Benedetta Carnaghi is an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellow at University College Dublin, where she is researching a project entitled “Making Fun of the Fascists: Humor Against the Leader Cult in Italy, France, and Germany, 1922–1945.” This is a study of how humor was used as an instrument of political resistance against dictators in Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Vichy France. She was previously a visiting lecturer at the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, USA. As a historian of modern Italy, France, and Germany, she explores the history of totalitarianism from below, examining the everyday experience of terror under authoritarian regimes. Carnaghi’s book manuscript in progress—“Lives Under Cover: A Comparative History of Fascist and Nazi Spies, 1927-1945”—explores totalitarian surveillance in Italy, Germany, France, and Austria, demonstrating how double agents employed by the secret police at times enforced and at times disrupted the regimes’ plans for repression. Carnaghi focuses on these now-forgotten, low-level spies, many of whom were drawn from the very groups that Fascist and Nazi surveillance excluded and dominated, such as gay, women, and Jewish spies. She argues that authoritarian surveillance systems depended on such individuals to access marginal spaces that they could not otherwise infiltrate, but that this reliance on informers made the Fascist and Nazi systems more fragile—since the spies often pursued agendas of their own. Based on two years of multilingual archival research in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and the United States, “Lives Under Cover” draws on unexplored sources such as Fascist and Nazi police records and postwar court trials of convicted spies. It was supported by several grants and fellowships from institutions such as the Chateaubriand Fellowship Program, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). Carnaghi earned her doctorate in History from Cornell University (2021), winning the Messenger-Chalmers Prize for the Best Dissertation on Human Progress & the Evolution of Civilization and publishing material from it in the Journal of Modern Italian Studies, S:I.M.O.N. Shoah: Intervention. Methods. Documentation, and The Space Between: Literature and Culture 1914-1945. She has two Masters of Arts in Contemporary History from the Paris 1 – Panthéon-Sorbonne University (2012 and 2013), an additional diploma from the excellence program of the École normale supérieure in Paris (2015), and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Padua, Italy (2011).
Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles & Contributions to Edited Volumes