Beyond Addis Ababa and Affile: Italian Public Memory, Heritage and Colonialism

31 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2018

Date Written: December 2018


In February 1937 Italians murdered between 20 to 30,000 Ethiopians over three days in Addis Ababa. Known locally as Yekatit 12, the massacre almost wiped out both the centre of colonial resistance and the country’s intelligensia, and remains a hidden history for most Italians. Indeed, it is for most Europeans. Yet in 2012, a small town in Lazio, Affile, the birthplace of Marshall Rodolfo Graziani, a key figure in the massacre, used regional funds to create a memorial to this fascist Viceroy of Italian East Africa. The ensuing global criticism of this local heritage-making revealed the faultlines not just in Italy’s heritage sector, but between public memory and the transnational entanglements of heritage-making in the present. The Addis Ababa massacre and the Affile monument are emblematic of how colonial memory is ‘staged’, and illustrates a failure of contemporary heritage-making to live up to its promise of social transformation, and to further the social inclusion of the country’s residents. This is despite a series of efforts, in film-making, local activism, theatre and literature - Italy’s ‘postcolonial turn’ - to problematise the country’s cultural projection of itself. Italy’s colonial pasts also matter within a broader European context of slow institutional recognition and limited attempts to represent colonial pasts in reflective ways in the continent’s major memory institutions. This article uses ongoing fieldwork with diaspora communities and heritage professionals to critically map the contours of Italy’s public memory of colonialism.

Keywords: Heritage; Italian colonialism; postcolonial culture; cultural inclusion

Suggested Citation

Chalcraft, Jasper, Beyond Addis Ababa and Affile: Italian Public Memory, Heritage and Colonialism (December 2018). Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Research Paper No. RSCAS 2018/69, Available at SSRN: or

Jasper Chalcraft (Contact Author)

European University Institute ( email )

Villa Schifanoia
133 via Bocaccio
Firenze (Florence), Tuscany 50014

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