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Memoria e Ricerca

Disabled war veteran in Italy: polysemy of a cruel place

di Barbara Bracco
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 38 (2011), p. 9

Among the many “places of memory” of the Great War, the injured body of the soldier was and still is, in its materiality, the most dramatic, complex and persistent one. Only in Italy half a million men came back from the front with permanent, often highly visible, damages. The phenomenon of disabled ex-servicemen had a huge impact on society, rousing new ways of looking at the body devastated by war. This essay studies how the injured body was re-written by the disabled ex-servicemen themselves and by doctors, agitprops and politicians. Obviously different sectors of Italian society gave different and new representation of the injured body. From Barbara Bracco’s essay, it emerges a complex picture that turns violated physicalness into a polysemous place. Manifesto of medical progress or of political regeneration, ancient sign of degeneration or tool of patriotic propaganda, the soldier’s body presents itself in these pages as the real text of war experience and modernity. Key words: Polysemy, Body, Disability, Manifesto, Modernity; Italy