Del Boca: The Obligations of Italians toward Libya

What I thought of as the most interesting aspect of this article, was how the government of Italy could get away with doing things in the name of Italians, without Italians ever knowing. It reminds me of the era of secrecy in the United States during the cold war. Furthermore, it amazes me how little is known about this history, yet there are people so dedicated to defending the nation’s actions.

These articles by Labanca and Del Boca presented yet another interesting contradiction in the actions of the Italian government: Although the Italian government was the only of the colonialists to ask for forgiveness for their actions towards Libya (Labanca), they refused to acknowledge their own crimes against humanity and their abuses against the Libyan natives (Del Boca). This lack of acknowledgement of the abuses issued by the Italian government answers the question of whether the past will ever be genuinely reconciled, and it will not be until obligations such as admitting criminal activities are fulfilled.

These articles complement one another.


This article presents the question: will acknowledgement of the past finally help to reconcile the past? As the article begins by states, “the past weighs on the present,” but it seems as though the remembrance of history is the actual cause of tension today. Regardless of the events, the debate of timeliness and impact seem to be one of the biggest contributing factors to today’s inability to synthesis a genuine friendship between the two countries. This article tells the story from the point of view how colonial occupation of Libya transformed Europe.

One of the most interesting points, to me, was, “Libya was more costly to maintain as a colony….[but], ‘Tripoli, beautiful land of love’ overcame every criticism.” Beauty, in this sense, was not limited to physical attractiveness, but also included the appeal of short distance and the economic vulnerability so that Italians may “govern.” True to form, the Italian government “exaggerated” their successes and ability…. This leads me to my greatest question in regards to the historical remembrance of colonial occupancy in Libya: How is it that with thousands of Italian civilians, were the Fascists able to maintain a facade in which they hid the realities of their occupation in Italy in regards to the treatment of natives?

The Italian government even went so far as to lie in government documents, particularly in the records of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This inaccuracy combined with an influenced memory of the Africans themselves makes the true historical past difficult to fully understand, because we, they, nobody can truly know the full events of Italian occupancy in Libya. Ultimately, I appreciate how Labanca concludes the article by placing the responsibility of piecing together the past to historians.

Finally, I found the actions of Berlusconi on his one day trip to Libya to parallel the actions of Mussolini when he visited Libya after Italy entered the country.

Lucia Re

What I appreciated most about this article was the evidence used to support most of the arguments Re made. For example, in the section of Race and Identity, Re’s Argues that the libya campaign was the first racist war and it’s consensus was the result of literary creations.  Her support was the article “L’ora virile” in Il Marzocco which asked women to sacrifice for the unity of Italy. In regards to this topic of sacrific, I found the sentence “by adhering to the unifying notion of a collective identity that necessarily sets the Italian ‘race’ in opposition to other races, women and, as we shall see, other disenfranchised or alienated groups ‘discover’ … An imaginary sense of belonging and commonality that makes the lack of equal political rights, and even the principle of representation, seem secondary and unimportant.” I appreciate the acknowledgement of the lack of resistance from Italian women regarding their gender role. I feel as thought other articles we’ve read have not articulated this lack of participation so concisely.

My favorite moment in the article, however, which was also highly supported, was the resistance of Arab and Berber fighters who retaliated against Italian troops for their sexual abuses against women. Furthermore, I appreciate how this ultimately created n sense of unity for the Libyans and began the process of developing their national identity.

Ultimately, I just found the ability to support her arguments with facts to be the best part of this artiicle. I feel as though so many of our previous articles are highly opintionated and have comparatively low evidence, which helped me understand some of the origins for the  misunderstood or overlooked “contradictions” in our previous articles.

Response to Pickering-Iazzi

Again, we focus on the symbolic meanings of the Axum obelsk and its relationship to the discourse framework from pre-colonized Ethiopia and post-colonized, modern day Ethiopia. While the symbolism is highly debated, there is synthesis in recognizing its return as a part of Italy’s political agenda, as the world’s perspective begins to criticize the fascist regime. What it interesting is how the very attempt to restructure the historical memory in fact, ironically, resurrects the painful memories of colonization. Also, ironically, the Italians make similar promises to the Ethiopians as they once did during colonialism while returning the Axum obelsk, thus promoting an ideology of unity. This unity is still supported by the notion that Italians are superior to the Ethiopians. By stating that the Italians will help the Ethiopians with employment issues and will bring progress, the Italians inherently assert their belief that they are more capable than the Ethiopians themselves.

