This was only very briefly mentioned in Jerary’s article, but as soon as it was said I realized how strange it was that this exact point hadn’t been a focus in more of the readings we have done. Jerary makes the point that Italy’s critical mistake was trying to bring Christianity and European-style civilization to Libya, because Libya was an Islamic, Arabic nation and was so fundamentally different from those ideologies that it could not be converted. The European lifestyle was not compatible with Islamic tradition.
The reason for this is that, more than most other religions, Islam is more than just a religion. It is very much a way of life, and in many African and Middle Eastern countries, it is engrained in the foundation of the entire nation – its laws, its culture, its values, and its compatibility with other ways of life. Because Islamic influence in Libya was so strong, Italy was weakened by its commitment to imposing a new set of ideals on them.
Decolonization is one of the more complex aspects of colonization. How do you rebuild a society that you have spent years trying to destroy? In Libya, the revolutionaries seemed to do everything possible to show the Italians the extent to which they damaged society. This article clearly had a bias towards Libya, but it didn’t take away from the content, in fact I think it enhanced it because it showed the way the Libyan people felt about decolonization. The Libyan Studies Center has a fascinating collection of oral history that are crucial to understanding the emotional climate regarding the colonizers while it was happening, and it is a good contrast to Italian accounts.
The most informative part of this article was the section on the crimes that the Libyans accuse the Italians of. They seemed to assume the intentions of the Italians quite a bit. The first crime included, “intended medical negligence…during the Italian execution of a plan to Italianize Libya racially and culturally.” The second included, “the forced evacuation of the original inhabitants…to exhausted its human resources. This proves [the italians] wished to deplete the country entirely.” The fourth was the most interesting because it blamed the Italians for destroying unity among Libyan citizens, “Libyan society was divided between ‘betrayers’ of the people (those who fought with the Italians) and so-called ‘real Libyans’ who were loyal to their forefathers.” This aggressive language may have alienated some Libyans.
While reading the article “Damages Caused by the Italian Fascist Colonization of Libya” by Muhammad T. Jerary I was reminded of the statue in Libya that the Italians took from Libya as a token of pride and ownership and then the return of the statue to Libya much after Libya’s independence was granted to them. When we first learned about the statue and watched the video on YouTube of it being returned to Italy I thought of how much the statue really symbolized. To me it symbolized everything that Jerary mentions in his article: genocide, “crimes of destruction of people and their environment”, “forced exile and emigration”, and “crimes of moral and cultural destruction”. The returning of the token to Libya is an apology and a kind of gesture of returning the history of all the the crimes back to Libya. Even though it was mentioned that this token was not really important to Libya, it was the symbolic nature of the statue that made it important.
This article was an interesting look into historiography. The study of how people write history and “do” history is something that I have really been focusing on since delcaring my history major and I found most puzzling about this article is that I found it a little hypocritical. Although Jerary does say that he is trying to be, “successful in reflecting the Libyan perspective on fascist colonization of Libya” (207), he says earlier that his goal is to “study carefully the colonial period from beginning to end, studying and documenting all aspects of the Libyan-Italian experience with the utmost precision and objectivity” (203). What I found was that this chapter became a laundry list of the atrocities and vicious acts that the Italians carried out on the Libyans. What was more distrubing was this article just gave the Libyan side of the story and the “Italians feelings of aggression and guilt” (203) were never addressed or mentioned later in the chapter. Overall, very interesting, but hypocritical and a biased historiographical piece of writing. Will definitely bring it up tomorrow when i present of oral histories and other such whatnot.
Center For Libyan Studies in Tripoli, Libya
It is interesting to note that propaganda about the Italian colonies was emphasized in terms of space (endless territories) that were to be used to solve the immigrant problem. Part of the failure to study decolonization in Italy was the fact that colonialism was equated to fascism and with the end of fascism, attention was directed towards westernizing in the American model. With the economic boom of the 50’s and 60’s all attention was placed on creating new spaces to be “colonized”, namely rural Italy close to large cities in need of housing.
EUR is a good example of the displacement of a colonial project (a reflection of what Italy planed to achieve in its colonies) which has become a “space” for offices, government buildings and residential developments. The article by Pinkus describes Antonioni’s film L’eclisse and the character of Vittoria as part of a generation that may have internalized fascist racial ideals. The film is set in the EUR, a “virtually and spiritually empty” space. The transfer of colonial planning to the “new colonies” of the EUR, as Pinkus states, is a process of forgetting and not reflecting on the past.
Aerial view of EUR in 1953 EUR today