The ‘New Man’ Symposium
Conveners: Jorge Dagnino (de los Andes) & Matthew Feldman (Teesside)
The ‘New Man Symposium’ will examine fascist movements and regimes through the lens of an attempted anthropological revolution. This attempt to create a ‘homo fascistus’ during the fascist epoch is approached via a comparative angle, with presentations by leaders in the field of Fascist Studies. Taking different perspectives and looking at national movements across Europe, as well as in Latin America, it is hoped that this interdisciplinary conference will revive interest in this much neglected topic.
Dr Rory Yeomans (Oxford) – Constructing a New Ustasha Man: Education, Social Mobility and Mass Killing in the Militia State
This talk examines the role which social mobility and education played in the construction of a new man in elite Ustasha militias and paramilitary organisations, and later, the Croatian army. Focusing on the role of educational and propaganda handbooks written for the Black Legion, the Ustasha Corps and, from 1944 onwards, the unified Croatian army, it explores the moral, social and ideological values with which the propaganda of the Ministry of Armed Forces and militia leaders intended to imbue new recruits as well as the perspectives of those who joined up. Militia men and soldiers were held up as the idealised symbol of the new man being created through Ustasha values, a vanguard for the ideological and social transformation of the wider population. However, while martial values were an intrinsic part of the new Ustasha man, he was also supposed to be imbued with moral purity, “progressive” social values, education and cultural enlightenment. For many, joining the state and party’s paramilitary and military formations provided not just the opportunity to serve the nation and purify Croatia of its dangerous internal “enemies,” but also offered adventure, excitement, a sense of purpose, social mobility and cultural expression. In addition to military and militia handbooks, the article draws on a range of other primary sources including militia and soldiers’ newspapers and journals, arguing that the Ustasha state sought to produce a new man who would be both morally and ideologically cleansed. While defenders of the Ustasha state have pointed to its achievements in the literary and artistic fields, this article illustrates the often problematic link between cultural values and genocide in the incarnation of a “holistic” new man.