Margot’s Post on “Obligations of Italy Toward Libya.”

I am always the first to criticize the Italians for their actions in Africa. Even after all the readings we have done, I find it very hard to find any legitimate justifying reason for the Italians being in Africa. (Crispi’s attempt to build a nation is not legitimate) What really bothered me about Del Boca’s article is that he only talked about the bad aspects of Italian colonialism. At one point he does state: “I do not wish to deny that the Italian presence in Africa had some positive aspects,” but he doesn’t discuss any of the positive aspects.

It is also somewhat contradictory to say that no scholars condemn colonialism when Del Boca spends the whole article talking about the horrors of Italian colonialism, and mentions other scholars like him who write the same things. (The most recent source in the back of the article is 1999, the portrayal of colonialism has changed in Italy since then).

Del Boca does discuss the apology on the part of Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema. D’Alema was the first to publicly denounce Italy for her actions in Libya and stated that “The relationship between our two countries has had different moment in its history, including the negative period of colonialism, but today it is possible to build a relationship on a new basis of friendship, collaboration, and reciprocal respect… here (Libya) the national heroes were executed by Italians.”


This is an interesting BBC article about D’Alema’s trip

Margot’s Post on Damages of Colonization

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.

Margot’s Post on Lucia Re’s article


I loved this article! It discussed all of the things that interest me about Italian Colonialism: the way colonialism played into race relations inItalyand the treatment and view of women.

One of my favorite lines from the article was “Woman is more primitive and less evolved than man because she has remained essentially the captive of her physical instincts and body, “schiavadelsuo sesso,” and thus still incapable of thinking abstractly.” So this was the view of the Fascist leading men, and then women who called themselves feminist women, started siding with these men.

Later on in the article, Re talks about the way Sibilla Aleramo set aside her feminist ambitions to support the war inLibya. On page 22 Re argues that Aleramo supported the southern question because of the way she describes southern men as weak, and excessively sexual. “What is striking about Aleramo’s novel is the way in which this radicalization of the South coexists with the author’s explicit feminism and socialism.”

In section 7 of the article, Re talks about feminist women becoming fascists, she refers to “Fascist feminism in the 1920s.” To me, that sounds like a contradiction. How can a feminist be fascist? How could a woman like Teresa Labriola who was once a leading suffragist say that “the woman’s true and higher mission was to embrace their racial role as mothers and be entirely devoted to the future of the Italian stripe and nation.

Margot’s post on Mass Mediated Fantasies

This article came at a good time because I read it after having the discussion group on Regina di Fiori e Di Perle, which put me in a very skeptical place regarding the portrayal of what happened in Ethiopia. In the discussion group I argued that the book includes Italian colonizers who we can relate to, who are “good” Italians. The “bad” Italians in the book are all generals and high-ranking soldiers who we knew were “bad” before even reading the book. Ghermandi portrayed the “real” Italians who we understand as good people, therefore they were unaccountable for their actions.

Pickering-Iazzi talked about this unaccountability in her article. When she was talking about the transportation of the Axum obelisk back to Adddis Ababa, she described different rationales for this gesture. One that she mentioned which fits in with the idea of unaccountability is  that the emptiness of Piazza Capena (where the obelisk was housed) unburdens the Italians from the constant reminder of the fascist reign and the brutality they inflicted. Along with this, Pickering-Iazzi argued that the apologies by the President tried to erase Italy’s brutality from historical memory.

(re-erecting of the obelisk)

(an interesting article about Presidente Scalfaro’s death with a picture of him on a visit to Ethiopia)

Margot’s Post on Ruth Iyob’s Article

Ruth Iyob’s article on Eritrean Women touched on an aspect of colonization we haven’t talked about lately. More in  the beginning of the semester, we talked a lot about the image of land as a woman, and about the rape metaphor that goes along with that image when discussing colonization. The women in this article were absolutely taken advantage of in ways that the Italian public had no way of understanding.

