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An Empire of Possibilities: Education in Fascist Italy’s African Colonies, 1922-1943

posted on 2023-08-01, 00:00 authored by Caterina Scalvedi
This dissertation is the first imperial history of education in fascist Italy’s African colonies (1922-1943). It integrates pedagogic discussions and school policies with lived experiences at school, addressing education as a window into colonial encounters in Eritrea, Somalia, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Ethiopia, fascism’s political projects, and the intertwined processes of nation- and empire-state building in interwar Europe. Building on global history methods, it conceives of empire as an intra-connected space in which people, ideas, and practices traveled, and follows the shaping of educational repertoires in transnational and inter-imperial networks of knowledge exchange. Drawing from printed, archival, and visual sources, An Empire of Possibilities includes an introduction, eight chapters divided into three parts, and a conclusion. Part I retraces common understandings of education for African colonial subjects in fascist Italy and across academic and humanitarian venues in Europe and North America in the 1920s through the turn of the 1930s. Part II explores the broad rethinking of pedagogies and imperial visions in fascist Italy and its colonies in the 1930s, specifically among pedagogues, colonial law scholars, and missionaries. The fascist party-state’s massive mobilization of colonial education in the late 1930s and early 1940s constitutes Part III’s main focus. This dissertation demonstrates that, in fascist Italy, there was no consensus around the education of African subjects: a variety of voices—by party and state officials, pedagogues, legal scholars, missionary and lay teachers and their students—envisioned the formation of colonial youth and therefore the future of the empire in remarkably different and shifting terms. In so doing, it revises common understandings of fascist Italy’s colonial agenda as a univocal project. Secondly, this dissertation uncovers the strong connections between fascist Italy and concurrent imperial formations regarding educational reform in colonial spaces. In the early-twentieth century, it argues, rival empires collectively turned to colonial curricula as a primary tool of imperial governance meant to prevent social and political unrest in Africa and Asia. This finding contributes to the history of modern empires by illustrating the momentum the education of colonial subjects gained in interwar Europe.



Hoppe, Kirk A.


Hoppe, Kirk A.



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Mogilner, Marina Connolly, Jonathan S. Pergher, Roberta Cooper, Frederick

Submitted date

August 2023

Thesis type



  • en

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