Dr Kate Ferris wins AHRC Early Career Fellowship
February 26, 2014 Leave a comment
This AHRC fellowship will allow Dr Ferris to spend the best part of two years (starting in September 2015) researching in Italian archives (in Rome, Florence, Vicenza and Venice, among others) and writing up that research in order to provide the first systematic examination of the place of alcohol in fascist life.
Italian fascism had a somewhat ambivalent relationship with alcohol. On the one hand, in line with the projected image of Mussolini as a model of health and virile masculinity, it was asserted that he ‘never [drank] wine’. Repeated emphasis was made to Mussolini’s abstemiousness, austere diet and almost ascetic lifestyle. Drinking alcohol was seen as a barrier to becoming an ideal fascist man. On the other hand, wine and the places in which it was consumed publicly – bars,osterie, trattorie and so on – appear repeatedly in source material as important features and spaces of fascist life. Wine production was a key facet of regional economies in Italy.
Crucially, the places associated with alcohol often became sites of confrontation between fascism and anti-fascism (or non-fascism). Bars were places where people met to discuss politics (among other things); the mix of politics and alcohol was often convivial but could also turn to conflict. The research project will seek to get to the bottom of these apparent ambivalences and contradictions and in particular will explore: a) the regime’s attitudes and pronouncements on alcohol, and b) the role of alcohol as a mediating actor between individuals and the fascist state.
In addition to writing two major research articles, Dr Ferris will also produce an exhibition on ‘wine and wine production in fascist Italy’, two podcasts for use by school children and will set up a research network of early-career academics with interests in different aspects of the political, social and cultural history of food history in modern Europe, a field of research which is fast developing, perhaps not surprisingly given the crucial place of food, and especially access to food, in governing the relationships between states and their citizens.