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Staging Memory

Myth, Symbolism and Identity in Postcolonial Italy and Libya

Stefania Del Monte

Memory in postcolonial Italy and Libya has been used, reinterpreted and staged by political powers and the media. This book investigates the roots of myth, colonial amnesia and censorship in postwar Italy, as well as Colonel Gaddafi’s deliberate use of rituals, symbols, and the colonial past to shape national identity in Libya. The argument is sustained by case studies ranging among film, documentary, literature and art, shedding new light on how memory has been treated in the two postcolonial societies examined. The last part briefly analyses the identity transformation process in the new Libya.
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Without memory, there is no culture.

Without memory there would be no civilization,

no society, no future.

— Elie Wiesel

This book is the result of a research project conducted as part of a Masters Degree programme at the Royal Holloway University of London with the purpose of demonstrating how colonial memory, in postcolonial Italy and Libya, has been used, reinterpreted, and staged according to specific perspectives and conveniences, deeply influencing public opinion. The focus on these two countries and their approach towards postcolonial memory is relevant in showing how a shared past could be represented in completely different ways.

Memory is examined here in connection with history, politics, myth, symbolism and identity, to highlight how these elements have contributed to shape its representation both in Italy and in Libya; the specific influence of media, including art and literature, over collective memory is also investigated.

Why Memory?

Memory in contemporary society has assumed a fundamental role, entering public discourse to an unprecedented degree,1 as well as becoming a sociocultural, interdisciplinary and international phenomenon.2 It is invoked to heal, to blame, to legitimate; it has become a major idiom in the construction of identity, both individual and collective, and a site of struggle as well as of identification.3 According to Duncan Bell, in virtually every corner of intellectual life memory is analysed as the organizing principle of ← 19 | 20 → scholarly or artistic work.4 It is,...

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