The sin of eating meat: Fascism, Nazism and the Construction of Sacred Vegetarianism

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This chapter focuses on the ways in which three Twentieth-century dictatorships (the Italian Regency of Fiume in 1919-1920, Italian Fascism and German Nazism) constructed eating meat as a moral disease, and abstention from it as a means to achieve sacred purity. This study defines all of this as 'sacred vegetarianism', as opposed to the other vegetarianisms that were already widespread in the Western world but that linked to physical and spiritual health, food security or animal care. If during the Italian regency of Fiume vegetarians were propagandistically represented as more ascetic, under Fascism intellectuals such as Giacomo Boni and Giuseppe Tucci looked at meat abstention in order to historically and religiously legitimate Mussolini's regime. Finally, the Nazis drew on already existing vegetarian philosophies and cults that linked to purity and primordial naturism, pushed their limits and turned them into racist theories. In conclusion, sacred vegetarianism transformed a food practice into a food ideology, and was a valid support for the three tyrannies and their criminal plans.

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This chapter introduces the reader to the analysis of the cultural history of meat in the years from 1900 to 1918. In the first section, I summarize what meat perception was at the end of the nineteenth century, in order to accompany the reader through the rest of the chapter. After this, the analysis focuses on Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle and on some works by Joseph Conrad, which are really helpful to understand how meat and meat perception changed in the first part of the twentieth century. Later, the center of the analysis involves slaughterhouses, shifting from private enterprises to public service, and butchers, who detached their job from animal killing but not from animal death. The following section regards vegetarianism in those years. Finally, I investigate the many ways WWI changed the human approach to meat. The short story is about the difficulty for children to distinguish between animals to love and animals to eat.
This chapter principally analyses meat in terms of its relations to ideology. Certainly, a right-wing vegetarianism existed, and is traceable in the Italian Regency of Fiume, Fascism and Nazism, three dictatorships that ruled in today’s Croatia, Italy and Germany respectively, and threatening the entire Europe. These dictatorships were also built on what I term ‘sacred vegetarianism’, a propagandistic meat abstention descending from old Oriental myths. Nonetheless, it must be said that Fascism and Nazism were adverse to the vegetarian associations in their countries, demonstrating that sacred vegetarianism was exclusively a matter of propaganda. Starting from studies that I have already published, the first part of this chapter summarizes what I have already found and interprets the result in cultural terms. What these dictatorships communicated, in fact, became part of the collective imaginary of these nations, and thus may be considered as part of cultural history. The second part of the chapter is, conversely, devoted to the way in which meat was ideologically represented in the US, and to scientific discoveries that encouraged meat consumption. Another issue analyzed is meat in WWII, from the points of view of both the soldiers at the front and the rest of the people at home. The short story is a tale about ideology and about how it splits communities into fighting factions.
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Migrant Hearts and the Atlantic Return examines contemporary migration in the context of a Roman Catholic Church eager to both comprehend and act upon the movements of peoples. Combining extensive fieldwork with lay and religious Latin American migrants in Rome and analysis of the Catholic Church's historical desires and anxieties around conversion since the period of colonization, Napolitano sketches the dynamics of a return to a faith's putative center. Against a Eurocentric notion of Catholic identity, Napolitano shows how the Americas reorient Europe. Napolitano examines both popular and institutional Catholicism in the celebrations of the Virgin of Guadalupe and El Senor de los Milagros, papal encyclicals, the Latin American Catholic Mission, and the order of the Legionaries of Christ. Tracing the affective contours of documented and undocumented immigrants' experiences and the Church's multiple postures toward transnational migration, she shows how different ways of being Catholic inform constructions of gender, labor, and sexuality whose fault lines intersect across contemporary Europe. REVIEW: Napolitano’s book is a rich ethnography of the historically fraught relationship between the Vatican and its Latin American flock. In this moment of heightened anxiety about immigration and shrinking church following in Europe, Napolitano deftly tracks the fissure between communitas and otherness that haunts European Catholicism today. Told through the lives of Latin American immigrants to Italy, this wonderful book shows us what it means to live a faith that is losing hold of its civilizational mission. (―Saba Mahmood University of California, Berkeley)
Food consumption has always been a deeply symbolic, identity-related issue. But contrary to the intuitive assumption that links meat-free diets to peace-loving, left-leaning actors and ideologies, this article illustrates how a group of (German) neo-Nazis, Balaclava Küche (Balaclava Kitchen), appropriates vegan diet in its YouTube cooking videos. Analyzing these videos, supported by an interview with the group, the article inquires into the various ways in which cooking and food consumption are intertwined with their politics. It closes by putting the group’s attitude into a wider perspective, suggesting an ideal typical model of how links between culture, nature, and identity can be understood.
During the two decades of fascist dictatorship, Italy underwent dramatic changes. Conventional accounts tended to emphasise the conservative character of fascist policies, economic stagnation, and social repression. By contrast, recent studies have produced a more complex picture of the Mussolini era and of fascist attempts to create a ‘new society’. Beyond their pure instrumental character, ideology and culture are now interpreted in the wider context of a modern mass and consumer society that emerged in Italy after the First World War.1 Industrialisation gained momentum and left a deep impact on labour markets, family organisation, and social institutions. Rather than pointing to the backward aspects of economic and social order, historians now stress the dynamics, conflicts, and cultural ambivalences of ‘fascist modernities’.2
This article analyses magazines and books of Nazi propaganda representing meat in order to demonise the Jews. Nazism adopted controversial policies on meat. On the one hand, it banned vegetarian associations; on the other hand, Hitler and many Nazi officials professed their vegetarianism. Moreover, Nazi Animal Protection Law protected animals from the same tortures that the Nazis inflicted in the concentration camps. The article draws on Bauman’s theory that Nazism may be understood through the opposition purity/impurity, and on Gambrill‘s propaganda studies. Moreover, it is based on Elias’s Civilising Process and on Fullbrook’s ‘uncivilising process’. Finally, it focuses on other studies on Nazism and on ancient myths on animals revived by the Nazis. Qualitative propaganda and semiotic analysis focuses on Jews dealing with producing, selling and eating meat. Magazines and books have been sampled according to maximum variation strategy, and therefore this study focuses on a great variety of propagandistic images and texts. Results show that propaganda targeted the Jewish slaughterers, dealers, butchers and eaters in order to represent them as involved in the uncivilising process. In the end, meat contributed to the representation of the Jew as ‘impure’. Related to this, blood is overrepresented and is often part of a code of violence that depicts the Jew as separate from the rest of the world, as threatening the German civilising process and, again, as impure. Moreover, the symbolic meat eating contributed to the fabrication of the legend of the Jews as human flesh eaters. Finally, propaganda for children conveyed the Nazi criminal message more directly than any other form.
