Italy’s secular martyrs
: the construction, role and maintenance of secular martyrdom in Italy from the twentieth century to the present day

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

This thesis examines the construction, maintenance and role of secular martyrdom in Italy throughout the twentieth-century and into the present day. It uses two case studies – the Primavalle Arson (1973), and the kidnap and assassination of Giacomo Matteotti (1924) – to examine the role of martyrdom in the construction of collective identity in Italy. It will analyse commemoration of both tragedies from the time of the events through to the contemporary age, and trace how memory has evolved according to Italy’s changing socio-political context. I will ask why some individuals emerge as martyrs for the nation, while others are remembered only at the level of the socio-political group; whether the boundaries of the nation state contain martyr memory; and if the turn away from monumental memory to the cosmopolitan mode of remembering within national history narratives has had an impact on the martyr paradigm. Using methodologies including oral history interviews, analysis of media discourse, observation of commemoration ceremonies, and by analysing the iconography and text on monuments, the thesis will address the role of the secular martyr in the construction of collective identity within a country that has proved unable to unite behind the umbrella of the nation state at various social and political turning points in its recent history. Martyrs have played a key role in the construction of Italian national identity, especially in the wake of national violence, making these stories crucial for our understanding of how the nation and its subjects understand their history and identity.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorAnna Bull (Supervisor) & John M Foot (Supervisor)

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