Andrea Tarchi defended his PhD thesis “The regulation of “mixed” intimacies in Colonial Libya and the construction of Whiteness (1911-1942)” on Friday, February 24th 2023, at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
His study is about the regulation of “mixed” intimacies between Italian settlers and people that fell under Italian colonial rule can clarify processes of racialization of subaltern social groups while pointing at the construction of Italian whiteness in the colonial environment. However, research on “mixed” intimacies during Italian colonialism has focused solely on the Eastern African colonial contexts, namely, how such relationships unfolded and were regulated in Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia during Italian colonial rule. With this research, I aim to add to this research landscape the context of the Italian colonization of Libya (1911-1942), to assess whether Italian colonial administrators regulated intimacies between Italians and Libyans and to ascertain whether these regulations played a role in the racialization of Libya and the identification of Italians as white. In order to do so, I deployed a socio-legal approach to the analysis of official archival sources collected in Italian state, Vatican, and Missionary congregations’ archives. Through such an analysis, the regulations of “mixed” intimacies collected in the archives are juxtaposed to the social changes that influenced and were influenced by the policing of intimacy in the Libyan colonial context. The main finding of this research is that Italian colonial administrators regulated “mixed” intimacies throughout their colonial presence in Libya to establish the category of “whiteness” on the settler population while racializing Libyans as Others. In particular, this research found that the racialization of the colonial Other through the regulation of “mixed” intimacies was a significant factor that allowed a modern, white, European subjectivity to emerge and represent itself as a signifier of Italian identity in the empire. Regulating “mixed” intimacies coincided with keeping control of categorization processes that affected both colonizing and colonized societies, therefore representing an untapped resource in understanding the historical production of racial categories in the Italian colonial context.