The Weight of History: Immunity and the Nation in Italian Science-Fiction Cinema

Robert Rushing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper argues that Italian sf films imagine a distinctly non-Italian future. This future is not simply, as in much global science fiction, one in which we have transcended nation states, but a future without Italians, one in which there is no trace of Italian characters. The philosopher Roberto Esposito argues that Italian thinking is distinctively Italian precisely in its lack of coherent national character, a lack that emerges from its essentially biopolitical character-it recognizes the fragility of the body, as well as the fragility of the body politic, that cannot be "immunized" against historical risk, made safe for the future. This insight allows us in turn to understand two of the most salient features of Italian sf films: their preference for post-apocalyptic (and hence post-national and non-national) scenarios, often presented as serious speculations about the future, and their insistence on marking visions of a specifically Italian future as parodic or ludicrous. Following these two lines, the essay reviews the history of Italian sf cinema, particularly from the 1960s to the present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-352
Number of pages14
JournalScience-Fiction Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2015


  • science fiction
  • immunity
  • movies
  • communitarianism
  • Independence Day
  • immunization
  • fascism
  • motion picture industry
  • herd immunity
  • alien worlds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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