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Feb 10 2023

Graduate Resident Scholar Dissertation Seminar, Caterina Scalvedi

February 10, 2023

12:00 PM - 2:00 PM


Behavioral Sciences Building


1007 W Harrison Street, Suite 153, Chicago, IL 60607


Education and the "Native Question" in Fascist Italy's Empire: Rethinking Colonialism in Interwar Europe
Caterina Scalvedi, Department of History
Graduate Resident Scholar Dissertation Seminar
Brown Bag

Hybrid Event (In-Person and Live on Zoom)

Institute for the Humanities
1007 W Harrison Street, Suite 153, Chicago, IL

Register for Zoom at


In the 1930s, fascist Italian legal scholars diagnosed an unprecedented crisis in the history of European colonialism and identified education as one of its main causes and remedies. While past aggressive policies of cultural assimilation of the "natives" had contributed to the dangerous circulation and enhancement of anti-colonial feelings, they recommended European rulers needed to incorporate the "natives" into imperial economies without forcing them to "unnaturally" abandon their own culture. In this perspective, the goal of colonial schools was to transform Africans into "good Africans" instead of "bad Europeans," fostering economic modernization and Eurafrican cooperation. My chapter explores the development of this argument by five different Italian lawyers. By contextualizing this scholarship in a European intellectual tradition of colonial reformism, I argue that there was no such a thing as a "liberal" or "fascist" colonial agenda. All pressed by the fear of imperial collapse, European colonial experts, fascist as well as liberal, targeted education as a political and social engineering tool that would allow for imperial restructuring and colonialism’s survival in an era of growing anti-colonial upheaval. I further demonstrate that, while collectively promoting educational reform, Italian legal scholars did not fully agree on the meaning of this reform, each encompassing a divergent notion of ethnicity, race, political economy, and empire in the shadow of fascist imperial propaganda.


Institute for the Humanities

Date posted

Sep 2, 2022

Date updated

Feb 9, 2023