Historiographical Materialism: Law, Art, Fascism, Resistance.

Melbourne Law School
Room 920, Level 9
185 Pelham St
Carlton VIC 3053

After five-and-a-half years at MLS, Rose will use this seminar to reflect on some of the methodological experiments she’s been lucky enough to have the opportunity to conduct during this period, with the support of her colleagues at IILAH, the Laureate Programme in International Law, and many others both within and beyond the Law School.

The primary aim of her research, especially within the framework of the DECRA, has been to ask whether or not international lawyers, statesmen and diplomats during the inter-war period did, or did not, construct a recognisably ‘fascist’ approach to international law – a possibility that (with a few exceptions) has been rejected by the vast majority of international legal historians. On the one hand, the approach she has taken to show that they did – spending many weeks at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs archives and various other specialist libraries in Rome, searching for examples of ‘state practice’ and jurisprudence – has involved a relatively straightforward ‘turn to history’. On the other hand, however, the question of how to get at fascism – of what fascism was and is, of where it came and comes from, of how it relates to that which is ‘not’ fascism and, above all, of how to fight back against the kind of world that fascism calls into being – is much, much more vexed, and has become only more vexed over the life of the project.

In addition to pursuing a classic love-affair with the archive, therefore, Rose has also spent much of the last few years trying to come up with ways of addressing fascism’s history and resurgence that are geared explicitly toward the task of resistance. All of the approaches she will discuss involve a commitment to the idea that the relationship between ‘then’ and ‘now’ is a material one, and all of them involve an effort to rub out at least part of the line between thinking and making, whether metaphorically (e.g. history as shadow-box) or literally (e.g. cut-outs as critique).