The Myth of Homogeneity Podcast Series

Episode 1 – The Ambiguities of Assimilation: Minority-Majority Relations in Italy under Fascism

The Myth of Homogeneity Team is proud to launch the first episode of the Myth of Homogeneity Podcast Series. Aiming to disseminate findings from our research project to the widest possible audience, this series of podcasts offers a mix of case-study discussion, updates on our work in progress, curious things we encountered during our research and wanted to dig in deeper, and some behind the scene information about the work of historians.

The first episode, entitled The Ambiguities of Assimilation: Minority-Majority Relations in Italy under Fascism, is based on a talk given by Emmanuel at the Graduate Institute in March 2019. Here, he and Mona discuss the policies of assimilation carried out by Mussolini’s regime against the German and Yugoslav minorities that inhabited the Italian regions of South Tyrol and Venetia Giulia at the time. The episode shows how the fascists’ approach to assimilation was flawed by two structural weaknesses: on the one hand, the regime did not realise that its expectations were too optimistic given the capabilities it had to realise them; on the other, fascist authorities believed that the minorities could not but assimilate and become truly Italian, however, at the same time, they deeply distrusted them.

We hope you enjoy it and we would especially appreciate if you left us some feedback in the comment section at the bottom of the page.

This podcast would have never been possible without the help of Davide Rodogno, Ruxandra Stoicescu, Joshua Thew, Guillaume Pasquier and the financial support of the Swiss National Science Foundation. We thank them very much for that.

The Myth of Homogeneity

Minority Protection and Assimilation in Western Europe, 1919-1939

‘The response of West European political and administrative elites to the issue of national and linguistic heterogeneity has for long been simply to ignore it’ – John Coakley

“The Myth of Homogeneity: Minority Protection and Assimilation in Western Europe, 1919–1939” is a Swiss National Science-funded research project hosted at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. The aim of this research is to acquire a clear and in-depth picture of the history of the relationships between national minorities and majorities in Western Europe during the interwar years through the analysis of patterns of minority protection and/or assimilation. The project entails a multi-layered and multi-archival inquiry focusing on three case-study countries: Belgium, Italy and Spain.

The project revolves around three levels of analysis: government legislation concerning minority protection and/or assimilation and its enforcement; sub-state national minority mobilisation, or lack thereof; transnational and international interactions between state and non-state actors dealing with the issue of national minorities. It is multi-archival because it relies on a wide range of government, international organisations, and diplomatic archives as well as regional, international and transnational repositories. Moreover, despite including an analysis of the minority regime built around the League of Nations in the interwar years, the research will not be limited to that international organisation. This would be a gross mistake as Western minorities did not fall under the jurisdiction of the League’s Minorities Section and, in any case, the League ultimately enjoyed very limited latitude without the support of the Great Powers. For these reasons, other actors and repositories will be taken into account at different levels: government and civil society, centre and periphery, domestic and international.

The objective is to contribute to the existing literature revising the widely held assumption of national homogeneity in Western Europe during the period under study, an assumption furthered by the then prevalent tendency of Western governments to ignore their own minority issues while, at the same time, imposing legislative constraints concerning the protection of national minorities on the new states emerging from the dissolution of the Central and Eastern European empires. The goal is not at all to suggest that minority issues in Western Europe were the same as those in the Eastern part of the continent. It is rather to inquire into the specificities of minority-majority relations in Western European countries in order to provide material for a better-informed and scientifically grounded comparison with the situation in Eastern Europe. The relevance of the project goes beyond the academic need to fill a lacuna in the existing literature. At a time when Western Europe is confronted with strong separatist demands and centrifugal forces, it is necessary to question national homogeneity and to acquire a better understanding of the historical evolution of majority-minority relations.