Lo spettacolo della politica. Luoghi, spazi e canali della politica nell'Italia del lungo Ottocento

Emanuela Minuto's picture
Call for Papers
April 25, 2016
Subject Fields: 
Contemporary History, Cultural History / Studies, Italian History / Studies, Political History / Studies, Political Science

Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche, Università di Pisa


CALL FOR PAPERSThe Spectacle of Politics. Places and Tools of Politics in Italy during the long Nineteenth Century.


Organizers: Emanuela Minuto (Università di Pisa) and Marco Manfredi (Università di Pisa)


12-13 September 2016


The aim of this workshop series is to provide Italian and foreign (primarily European) historians currently engaged in research on communication and political propaganda in Italy with an avenue to discuss on-going, cutting-edge work. The approach adopted is that of the so-called “new political history.” We aim to organize two workshops at the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the University of Pisa (Italy). Workshops will be held on 12 and 13 September 2016.

Based on the historiographical category of the “long nineteenth century,” the papers will discuss the timeframe between the Napoleonic period and the First World War. Particular attention will be devoted to places and tools of political communication and of development of political discourse at a time, the long nineteenth century, when politics became a matter of interest for a growing number of people.



In the age of media-based populist politics and of post-democracy, the Italian case is paradigmatic of how successful leaders draw from new media to behave like celebrities. Meanwhile social networks, TV shows, commercial entertainment programmes, dailies, and high-profile trials have been developing as political arenas alongside traditional institutional places, such as Parliaments, which in turn have lost much of their significance.

In the seminar series we aim to discuss how the link between politics and spectacle is not new, but has profound roots. The rise to notoriety and political success of some of the protagonists of nineteenth century Italy was frequently connected to unusual places and circumstances. Music, photography, arts, poetry, theatre and so on were central in the rise to prominence of some political leaders. Likewise, trials, not differently from what currently occurs in many tribunals in Italy and elsewhere, constituted an important element of attraction for the mass public and the media. All of these elements combined to contribute to the rise to political importance. In addition, other “informal” or unconventional contexts, such as funerals, theatres, or university teaching were transformed since the Risorgimento in opportunities for political oration.

These examples illustrate how some of the phenomena which we identify with the society of the entertainment and spectacle, and that are primarily studied by “contemporary” academic disciplines such as sociology and communication science, have instead a long gestation. Indeed, they are found at the origin of modern politics. The complex interaction between politics and communication were already visible in the nineteenth century, but are still to be investigated systematically. The “spectacle of politics,” whereby politics assumes a spectacular language of communication, intertwines with a rising interest among the masses. Thus, the genealogy of the politics of spectacle show the multiple ways in which the boundaries between the public and private spheres are softened, and where daily life comes to be colonized by broader political imagination.

This process continues to have transnational and global dimensions. However, it has found in Italy a particular receptive environment. Indeed, in the culture of the Risorgimento preceding Italian unification, the political language assumed a mythological, literary and melodramatic character. At the same time, the lack of a profound constitutional analysis and culture further contributed to give political communication its peculiar, less that fully “rational,” character.


We welcome paper proposals investigating the complex and profound links between politics and spectacle, and able to shed a new light on the ways in which places and tools of political communication have evolved and shaped modern politics. We also welcome comparative contributions focusing on cases other than the Italian one.


Possible topics and themes include:


  • “Informal” places and unconventional contexts (e.g. teathres, tribunals, funerals) of political communication and of development of political discourse in the long Nineteenth century Italy.
  • Various tools and languages (e.g. music, photography, arts, poetry, theatre) strengthening the links between politics and spectacle in Italy during the long Nineteenth Century.
  • Political leaders who managed to rise to prominence within their political movement or, more generally, adopting spectacular political communication tools and/or utilising unconventional arenas to promote their  image and political celebrity.
  • The reception issue: how have these arenas and languages been received and understood at the popular level or by public opinion, the media and political actors such as political parties or Parliament ?
  • Theoretical contributions are also welcome



We accept proposals written in Italian, English or French. Proposals, which should include a 600 word extended abstract and a 100 word author’s profile, are due by 25 April 2016, and should be sent to:





Some of the papers presented during the workshop series will be published, most likely in a revised form, by an important Italian publishing house in late 2016. To this end, the final version of those papers selected for publication (max 10,000 words) will have to be submitted by 30 October 2016.


The organizers will provide meals and refreshments during the seminars. Moreover, It is possible to apply for a travel grant – if needed.

Contact Info: 

Emanuela Minuto, Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche Università di Pisa

Contact Email: