At the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient / Leibniz-Center for Modern Orient

a 2 days appointment on Libya and its geopolitical role today “Libya between Saharan Routes, Urban Wars, Migration and Local Reconfigurations”

Vittoria Capresi (TU Berlin) presented the issue of land grabbing from the colonial time until the revolution in 2011


Italian Architecture, Town Planning, Property Management in Libya:
What happened to the Colonial Legacies?

ABSTRACT: The new settlements founded under Mussolini in colonial Libya materialise an absolute and violent act of occupation.

Between 1934 and 1939, 28 new settlements were built on the coasts of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica to home settlers’ families coming from the Italian regions where unemployment and poverty rates were high. The settlements were composed by a core of buildings with a church, a municipality building, a school, a market etc. as a logistic centre for the administration of the families, which were accommodated in single dwelling scattered over the landscape. Each family had to take care of the cultivations on the plot assigned, paying back in goods the price of the plot and house, and so becoming owner within one generation.

After the end of colonialism, many Italian families decided to return to Italy, while others remained in Libya, and were definitively expelled in 1970.

In order to accommodate the families fertile land was expropriated from the Libyans, property borders were rearranged, plots were subdivided. During the relative short time of the colonisation, the landscapes underwent crucial changes, which involved the complete reshaping of the territory. The fact of overlapping the design, administrative system and property structure of the new settlements radically altered the curse of the events on the Libyan coasts: the new colonial settlements designed a completely new structure of urban nodes, connections, property structures, which totally excluded the Libyans.

What happen after the departure of the Italians? How were the colonial land-administrative structures rearranged? How were the property issues resolved under Gaddafi? And finally how are the settlements and the single dwellings reused today, in a context of political uncertainties and war?

The contribution proposes to open the debate about land grabbing in Libya from the colonial time until the Gaddafi time, investigating the afterlives of the territorial organisation and property management system in the post-colonial time until today.