I found it very interesting, but not particularly surprising, that these madamas were blamed for Italian failures. “Judged in colonial texts as being guilty of imbestiamento, which can be roughly translated to mean the “turning of men into beasts,” the madamas were blamed for Italian military incompetence, from the Adwa defeat to the later unraveling of the Empire During World War II.”pg 233

Iyob kept using the phrase “comfort wife” and “comforts of the home.” I’m assuming as these were always put in quotations, that this was the terminology used at that time, to avoid any suspicions of prostitution coming from the home land. The way Iyob describes the portrayal of these women was very interesting. Their sexualization not just in the colony but also in Italy was striking. “…image of a nude Eritrean woman attempting to replicate the pose of Botticelli’s Venus…” pg 234

(When I tried to find an image of a “comfort wife” I kept getting a failed search engine. It could have been my improper search terms but I found it very telling that nothing came up.)

Margot’s Blog Post on “The Italian Air Force in the Ethiopian War”

Giorgio Rochat’s article “The Italian Air Force in the Ethiopian War (1935-1936), prompted more questions then it answered. The section on chemical weapons was very interesting. It was made very clear that the Italians, violating the Geneva Protocol, used mustard gas, however the extent was unclear. Mussolini did everything he thought possible to hide the use of the gas, but the Abyssinian accounts can’t be disregarded. The most atrocious aspect of this is that the majority of deaths caused by mustard gas, were civilian deaths.

Rochat only briefly mentioned this, but the part of the article I found most interesting was when he said, “The war against Ethiopia was the only truly popular war in the history of United Italy.” That seems like a rather large claim to make without expanding on it, and it raised questions for me. Why did Italian’s support a war in Ethiopia more than a war in Libya? Was it the most supported because it took place when Italy was most united?

Another interesting aspect of the article was when Rochat talked about Mussolini’s worries about the international political climate at the time of the war, particularly the fact that he didn’t bomb Addis Ababa and the railroads between Addis Abba and Djibuti. This stood out because of the eventual support Italy got for their occupation of Ethiopia.

You can’t read the whole article unless you are subscribed to Time, but I found this article about the war!…

Margot’s Post on Ahmida’s “State and Class Formation and Collaboration”

The section of Ali Abdullatif Ahmida’s article, “State and Class Formation and Collaboration” that I found most interesting was when Ahmida discussed collaboration on the part of the upper class. He describes different types of collaborators, in particular compradore merchants, members of the Muntasir notable merchant class, Jewish middlemen tied to Italian interests, and what Ahmida calls “waverers.” Ahmida argues that these collaboration and factionalism between the notables ended up undermining the Tripolitanian resistance whose numbers rose to fifteen thousand fighters by 1913.

The compradore merchant were tied to the Bank of Rome and wanted to protect their economic interests. An example Ahmida gives is Mayor Hasuna who was in contact with the Italian government starting in 1890. He collaborated with the Italians because he thought they would make him ruler of Tripoli like his grandfather had been. He helped the Italian army by collecting Ottoman guns from the city. The Italians did not end up appointing him as ruler of the city.

The Muntasir notable merchant class were also working for the government and they justified their actions because they wanted to retain their fortune and influence in the region and were motivated by revenge against rivals in Tripolitania.

The Jewish middlemen were tied to Italian interests because they dominated the import-export trade with Italy and spoke some Italian. Poor Jews weren’t as enthusiastic, but like the other collaborators above, economic interest overruled any reservations they had.

Margot’s post on Duggan 483-526

The section of these pages that I found most interesting was the section on Empire. This goes along really well with many of the articles that we read that talked about the ways the colonies were portrayed to the Italian people. Mussolini’s quote, “Our peninsula is too small, too rocky, too mountainous to be able to feed its 40 million inhabitants,” is a great example of the government finding justifications for colonialism. As Duggan points out, the primary reason for expansion was to raise the moral of the nation. What I found surprising was that the government wanted to send a half of a million peasants in the “fertile palm groves.” The government misrepresented the fertility of the land and in fact, after World War Two, on 39,000 were tricked into moving to Libya. Mussolini was determined however to become the leader of an Empire and wasn’t going to continue the “weak and tentative policies” of his predecessors in Africa, and he used Graziani and Badoglio to do it.

