Assistant Editor of the Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage. Recently she co-edited Memory, Place and Identity: Commemoration and Remembrance of War and Conflict (Routledge, 2016). This book grows out of seven years of research in Italy, the UK and Germany, and is informed by a close personal connection to the topic of resistance due to the fact that her grandfather was a Partisan. Her subjectivity as an Italian, European citizen and scholar is a recurrent theme in the book, lending a nuanced and engaging perspective to the overarching theme and the arguments put forth.