Histories of modern and Fascist Italy have usually given little space to Italian colonialism, and histories of colonialism rarely mention the Italian South. This paper considers the agrarian colonization of Libya and Sicily together, reading them as key components of Italy’s nation-building and of the Fascist population politics. After the violent reconquest of Libya (1922–32) and the appropriation of all its fertile land, the Fascist regime turned to the rich and restless social fabric of the Italian South, which became the target for a new politics of space and population control. In a complex process of multiple exchanges, the agrarian colonization of Libya (1932–39) became the model for the agrarian colonization of Sicily (1939–43). By bringing together archives that have mostly been kept separate, this paper argues for a more nuanced notion of the South and colonialism. It does so by examining the ways colonialism was theorized and practiced, first by the Italian Liberal governments (1861–22) as a response to the nation’s southern question, and second by the Fascist regime (1922–43) as part of a wider project of reclamation of land and people in Italy and abroad. In particular, the paper compares the uncanny similarities between Fascist architecture and urbanism produced at the height of Fascist rule by the Ente di Colonizzazione della Libia and the Ente di Colonizzazione del Latifondo Siciliano. The paper asks, what links the politics of land, grain, and displacement in Libya and Southern Italy?

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