Italy and the Post-colonial world: Cooperation and mobility between decolonization and the Cold-War (1960-1989) - Seminar 2: Italy and its former colonies: Cooperation, mobility, continuities, and criticism

Giannmarco Mancosu's picture
Call for Papers
March 13, 2022
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Diplomacy and International Relations, Immigration & Migration History / Studies, Italian History / Studies

Italy and the Post-colonial world.

 Cooperation and mobility between decolonization and the Cold War


SEMINAR 2: Italy and its former colonies: Cooperation, mobility, continuities, and criticism

University of Cagliari, 16-18 June 2022


The SISSCO Research Seminar “Italy and the Post-colonial world” is currently organizing its second seminar, titled “Italy and its former colonies. Cooperation, mobility, continuities, and criticism”. This meeting intends to employ some of the core themes and methodologies tackled during the first meeting in Palermo to specifically consider the relationship that Italy negotiated and established with its former colonies and the occupied territories of Eritrea, Somalia, Libya, and Ethiopia. We aim to reflect on the new political, economic, and cultural agreements and connections as well as to consider how those relations were either supported or criticized in the former metropole as well as in the former dominions. The seminar focuses on the timeframe ranging from 1960 – the “year of Africa” but also the one in which the formal relationship between Italy and Somalia ended – to 1989, which marked the end of the polarized system that characterized the Cold War. However, we also welcome contributions informed by a long-term perspective embracing, for instance, post-WWII events and personal trajectories. In this way, we seek to foster multidisciplinary and transnational dialogues around the theme of the relationships that Italy established with the former colonies and with people migrating from those countries.

These past years, particularly starting in 2020, we have witnessed the resurgence of global protests aimed at tackling both material and cultural traces of the colonial period. Protestors highlighted the problematic and partially unacknowledged presence of those colonial legacies in Western societies. In Italy, these protests coincided with some significant anniversaries. First, in July 1960, the ten-year Italian trusteeship of Somalia (AFIS) ended, concluding Italy’s formal presence in the now former colony. Second, another anniversary includes 1970, when the last remaining Italian settlers were forcibly expelled from Gaddafi’s Libya. Both anniversaries appeared absent in today's public debates. However, in those decades, the Italian government, institutions, as well as parastatal and private actors negotiated, planned, and implemented new policies and agreements with the former colonies. This new projection of power in Africa was often based on previous relationships established during the colonial/occupation period. This is the case of the activities of big industrial groups like those of the ENI (Italian Energy Company) in Libya or those of the Salini-Impregilo in Ethiopia. Along with these noteworthy examples, individual trajectories likewise deserve a closer attention, such as Arturo Mezzedimi (an Italian architect, friend of the Emperor Haile Selassie) who planned several buildings in Addis Ababa in the Sixties and Seventies, or the agricultural plants “De Micheli” in Libya, as one example.

The Cagliari seminar aims to connect multifaceted analytical and historiographical perspectives. In such a way, we aim to stimulate a reflection on the modalities through which policies and themes related to the restructuring of the political, economic, and cultural relationships between Italy and Eritrea, Somalia, Libya, and Ethiopia. We seek contributions dealing with the end of the Italian political presence, with the Italian communities still living in those countries, with the new agreements and economic projects, with developmental cooperation and cultural diplomacy, with the mobility of people. All these processes can be read against the background of the Cold War polarization, which was especially significant in the Horn of Africa (e.g., in the Ogaden War between Somalia and Ethiopia, 1977-78). With this more politically oriented focus, we also encourage papers exploring how Italian and African societies and cultures, during the Cold War, dealt with their colonial pasts, while also considering new political relationships, national and international aid programmes, multidirectional fluxes of people (migrants, students, technicians, and professionals). Such a perspective will foster a critical inquiry on the ways in which the lack of reflection on the national colonial past could have influenced new projections of Italy in the Horn of Africa and Libya. In this regard, we encourage proposals dealing with continuities at the political-diplomatic, cultural, and institutional levels in political and administrative roles, in university teaching and research, in institutes. Papers about the renewed activity of Italian Schools, Universities, and Cultural Institutes in Eritrea, Libya, Somalia, and Ethiopia will be likewise encouraged.

By analysing the socio-cultural and transnational dimension of the new relationships between Italy and the former colonies, we will seek to foster further reflection on how these practices could have influenced the activity of Italian communities in the Horn of Africa and in Libya. Additionally, we would like to assess how incoming migrant fluxes and associationism could have fostered a critique of the colonial past (in events like the Eritrean Festival held in Bologna). Such a perspective will allow us to reflect on the incongruity between the fact that Italy became a crossroad of anti-colonial and Third-Worldists practices and discourses whereas no critical reference to the national colonial past stemmed from those political milieux. Another possible topic, strongly related to this last strand, concerns the reception of the first historiographical works (by scholars like Angelo Del Boca, Giorgio Rochat, Alberto Sbacchi) dealing with a critical account of Italy’s colonial history.

We invite contributions (individual papers or pre-arranged panels) dealing with (but not limited to):

  • Economic and cultural cooperation: movement of technicians, economic aid, cultural relations of various kinds
  • Political relations between Italian parties and the parties/leaders of Eritrea, Somalia, Libya, and Ethiopia (e.g., Craxi, the first Prime Minister to travel to Somalia in 1985); state visits to Italy by African leaders and vice versa.
  • Diplomatic relations between Italy and former colonies regarding the management of migration flows. Studies on the formal and informal international networks that have accompanied the deployment of flows between Italy and former possessions
  • Migration from former colonies in Italy and migrant associations
  • Italian communities in Libya, Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia and the role they played in post-colonial societies.
  • Analysis of the historiographical debate on early critical works on Italian colonialism and their reception
  • Early criticism of neo-colonialism and development cooperation policies by left-wing and Catholic movements, foreign individuals/groups operating in Italy in relation to controversial memories of national colonialism; their possible resonance in the public debate
  • Presence, in economic agencies and centres of production of culture and knowledge (Universities; Institutes), of figures (like officials, professors and technicians) linked to the national colonial past.

The seminar will take place from 16 to 18 June 2022 in Cagliari, in person.

Please send abstracts (Italian/English) of max. 300 words and a short bio (with current affiliation) of max. 100 words in a single .docx/.doc file to by 13 March 2022. To submit a proposal for a pre-arranged session (up to four speakers), please send to the title of the session and its brief description (300 words), together with the titles of the individual papers, a short abstract for each of them (100 words), and the biographical profile of the speakers (100 words for each speaker) (single .docx/.doc file). Selected papers will be announced by 31st March 2022.

The SISSCO offers a limited number of travel grants (up to 150€) to support unwaged scholars as well as unaffiliated scholars who are under the age of 40. Those intending to apply for the travel grants are required to send a statement (200 words) explaining their reasons for applying for support. The statement must be attached, as a separate file, in the same mail of the abstract.

The organizers are strongly committed to promote gender balance among speakers as well as diversityrepresentation and inclusion among participants.


Organizing Committee

Donato Di Sanzo (Università di Palermo), Beatrice Falcucci (Università dell'Aquila), Gianmarco Mancosu (Università di Cagliari)

Scientific Committee

Tommaso Baris (Università di Palermo), Paolo Bertella Farnetti (Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia), Paolo Borruso (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore), Luca Castagna (Università di Salerno), Valeria Deplano (Università di Cagliari), Cecilia Novelli (Università di Cagliari), Maria Stella Rognoni (Università di Firenze), Alessandro Pes (Università di Cagliari), Neelam Srivastava (University of Newcastle), Annalisa Urbano (Università di Milano)