The introduction focuses on the category of ‘women artists’ in France, which is considered in light of the book’s title, Counterpractice. This chapter sheds light on the internationalism of the French women’s movement and presents a global view of French feminism as a brand with emphasis on Africa, Asia and Latin America. The history of the 1970s women’s press and the scholarship and exhibition histories concerning women artists are discussed. The core concept of the glissade is presented as a mechanism in which to read women’s art practice against multiple political and aesthetic contexts of the period.
This chapter introduces the ideal river as a rational and reliable highway for the seamless movement of goods, people, and ideas. The ideal river enriches the state, enlightens the populace, and brings liberal progress along the metaphorical river of history. The book’s main narrative, then, examines the construction of that ideal river in the European geographical imagination and the ensuing political projects to actualize that vision through the creation of the first international organizations (IOs). The chapter then outlines the book’s key aims.
This chapter looks at the various political groups of the MLF and its goals, and how artists (women and men) engaging in performance, body and other forms of art blur and deepen the line between political demonstration and artistic expression through their redefinition of the body. Both militant considerations and questions of subjectivity are raised in relation to the feminist dictum of the ‘personal is political’ through a restaging of psychoanalysis and post-Enlightenment thinking.
This chapter examines through archival documents, tracts and images the trajectory of the MLF and provides the necessary critical background in order to situate and contextualize the work of artists in relation to the women’s movement. The three dominant streams of MLF are discussed with their respective focus on women’s rights, psychoanalysis and Marxism with a close and comprehensive analysis of the formation, activities and dissolution of the MLF. The women’s movement became central for the organization of women artists who used strategies of resistance, visibility and collectivity in order to draw attention to their practice.
This chapter recounts the position of women in the events of May ’68 by looking closely at ideological debates surrounding the events and the symbolic use of women in politics. The progressive militancy of women and their art is also considered through image making and their role in the streets and the student-led occupation of the Paris-based École des Beaux-Arts. The seeds of the later women’s movement were sown during these events with women militants troubled by domestic duties. French women began to organize in the Sorbonne to voice their struggles to think collectively about strategies for the future. This practice would later be echoed in women’s art groups in the 1970s.
This chapter sets the scene with quotes from two international thinkers from opposing ends of the theoretical spectrum: Hans Morgenthau and Timothy Mitchell. Both made astute observations about how a certain way of thinking inherited from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries continues to frame and constrain the way we approach international politics into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. With this as a starting point, this chapter explores how this prevailing confidence in society’s ability to tame nature and usher in social progress informed the development of the modern international order. Rooted in the European Enlightenment, this way of thinking sees both the messy natural and social world around us as a barrier to human progress, and places trust in scientific and technocratic governance to transform this natural messiness into rational sites of social improvement. Taming nature, then, legitimizes the people and institutions in power by securing increased economic growth as well as moral progress for the community. The immense staying power of this ideational frame in the international order derives from its embeddedness in key international norms, hierarchies, and institutions, which gained global prominence in the nineteenth century and continue to hold sway over international politics. By examining how society’s ambition to control nature shaped three core IR concepts – the territorial sovereign state, imperial and global hierarchy, and international organizations – this chapter outlines the key theoretical contributions that frame the historical narratives to follow.
Chapter 2 examines the taming of the Rhine in the European geographical imaginary and contends that the early nineteenth-century ambition to transform the Rhine into a frictionless commercial highway reveals the double moral and economic logics behind the political project to tame nature. Controlling the river’s unruly flows would bring both economic and moral gains – a straightened and disciplined river would minimize economic loss from flooding, reclaim swamps for agricultural production, and create the ideal highway for local and international trade – but it also represented a moral conquest from the barbarity of swampy disuse. This double economic and moral logic not only informed the development of legitimate state authority along the Rhine; due to its position as an important transnational geography, this double logic extended to international politics. Here, taming the Rhine created both a reliable economic highway for European commerce while eliminating the fractious ‘Teutonic insanity’ that had hindered Rhine prosperity for centuries. The chapter also explores the Romantic counterpoint to this framing of the Rhine, and how the river as high Romantic fantasy only amplified the need to tame it as steamboats of tourists flooded the river and the Rhine became a different kind of economic commodity.
This chapter confronts the ideologies of different women’s artistic groups formed in the 1970s with the lack of exhibition opportunities for women offered by institutions and galleries. Ongoing women’s art collectives such as the Union des Femmes Peintres et Sculpteurs along with the newly minted groups La Spirale, Femmes en Lutte, Collectif Femme/Art and Art et Regard des Femmes are looked at in terms of organization, politics and cultural impact. The innovations and failures of these groups in terms of experimental practices such as mystical and spiritual evocations, studio exhibitions, awareness campaigns and attempts at major shows (such as the failed 1977 exhibition of women artists at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris), and joint collective practices are assessed. The specificity of feminism and art in a French context is emphasized through individual and collective works.
Anglophobia in Fascist Italy traces the roots of Fascist Anglophobia from the Great War and through the subsequent peace treaties and its development during the twenty years of Mussolini’s regime. Initially, Britain was seen by many Italians as a ‘false friend’ who was also the main obstacle to Italy’s foreign policy aspirations, a view embraced by Mussolini and his movement. While at times dormant, this Anglophobic sentiment did not disappear in the years that followed, and was later rekindled during the Ethiopian War. The peculiarly Fascist contribution to the assessment of Britain was ideological. From the mid-1920s, the regime’s intellectuals saw Fascism as the answer to a crisis in the Western world and as irredeemably opposed to Western civilisation of the sort exemplified by Britain. Britain was described as having failed the ‘problem of labour’, and Fascism framed as a salvation ideology, which nations would either embrace or face decay. The perception of Britain as a decaying and feeble nation increased after the Great Depression. The consequence of this was a consistent underrating of British power and resolve to resist Italian ambitions. An analysis of popular reception of the Fascist discourse shows that the tendency to underrate Britain had permeated large sectors of the Italian people, and that public opinion was more hostile to Britain than previously thought. Indeed, in some quarters hatred towards the British lasted until the end of the Second World War, in both occupied and liberated Italy.
Chapter 3 challenges the notion that, despite some Anglophobic outbursts, Mussolini had a healthy respect for Britain’s global power, instead directing his contempt either towards France or onto some individual British leaders. In order to do so, the chapter utilises the reports compiled by Italian military attachés in Britain from the late 1920s to 1939, underlining how the perception of Britain in the eyes of military experts, who were not necessarily ideologues and had close contact with British reality changed as they absorbed fascist ideological biases. During the second half of the 1930s, military attachés had absorbed the equivalence that Fascist ideology sought to create between democracy and emasculated weakness and applied it to Britain. The chapter then examines the point of view of the military elites, as well as the war plans of the Chief of Staff. By doing so, and comparing it with the outlook of the attachés, it tries to determine whether the process of creating an ideological and unrealistic image of Britain as an emasculated, decaying power was a top-down, bottom-up or an osmotic process. The second half of the chapter addresses the subject of Fascist wartime propaganda, contesting the historiographic point of view that propaganda began as relatively moderate in its content, only shifting towards greater truculence as the conflict progressed.