"Promised Land of Populism? 'Populist' Culture and Politics in Italy, 1800-2019"

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


"Understanding Right-Wing Populism Through Aesthetics: A Reflection on the Appeal of Matteo Salvini and Neo-Fascist Narratives in Today’s Italy"

Italy is facing today a deep social and political crisis with far-right and populist forces represented by both the League and Five Stars parties in power locally and nationally. This tendency has been accompanied by a rise in neo-fascist propaganda in the context of anti-immigrant xenophobia, racism, hate speech and politically motivated violence against intellectuals, journalists, and political opponents. Propaganda and political activity have also been linked to organisations such as Casapound and Forza Nuova, the two main Italian neo-fascist fringe parties, whose public activities have become increasingly accepted and normalised.
These narratives have now gone mainstream reaching to the heart of the Italian state and are particularly emphasised by Matteo Salvini, who is implementing an increasing extremist politics of fear and securitisation which showcases clear parallelisms with a fascist attitude.
My contribution outlined and examined some of the aesthetic strategies used by Salvini in building his mass appeal. Salvini has become a celebrity in the eyes of many Italians to the extent of assuming a sort of messianic role as the Capitano (Captain) of the Patria. The League leader has created a powerful self-image by making evident juxtapositions with the Duce and implementing populist rhetoric through aesthetics designed to work with the emotions of the electorate by fomenting social hatred and encouraging far-right prejudice, especially against immigrants and the Roma community.
The paper analysed visual material gathered on social media including pictures, videos, and public posts connected to neo-fascist narratives. The focus has been on one city - Pistoia and in particular on the case of a priest - Father Biancalani - who was targeted by local neo-fascists and by Salvini on social media and tv broadcasts for his role in helping migrants. The case of Father Biancalani and the city of Pistoia became a national issue and it constitutes one of the earliest examples of the racist and intimidatory politics implemented by Salvini and the far-right across the country. The aesthetic nature of this appeal and strategy has rarely been analysed but in fact, forms a key element of Salvini’s negative and positive appeal to his base and beyond.
Period29 Nov 201930 Nov 2019
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Italian studies
  • Populism
  • Italy
  • politics
  • Aesthetics
  • Aesthetics of Politics
  • ASMI
  • Far Right