Classicizing Identity: The Alt-Right, Art, and Archaeology
Bryn Mawr College. Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology
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Identity Evropa, a white-nationalist organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, publicly presents itself as an “identitarian” group whose mission is to advocate for white “identity” and “heritage” through non-violent activism. The group relies on the misuse of the classical past to intellectualize its reactionary worldview and recruit new members. The group’s propaganda posters, which are posted primarily at colleges and universities, feature classical-looking Greek and Roman statues accompanied by simple slogans about protecting heritage. Identity Evropa and its propaganda pose a huge concern for archaeologists, classicists, and other students of the ancient world, but even as awareness of Identity Evropa continues to grow within the academic establishment, there is a tendency to dismiss it as just another fringe group. Therefore, this thesis aims to make clear the very real dangers that Identity Evropa poses. First, it presents a history of the group from its founding in 2016 to its recent rebranding as the American Identity Movement, when it abandoned classical-looking imagery for Americana. Next, it analyzes the original repertoire of propaganda posters that use classical-looking imagery, demonstrating how Identity Evropa has drawn from the Nazi practice of glorifying classical sculpture in propaganda. The analysis also addresses how the aesthetic of these posters aligns with the broader goals of Identity Evropa and what the group’s recent rebranding adds to our understanding of its poisonous agenda. Most importantly, this thesis discusses why students of the classical past must consider Identity Evropa, even in its new manifestation as the American Identity Movement, to be a serious threat. It concludes with measures we can take to counteract the group’s misuses of the classical past, measures whose urgency cannot be understated as the alt-right and its media machine continue to grow.