Architecture and Tourism in Italian Colonial Libya

Anyone who wants to get a feel for what Libya looked like during the height of the colonial period should read Brian McLaren’s beautifully-illustrated study Architecture and Tourism in Italian Colonial Libya (Washington University Press, 2006). Though somewhat hard-to-find and a little pricey, it is absolutely worth the purchase.

To be a tourist in Libya during the period of Italian colonization was to experience a complex negotiation of cultures. Against a sturdy backdrop of indigenous culture and architecture, modern metropolitan culture brought its systems of transportation and accommodation, as well as new hierarchies of political and social control. Architecture and Tourism in Italian Colonial Libya shows how Italian authorities used the contradictory forces of tradition and modernity to both legitimize their colonial enterprise and construct a vital tourist industry. Although most tourists sought to escape the trappings of the metropole in favor of experiencing “difference,” that difference was almost always framed, contained, and even defined by Western culture.” (From the publisher’s website).

There are academic reviews here and here.

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