Vittoria Capresi (Technische Universität Berlin)

“We had a toilet!”
The modernisation of the countryside as perceived by the inhabitants, the private and public spaces in the new settlements in Italy and colonial Libya (1932-1939).

“Our house was beautiful, clean and spacious. And we had a toilet!” is one of the common comments by the initial inhabitants of the new settlements realised under Mussolini in the Pontine Plane (Italy) and colonial Libya between 1932 and 1939.

The foundation of the new towns and new settlements, both in Italy and its colonies, was the necessary step to achieve the project of internal colonisation launched by Mussolini, which envisaged the relocation of population from regions that were overpopulated and had high unemployment rates, to the newly reclaimed areas. Except a few cases, the new settlements based their economy on the agricultural use of the land, promoting the agrarian colonisation of uncultivated areas.

The modernisation of the countryside was promulgated by the unrestrainable fascist propaganda of that time: historical photos, films and descriptions in the press offer an unequivocal picture of progress and modernity, still, obviously presenting only a partial and misleading impression of how life was. But how was the process of resettlement and agrarian reclamation really experienced by the inhabitants? How did they perceive the modernisation of the countryside? What happens if – as an additional level of interpretation – we add the narratives and memories of the inhabitants who lived these moments? Which new insights can the analysis of oral histories of a built space offer us?

The paper aims at presenting the narratives of the initial inhabitants, analysing their perception of the modernity of the town planning and architecture of the settlements. A particular focus will be set on the awareness and use of the private and public spaces.

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Capresi_Modernisation of the countryside as perceived_web_Modscapes
Full-text available here: DOI: 10.1051/SHSCONF/20196309002