This article argues that the concept of a ‘national’ or ‘people’s’ community (Volksgemeinschaft) was a key element in the ‘revolutionary’ aims of the nazi regime, and illustrates the remarkably ambitious nature of its propaganda. Propaganda presented an image of society that had successfully manufactured a ‘national community’ by transcending social and class divisiveness through a new ethnic unity based on ‘true’ German values. But was there a gap between the claims trumpeted in nazi propaganda and social reality? The intention of this article is to reappraise the effectiveness (or otherwise) of Volksgemeinschaft by analysing the response from two sections of the community — the industrial working class and German youth.
The Nazis justified their attempt to exterminate the Jews by claiming that they were only defending themselves against Jewish plans to destroy Germany and its population. I show how the Nazis used the same the same words to discuss both claims, and how they argued that just as the Jews were serious about exterminating Germany, they were equally serious about exterminating the Jews. Since the argument for annihilating the Jews was hard to make in the mass media, the Nazis put it most strongly in word-of-mouth propaganda using speakers and public meetings.
What Is a Healthy Diet? Some Ideas about the Construction of Healthy Food in Germany Since the Nineteenth Century
  • Detlef Briesen
Detlef Briesen, 'What Is a Healthy Diet? Some Ideas about the Construction of Healthy Food in Germany Since the Nineteenth Century', in Eating Traditional Food: Politics, Identity and Practices, ed. Brigitte Sébastia (London: Routledge, 2017).
From Physical Illness to Social Virtue: The Italian Way to Vegetarianism in the Newspaper La Stampa from 1867 to the Present
  • Francesco Buscemi
Francesco Buscemi, 'From Physical Illness to Social Virtue: The Italian Way to Vegetarianism in the Newspaper La Stampa from 1867 to the Present', in Vegetarians' Dilemma: Rethinking Food Choice Throughout Time (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, in press).
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Victoria de Grazia, How Fascism Ruled Women Notes 208 208 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992);
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Boria Sax, Animals in the Third Reich: Pets, Scapegoat, and the Holocaust (London: Continuum, 2000).
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Sergio Romano, 'La Marcia su Roma Cominciò a Fiume', Il Corriere della Sera, 3 July 2004. marcia-roma-comincio-fiume-bf4dfe04-02a3-11e4-af6d-a9a93b39a7aa.shtml.
Amore La Nuova Scuola
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Guido Keller, ' Amore La Nuova Scuola', La Testa di Ferro, 13 (June 1920), 1-20.
Interview with Giordano Bruno Guerri' , Rai 1, Italian TV programme
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Linea Verde, 'Interview with Giordano Bruno Guerri', Rai 1, Italian TV programme, 3 May 2015. Notes 209 209
Comando di Fiume d'Italia
  • Gabriele D' Annunzio
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Gabriele D' Annunzio, 'O Italia o Morte. Comando di Fiume d'Italia', Bollettino Ufficiale, 12 September, year 1, n. 1, 1919.
Il Porto dell'Amore (Treviso: Stamperia di Antonio Vianello
  • Giovanni Comisso
Giovanni Comisso, Il Porto dell'Amore (Treviso: Stamperia di Antonio Vianello, 1924), 161.
Boni: L' Archeologo Vate della Terza Roma
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Sandro Consolato, 'Gicomo Boni: L' Archeologo Vate della Terza Roma', in Esoterismo e Fascismo, ed. Gianfranco De Turris (Rome: Edizioni Mediterranee, 2006), 185.
From Physical Illness
  • Buscemi
Buscemi, 'From Physical Illness'.
Dovete essere Belle ma Esser Anche Sane
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Italo Zingarelli, 'Dovete essere Belle ma Esser Anche Sane', La Stampa, 11 October 1937, 3.
India Primeva e Rinnovata: Dove Insegnano Gandhi e Tagore, e Dove I Missionari Italiani Catechizzano gli Idolatri
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Luciano Magrini, 'India Primeva e Rinnovata: Dove Insegnano Gandhi e Tagore, e Dove I Missionari Italiani Catechizzano gli Idolatri', La Stampa, 23 August 1926, 3.
Religious Politics: A Concept Comes of Age
  • Roger Griffin
Roger Griffin, 'Religious Politics: A Concept Comes of Age', Leidschrift Historisch Tijdschrift 26, no. 2 (2011), 7-18.
Routledge, 1991); Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat
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Nick Fiddes, Meat: A Natural Symbol (London: Routledge, 1991); Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat (20th Anniversary Edition): A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (New York: Continuum, 2010).
Religious Politics: A Concept Comes of Age
  • Richard Steigmann
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Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Roger Griffin, 'Religious Politics: A Concept Comes of Age', Leidschrift Historisch Tijdschrift 26, no. 2 (2011), 7-18.