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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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Chapter 1: Memory in Postcolonial Italy: Myth, Amnesia, Censorship

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← 28 | 29 → Chapter 1: Memory in Postcolonial Italy: Myth, Amnesia, Censorship

This Chapter illustrates how, for a very long time in postcolonial Italy, memory of the colonial experience was mostly absent from popular culture as a result of political and media manipulation, and how Italian collective memory was affected by myth, amnesia and censorship. A brief historical background on Italian Colonialism shows, in fact, the reasons behind the diffusion of the myth of Italiani, Brava Gente (Italians, Good People) and its fundamental role in the formation of a collective memory aimed at removing uncomfortable events of the past, and distancing itself from historical responsibilities. One of the most diffused assumptions in contemporary Italy, for instance, is that although Italians did colonise Africa, they never were real colonisers and even accredited journalists like Enzo Biagi referred to Italy’s colonizing experience as an adventure,24 somehow romanticising an event that, in reality, was an act of invasion and aggression.

Mario Tobino’s novel The Deserts of Libya and Mario Monicelli’s film The Desert Roses, provide ideal case studies to show how postcolonial literature and cinema, over a period spanning more than half a century, have treated the subject of the Italian occupation of Libya, reinforcing the myth of the Good People. The case of Lion of the Desert is also examined at the end of Chapter 1, with an emphasis on the dual role of this film in staging a postcolonial memory both in Italy and in Libya. On...

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