International Workshop
The Land Question in North Africa in an Era of Global Resource Grabs and Ecological Crisis

25-26 September 2018 Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Kirchweg 33, 14129 Berlin



Land Grabbing and the Issue of Ownership in Libya
from the Colonial Time until Today
Vittoria Capresi

ABSTRACT: The legacies of the Italian colonisation in Libya last until now: one of the most crucial unresolved issues is undoubtedly that related to the land ownership.

The scrambling for land characterised the colonisation since its begin in 1911, when the amount of state-owned land was essential for Italy to assure the complete control over the colony. It is with the fascist regime and with the project of agrarian colonisation of Libya, that the need for land gained a new impetus: the fascist regime planned to transfer to Libya Italian families coming from the regions where unemployment and poverty rates were high, giving them a plot of land to cultivate.

The most productive land was than expropriated from the Libyans and redistributed to Italian families. Between 1934 and 1939, 28 new agrarian settlements were built on the coasts of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica to home the Italian settlers. The settlements were composed by a core of buildings with a church, a municipality building, a school, a market etc. as a logistic centre for the administration of the families, which were accommodated in single dwelling scattered over the landscape.

After the end of colonialism many Italian families decided to return to Italy, while others remained in Libya, and were definitively expelled in 1970.

The process carried on by the Italian regime of expropriation, change of property borders, reinvention of the relation between urban and rural marked indelibly the country: during the relative short time of the colonisation, the landscape underwent crucial changes, which produced a complete reshaping of the territory with results which last until today.

The contribution addresses the issue of land ownership in relation to the reshaping of the territory, from the very beginning of the Italian colonisation until today: the paper will present and discuss the legal steps for the land grabbing from the Italian state until the end of colonialism, leaving several open question about the post- colonial time and the current issues related to property.

Revisiting the Land Question_Libya_Capresi_Modscapes_web