Can a Forest Be Fascist? Mussolini’s Trees and the Ecological Legacy of Fascism

1-2pm, 22 January 2024, Buchanan 216

Dr Damiano Benvegnu

Can a forest be fascist? My project presentation explores layers of that question charting the history of the 20,000 pines planted in the late 1930s to spell the word DUX in trees on an Italian hillside. This grand and controversial arboreal inscription — Benito Mussolini’s Latin title — stood intact until August 2017 when a fire incinerated part of it, giving rise to a debate about manipulated landscapes, ecosystem adaptation, and political violence. My study of the forest, its past and recent present, reveals how the dictator’s trees not only serve as a prime example of fascist appropriation of nature, but they also provide an opportunity to reflect on the relationships between environmental justice, historical memory, and our current socio-ecological crisis.

This event is part of Poetics of Landscapes, a series of workshops exploring how landscapes are written and written about.