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Italian Women Writers and the Fascist 'Politica Islamica' in Colonial Libya


This article considers the ways in which Fascist Italy imagined itself in relation to the southern Mediterranean, and specifically its perceptions of Muslim culture in Italian colonial Libya. Examining Augusta Perricone Violà’s 1932 novel Il rogo tra le palme, it shows how Italian women writers appropriated the 'politica islamica' that characterized various Italian visions of Muslim-Italian relations in the 1930s. Just as the 'politica islamica' imagined Italian relationships to Islam as a form of collaboration based upon shared values and the common goal of a highly idealized Muslim-Italian society, women writers at this time also imagined new relations of Muslim-Italian cultural kinship. This sense of cultural commonality, which typified Italian discourses of the late 1920s and 1930s, can be seen in the way that Perricone Violà’s novel turns to Islam as an important allegorical source of Italian women’s self-fashioning. While past scholarship has focused on the way Italian fascist women emulated Muslim women as exemplary mothers, here it is argued that this novel offers a more dynamic cultural imaginary.

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