Italians and the Dodecanese Islands

The article discussing the Italians as being “good” colonizers has connections to what we have read in past articles but also to what we have discussed in class. In a previous blog post, I wrote about how the Italians saw themselves as being better (and more knowledgeable) about colonialization than other countries with colonies. While reading this, I could think of a few examples of how this opinion was not entirely true. It was interesting to read this new article by Doumanis because it shared a different perspective on the Italians as colonizers.

My first thought was to question why the Dodecanese was studied so intensely within this research and not another colony like Ethiopia or Libya but my question was answered while reading when it mentioned that the Dodecanese was more renovated than other colonies. In fact, this idea of renovation is where much of the praise for the Italians came from. Roads and other types of infrastructure were needed terribly so that the people who lived there could live better and healthier lives. It is easy to see why so many would praise the Italians because they provided them with more jobs and better places to live.

Another interesting point was the comparisons between the British and Germans and the Italians. It would be interesting to see other accounts of comparing these nations and how they match up with the ones found amongst the Dodecanesians. A point that I found to be extremely interesting was the concept that the Italians were fine with connecting with the colonized socially unlike other nations which was one of the main comparisons between nations. It is also important to note that the citizens who encountered Italians who were not so nice upheld their original view of Italians by saying that this one Italian was “un-Italian.”

Of course, this happiness came to an end when the Fascist regime came into power and the good economic conditions began to deteriorate thus causing the relations between the colonized and the Italians to diminish as well. Overall, this account of Italian colonialism is intriguing and connects to other ideas we have discussed in class. Further research and reading may show that the Italians were “better” at colonizing than the other nations just as they thought they were.


One thought on “Italians and the Dodecanese Islands

  1. Italians as “Good Colonizers”

    It is interesting to note that “good colonizers” are seen as such only when their projects benefit the colonized. Dodecanesians saw Italian colonial rule transform their whole environment – for the better. However, these projects were never intended to be for the benefit of the colonized. They were meant to be a showcase for Italian modernity and to give Italy a “rightful place among imperial powers” (p. 224). In areas that had been neglected by this process of modernization, opinion was very different. There were two phases of colonial rule. As Doumanis states on p. 229, “everything went wrong when fascism came”. Cesare de Vecchi personified fascism. His plan for cultural assimilation banned the use of Greek in schools, and instituted the racist law for the preservation of the purity of the Italian race.
    Italians were not good colonizers (in my opinion, no colonizers are good colonizers) but the idea that they were, stems from the modernization they accomplished before fascist rule. The early colonizers shared similar values and cultures (“una faccia, una razza”). In Libya, Ethiopia and Eritrea this was not the case as we have seen in the readings of last week.

    De Vecchi (light pants) behind Michele Bianchi in the lead and followed by Benito Mussolini

    Gifts, Sex and Guns

    Perhaps the most powerful tool in the hands of the fascists was anthropology. Eurocentrism made their values “universal” to the exclusion of all others. This concept was needed to support and justify colonial expansion.

    Carlo Piaggia was a phenomenal figure to me. For him the savages were the whites who wanted to colonize them. He thought that the Africans were better than Europeans because they didn’t lie or trick the next person. The colonizers saw him as a dangerous enemy. His notes of the three years of his exploration were lost (stolen?) when he returned to Italy.
    He understood the rules of reciprocity and accepted the “gift” of women to stabilize his relations with the Azande. The problem was that his cultural background was different – he realized that a man acquires power his wife (woman) and emphasized the fact that the exchange of women was voluntary on their part. His ideas were transformed in fascist propaganda by incorporating a romantic slant (the girl was in love with him), thereby projecting male sexual dominance over Africa and its women. There is no longer a reciprocal exchange between equals and so there is no power of negotiation.

    In the Italian colonies gift giving (mainly guns) was associated with power and became a universal equivalent. Here again, anthropology plays an important role. “As governmental and private funding increasingly required detailed accounts of the state of potential colonies and of their population for future coloniaol occupation, a pseudoscientific rationalism became the prevailing mode of travel writing” (p. 129).
    Very interesting reading as we get at the heart of Italian colonialism!

    Here is a link on Carlo Piaggia:

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