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Body fascism in Britain: building the blackshirt in the inter-war period

Gottlieb, J. (2011) Body fascism in Britain: building the blackshirt in the inter-war period. Contemporary European History, 20 (2). pp. 111-136. ISSN 0960-7773


In recent years scholars have devoted a great deal of attention and theorisation to the body in history, looking both at bodies as metaphors and as sites of intervention. These studies have tended to focus on the analysis of bodies in a national context, acting for and acted upon by the state, and similarly the ever-expanding study of masculinity continues to try to define hegemonic masculinities. But what if we direct our,gaze to marginal bodies, in this case Blackshirt bodies who act against the state, and a political movement that commits assault on the body politic? This article examines the centrality of the body and distinctive gender codes in the self-representation, the performance and practice, and the culture of Britain's failed fascist movement during the 1930s. The term 'body fascism' has taken on different and much diluted meaning in the present day, but in the British Union of Fascists' construction of the Blackshirted body, in the movement's emphasis on the embodiment of their political religion through sport, physical fitness and public display of offensive and defensive violence, and in their distinctive and racialised bodily aesthetic illustrated in their visual and graphic art production we come to understand Britain's fascist movement as a product of modernity and as one potent expression. of the convergence between populist politics and body fixation.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 2011 Cambridge University Press. This is an author produced version of a paper subsequently published in Contemporary European History. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Keywords: Union-Of-Fascists; British-Union; Olympia Debate; Violence; Masculinity; Fear; War
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Department of History (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Miss Anthea Tucker
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2011 08:16
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 17:32
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0960777311000026
Status: Published
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1017/S0960777311000026
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/43074

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