Francesca Di Pasquale – The Transient Borders of Penal Colonies: A Comparison Between the Italian Agricultural Penal Colonies in Sardinia and in Libya (1890-1925)

 

Event Dates: 13 – 16 September 2015
College Court Conference Centre
Knighton Road,
Leicester LE2 3UF

The Carceral Archipelago: Transnational Circulations in Global Perspective, 1415-1960

Francesca Di Pasquale (NIOD, Amsterdam) – The Transient Borders of Penal Colonies: A Comparison Between the Italian Agricultural Penal Colonies in Sardinia and in Libya (1890-1925)

Immediately after the Italian unification (1861), one of the main issues within the debate on criminality and punishment concerned the possibility of establishing penal colonies, i.e. isolated places where convicts could be confined and “rehabilitated” through outside work programs.

At the very beginning, the discussion on penal colonies merged with the one regarding the first Italian colonization projects. In particular, the discussion focused on two positions: first, there were those, like Beltrani Scalia, who supported “internal colonization”, i.e. the establishment of penal colonies within national borders so as to reclaim the wastelands that needed to be improved and “exploited” thanks to convict labour; the second stance, adopted by certain members of the government entourage and the influential agrarian class, like Leone Carpi, planned overseas penal establishments in order to combine detention purposes with the colonization of new territories. Therefore, the discussion on penal colonies intersected the entanglement between penal practices inside and outside “national” borders and the rehabilitative dimension of labour camps.

My study analyses the relationships between penal colonies and convicts with neighbouring territories and communities. In doing so, I reflect on the concept of border through the analysis and the comparison of two case-studies, one inside the ‘national’ borders, i.e. the agricultural penal colony in Castiadas (Sardinia), and another one outside the Italian borders, i.e. the penal colony in Berka, Cyrenaica (Libya). Castiadas was the most extended Italian penal colony, and Sardinia, with its vast territories to be reclaimed and “exploited”, has been a sort of “penitentiary” region in Italian history. According to colonial rhetoric, Libya should be the Italian forth shore for the ‘surplus’ of the Italian working class. Here the penal colonies aimed at both ‘taming’ and colonizing the territory. In addition to the process of colonizing in Italy and Libya, I will look also at the economic relationships inside and outside the penal colonies’ boundaries.

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