From “Mapping Living Memories” to Investigating Postcolonial Histories. Narratives of the Jews from Libya in Historical Perspective

Barbara Spadaro (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesInvited talk

Description

From “Mapping Living Memories” to Investigating Postcolonial Histories. Narratives of the Jews from Libya in Historical Perspective

From “Mapping Living Memories” to Investigating Postcolonial Histories. Narratives of the Jews from Libya in Historical Perspective. ABSTRACT: Woven into the colonial past which binds Italy and Libya, the histories and memories of the Jews from Libya provide a crucial perspective on the transnational framework where Italian ideas of race, difference and citizenship have been elaborated and transformed over the 19th and 20th centuries. Since the eve of the Italian occupation of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, the multiple modes of belonging and transnational trajectories of these Jews have contributed in shaping representations, perceptions and identities between the two shores of the Mediterranean. Historical changes in a context of colonial and global relations have repeatedly shifted the position of these subjects inside and outside ideas of Italian and European belonging. Such shifts have affected the relations between fellow Jews from Italy and Libya, the memories and representations of the history of this community, as well as their patterns of incorporation in Italian national narratives. The immigration, and naturalization, of this community from North Africa – the “Tripolini”, as they are known in Rome – challenge representations of Italian identity as homogeneous, nationally-centred, and white European, and raise important questions concerning notions of Italian Jewish and non-Jewish identity. The narratives and feelings of belonging expressed by these Jews reveal how ideas of Italian and European identity have been constructed, negotiated and contested by multiple subjects inside and outside the continent over time. Thus, a whole set of questions over the historical context of the encounters between Italy and Libya raises from the trajectories that members of this Jewish community have followed, calling for further, more inclusive, postcolonial historical accounts. This paper stems from my involvement as historian in the interdisciplinary project Mapping Living Memories. The Jewish Diaspora from Libya across Europe and the Mediterranean. The project, designed and carried out for the CDEC Foundation of Milan, has gathered a collection of interviews with the Jews from Libya across multiple destinations of their diaspora, in order to explore and compare their different cultural memories. My specific approach has been aimed at challenging, from a transnational and postcolonial perspective, current paradigms of Italian historiography on colonialism, migration, and ideas of Italian culture and identity. By intersecting different axes of the social and cultural identity of these subjects (notably gender, class, age, religion and ethnicity), I explore the relation between individual and collective narratives, as well as multiple meanings of Italian citizenship and belonging. The paper will outline the main case studies of my research, and some examples of representations of Italian colonial rule and fascism both in the individual memories and collective narratives of the Jews from Libya. The latter will be considered in the light of the shaping of memories, historical accounts, and postcolonial Italian identities resulting from the interplay of national, transnational, and global dimensions.
Period25 Apr 2014
Event typeConference