Margot Blog post on Duggan 449-483

“True freedom consisted in the spontaneous fusion of the individual with the collectivity” Mussolini and his Minister of Public Instruction, Giovanni Gentile, held this position. They used this idea to increase “fascistization” in education. Gentile was given the task to restructure Italy’s educational system for a few key reasons. 1. To ensure the universities produced students who were prepared to regenerate the Italian nation. 2. To debar working and lower middle class children from “acquiring ambitions above their station.” 3. Most importantly, that those who graduated from secondary schools and universities would feel bound to the national community.

To do this, secondary schools focused greatly on classical studies, Latin, literature, history, philosophy, and religion, because these subjects were expected to transmit the “spiritual essence of Italy.” This led to the introduction of the state exam for private and public schools and the salute to the flag daily. The ministry had larger control over teachers and curriculum. Laws were put in place to ensure this control. In 1925, teachers were instructed that their teachings should educate Italian youth to understand fascism, and a law was passed that forced the retirement of any public employee who displayed views “incompatible with the general political aims of the government.” Starting in 1929 every primary and secondary school teacher was obligated to take an oath of loyalty to the regime, and by 1933, membership of the Fascist Party was required. The curriculum of theses schools was also regulated. To ensure uniformity, one state textbook was used in all primary schools starting in 1929.

Gentile believed that education was “a process of spiritual interaction between master and pupil” and this relationship required autonomy and spontaneity, so he was operating on the idea that fewer schools of higher quality would do the trick.

When doing research on Giovanni Gentile, I found this article which, if you are interested, explains his philosophy of education.

Margot’s Post on Rhetorics of Virility

The article was not as clear as it could have been in describing the various interpretations of virility. The one I found most interesting, or probably the one I understood best, was the section on Marinetti. I found a lot of contradictions, or what sounded like contradictions, in his description of marriage versus the power women have over men. For some context, Marinetti was the founder of the futurist movement, which called for a focus on the concepts of the future: speed, technology, youth, and violence.

It seemed like Marinetti was arguing that women and men should remain separate because women “produce a harmful effeminizing of the male.” This stance isn’t a new way of viewing a woman’s role, but this is normally paired with the idea that women should stay in the house and raise their children and serve her husband. Marinetti argues that “Marriage is an enemy of all boldness and all heroism,” and “marriage and the family are threats to virility.”

His reasoning for not wanting young boys to be raised with young girls is because he thinks the young men will “succumb to the charm and the willful seductiveness of the little female…like stupid little slaves.” In my opinion, this gives the impression that men aren’t powerful enough to avoid a woman’s tempting and therefore must be separated from them so that they can grow to be strong, masculine, and “virile.” Marinetti does give a “use” for women, because he argues that men “deserve” to have women in their lives, “since dispensing with women entirely would leave the male without means to prove his masculinity.”

So if we look at the progression of these few paragraphs of the article, we see that Marinetti argues for a total separation between women and men, and that marriage is useless. However, women can’t be disposed of completely because men need them around to “prove their masculinity.”

When reading about Marinetti I found this description of his view on women:

Machine + War - Woman = Futurism:
Marinetti’s Recreation of Creation

In his vision of a car-crash with the actress, Vaughan was obsessed by many wounds and impacts-by the dying chromium and collapsing bulkheads of their two cars meeting head-on in complex collisions endlessly repeated in slow-motion films, by the identical wounds inflicted on their bodies, by the image of windshield glass frosting around her face as she broke its tinted surface like a death-born Aphrodite, by the compound fractures of their thighs impacted against their handbrake mountings, and above all by the wounds to their genitalia, her uterus pierced by the heraldic beak of the manufacturer’s medallion, his semen emptying across the luminescent dials that registered for ever the last temperature and fuel levels of the engine.

J.G. Ballard, Crash[1]