Aside from using the return of the Axum obelsk to demonstrate a pivotal moment in the discourse of Ethiopia’s current framework and memory of Italian colonialism, Pickering-Iazzi also focuses on maps and their influence on power relations. Also relevant is the focus on the shift of demographics as a response to colonizer’s reign over tribes in Ethipoia.

What I found most interesting, however, was the way in which colonizers approached women and incited them to participate in their camps by offering education. This education, however, was clearly manipulated to facilitate support for the colonizers themselves. This is one of the most important/influential mentioned fantasies because it gave a false sense of benevolence on the colonizers side and a false sense of capability (begotten through “proper” and “exclusive” education) on the side of women.
And again, the role of the media and focus on the exoticism and appeal of the African women to Italian men is interesting. And the discourse was facilitated by the combining of fascist colonialism ideologies and romantic pursuits.
Ultimately, I found this article to be a more generalized reading of our previous articles which included better and more examples. Getting to the point of the title, however, took longer than anticipated and was delayed by the inclusion of irrelevant yet not unrelated information regarding other fantasies that influenced the discourse framework in general.


This took me a while to get through, and I honestly have not finished (this article is in Italian).  But, from what I’ve gathered, it explores the ideologies behind the racial laws, and ultimately serves to provide an analysis of the abuses of Italians on African women in particular.  If you have time, skim it! Of the things I could pick up, I found every point made to be very interesting!

Additional Literature

This article explores the identity of colonized women and children, which a focus on the difficulties of multiplicity and long term effect-specifically in areas such as Ethiopia. I felt this academic article would be a great addition to our past coversations regarding gender.

Furthermore, I would like to add that this article explores the ways in which the women themselves recall history and how they now express this memory.  It’s more or less the evolution of historical rhetoric.  It serves as the opposite of how the Dodacanese have reacted to their historical past with the Itlaians.  Instead of dismissing the horrific treatment of their natives, like the Dodacanese, these women now voice the injustice of such past treatment.

Barrera: The Construction of Racial Hierarchies in Colonial Eritrea

Barrera: The Construction of Racial Hierarchies in Colonial Eritrea

This article began with the idea of Italian “natural” racism and how it was limited to division of fascism.  Maria, being used to exemplify the relationship between colonizers (mostly those in the government, rather than regular Italian civilians) and those colonized, illustrates the contradiction in the naturalness of categorization of and racism towards Eritreans. Ultimately, this article fully illustrated this contradiction not through the example of Maria, but rather through the exploration of governmental policies- especially those regarding class/racial opportunities, identification of nationality (determined by paternity of mixed races), and the education of native Eritreans.  For example, racial policies ultimately served to support the colonizer’s superiority by providing opportunities of authority and prestige over natives (as supported by the inability of Eritreans to arrest Europeans and a number of other examples, such as social segregation). Furthermore, the use of social segregation was considered a “tool” to prevent intermixing of both class and race.  If intermixing did occur, there were a number of ideologies that determined how that produced child would be perceived by both the colonizers and the colonized-which ultimately determined levels of education, which were also determined by the government. (I will not elaborate on the subject of pursuit of hierarchy via enforced native academic limitations because I believe it is better articulated in Negash’s article The Ideology of Colonialism).   


Ultimately, what I found to be most interesting in regards to the actual construction of racial hierarchy was how Barrera argued that “racial and class hierarchies did not always overlap.”  Generally, the opposite notion would be what I except when studying such social developments.  To support this, he suggested that the mixing of class and race was essential to the establishment of the economy.  Clearly, this is supported by the idea that individuals can provide different talents and services to a market (which included the skills of natives, in this case).  Although I agree with and understand Barrera’s argument here, the argument itself was counterintuitive to me because I generally assumed that the colonizers would subjugate all those who were colonized into a lower class through some force, which is supported by the very colonial desire to maintain an “aura of superiority” over the natives. 

