Indiana University Press has just published Global Rome: Changing Faces of the Eternal City, which contains an essay on Ultras and fandom. “Football, Romanità, and the Search for Stasis,” gives a sense of how affective and active is the fascist narrative of Romanità in the lives of certain Romans. Although it was challenging to write about fans and Ultras of both AS Roma and SS Lazio, the essay came together nicely, and allowed me to discuss Romanità, violence, and the affirmation of local particularity with a wider audience than either Curva Sud Roma or Appalachian subversives often permit.
In keeping with the theme of the larger anthropological collection, I addressed the issue of “demographic change” in Rome, but did so only from the perspective of those who present themselves as native or true Romans. There was no malicious intent in doing so (in other words, I had no racial or reactionary agenda), unless one considers the European Union, the liberal/neo-liberal Italian State, political democracy, or multiculturalism as either natural, neutral, or positive actors in the lives of Romans. Instead, each of these bourgeois phenomena is presented as an imposition that creates specific opportunities for the exploitation of human energy (in narrative or bodily form) and capital (in renter or debtor form) – impositions that are fought by certain Romans on a daily basis.
As I begin …
“Rome is a city whose past is rich in images of warfare, conquest, and glory. From Virgil’s proclamation that the Romans were a people predetermined to rule the world, to Mussolini’s desire to reestablish Roman control of the Mediterranean, the idea that Rome and glory are interrelated has a long history. In contemporary Rome, it is an idea that has been adopted by the fans of the city’s football teams. As Associazione Sportiva Roma (AS Roma) and Società Sportiva Lazio (SS Lazio) search for wins in Italian and European football, both teams’ fans use a set of symbols culled from classical and fascist Rome designed to connect victory on the field, and often in the streets, with the idealized supremacy of Roman culture. However, these symbols are often at-odds with the demographic realities of contemporary Rome. While the city is moving toward the multiculturalism found in other world capitals, many of its football fans embrace Romanità, a deep affection for Rome and things Roman, in an effort to identify with a primordial Rome that is impervious to contemporary political and social trends. This paper explains how football keeps alive a sense of Romanness that originated with the fascist regime, while also explaining the affinities and contrasts between the fans of AS Roma and SS Lazio.”
Football fandom is merely a window into the use of violence, narratives of extreme particularity, and the unique assemblages that can be created with Rome’s warring and glorious past, and how these act as a break on the becoming-bourgeois of the Eternal City. Fandom, then, is properly acted as a localized war against homogenization and pacification, for there is no doubt that Italy’s attempts to rid football of its most extreme fans is little more than a highly visible aspect of the bourgeois war against violence and particularity wherever they are found.