Ruth Iyob

Exploring gender and racial bias and stereotypes, the focus on the role of women in Eritrea post WWII and their relationship to the Italian padroni ultimately determines that the identity and independence of these women was/is essentially dismissed or rejected. This article focused on the transition from precolonial roles of women to post WWII roles of women, which experienced little change. Precolonial roles of Eritrean women, especially wives and mothers, were predetermined through conjugal arrangements. Madamismo was colonial adaptation of this system to fit the colonial ideology of long-term marriage. Madama then became a term for this period which signified a native woman’s relationship with a colonial man. The difference between pre-madamismo and madamismo is seemingly the voice of a native woman and a say in the “relationship,” as exemplified by the fact that women could now participate in regular household decisions that regarded a man’s action. That is not to say, however, women suddenly had either their own identity or independence- because they did not. Clearly, expectations of women were contradictory in this new system that ultimately complicated the “civilizing” of Africans, in particular African women, for colonizers.
What I found to be most interesting was how female engagement in society was regarded as a threat to the patriarchal society. These ideologies, which focus specifically on the experiences of colonized women, reflects the same mentalities and ideologies regarding gender roles in a nationalist society expressed in Spackman’s article. The difference, however, is sexual servitude. Although there were still underlying expectations of such in the nationalist society in Italy, these expectations were clearly made significantly more explicit towards colonized women. I found the argument of relationship between the role of government in sexual relations to be especially interesting. In particular, the definition of post-colonial societal constructions as “re-socialized,” rather than women’s participation being mobilized. Clearly, this article efficiently articulates the reason for such an inability for mobilization. This reason being, the government’s role in a woman’s ability to escape the expected gender role-as the expected gender role was supported and enforced by the government itself in postcolonial Eritrea.


What I found most interesting in this article was Labriola’s ideal of femininity, the debate between artificiality and naturalness and its relationship to nationalist rhetoric regarding virility. In recognizing the paradox of Labriola’s ideal, the author exemplifies the general concept of the time that in order to successfully maintain the ideology of virility, society must successfully maintain the ideology of femininity. This is made clear in spackman’s statement, “Labriola ends up constituting an ideal of womanliness whose logic mimics that of ideal manliness” (46). Ultimately, this supports the fascist notion that each gender was expected to abide to their ordained role in society. These roles were based off a predetermined ideology of what is considered biologically and dutifully masculine. Women were considered biologically different by means of “natural discourse,” and therefore inherited traits that were opposite of men. So, accordingly, men were educated to be soldiers and nationalists. Because of this belief and discourse, women were educated to be mothers to raise nationalist sons and to be nationalists themselves. Obviously, this was essential to the growth of fascist nation. Opposition to such could be made punishable by regarding such women as “amoral.” The very idea that Labriola expresses and defends is the extent and right to pursue women’s intellectual capabilities and which qualities they posses in general. This very notion, however, opposes the nationalist’s ideas of gender roles.

Perspecitive on Identity and its impact on opportunity

I found the contradicting ideologies behind categorization to be most fascinating. In particular, the contradiction in how “mixed race” children were considered both degenerate and still entitled to assimilation into Italian society. Paternity being regarded as a racial determinant serves as the source of these contradicting ideologies, especially when combined with the ideologies of inferiority and superiority. Such complex ideologies would not doubt lead to contradicting political agendas. Furthermore, these ideologies also determined self-value and self-categorization of Italo-Eritreans. Identity of self relied on paternal lineage. The various possibilities of parental lineage obviously lead to various types of categorization and the establishment of varied identities, which inherently take on the concepts of inferiority and superiority that created them.

Another issue, the one regarding the relationship between child abandonment and opportunity interested me. Obviously, those whose Italian fathers acknowledged them had a greater opportunity for success (as they had more support for education and standard of living), which is evidenced by the fact that these children were generally more economically successful. Then again, you can’t have your children be “mixed race” AND unsuccessful, can you?

This relationship between child abandonment and opportunity, however, seemed to be a side-note in comparison to the role of government and its impact on opportunity. By legitimatizing some interracial children while refusing to acknowledge others, the government would predetermine an individual’s involvement in society as it would inherently categorize one as either a colonizer or colonized.

The role of the mothers in all of this is even more complicated than the categorization of their children. Perhaps not more complicated, as pure dismissal is pretty simple. On a personal tangent regarding this fact, how sad is it that these Italian men who acknowledged their “mixed race” children also encouraged them to abandon their “lesser-half” heritage? How sad that even some mothers, the Tigrinya women in particular, committed themselves to raising their children as Italians? It’s as if they had no choice if they wanted their children to also have a chance at the opportunity that the children whose parents acknowledged them had.

On a final note, the acknowledgement and exploration of the violence towards the mothers of these “mixed-race” children was an interesting way to end the article. I appreciated the introduction to studied regarding the colonized women. As more information presents itself, or more sources found and documented, it would be interesting to better understand a colonized woman’s perspective on the inherent contradictions in the ideologies surrounding their children and themselves. Especially, to further elaborate on why some would choose to raise their children as Italians but they themselves would not abandon their Eritrean traditions and identity.