Architecture and Tourism in Italian Colonial Libya
An Ambivalent Modernism
Brian L. McLaren
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- Published: 2006
- Subject Listing: Architectural History, Colonial Studies, Tourism Studies
- Bibliographic information: 360 pp.,173 illus., 16 in color, index, 7 x 10 in.
- Series: Studies in Modernity and National Identity
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.
McLaren argues that the "modern" and the "traditional" were entirely constructed by colonial authorities, who balanced their need to project an image of a modern and efficient network of travel and accommodation with the necessity of preserving the characteristic qualities of the indigenous culture. What made the tourist experience in Libya distinct from that of other tourist destinations was the constant oscillation between modernizing and preservation tendencies. The movement between these forces is reflected in the structure of the book, which proceeds from the broadest level of inquiry into the Fascist colonial project in Libya to the tourist organization itself, and finally into the architecture of the tourist environment, offering a way of viewing state-driven modernization projects and notions of modernity from a historical and geographic perspective.
This is an important book for architectural historians and for those interested in colonial and postcolonial studies, as well as Italian studies, African history, literature, and cultural studies more generally.
Brian L. McLaren is assistant professor of architecture, University of Washington.
1. The Incorporation of Libya into Metropolitan Italy
2. Colonial Tourism and the Experience of Modernity
3. The Indigenous Politics of Italian Colonialism
4. Tourism and the Framing of Indigenous Culture
5. Toward a Modern Colonial Architecture
6. In Search of a Regionalist Expression
"Brian McLaren . . . has produced a magnificent and scholarly work to add to the growing number of books on colonial architecture. . . . This book is written in clear and elegant prose and is well illustrated with architectural drawings, old photographs, and reproductions of tourist brochures, posters, and postcards . . .the University of Washington Press should be commended for the superior design and reproduction of images in McLaren's fine book." - International Journal of Middle East Studies
"Architecture and Tourism in Italian Colonial Libya confronts us with a rich and fascinating story on the indeterminate relation between architecture and tourism in colonial Libya. The outstanding text is larded with an intriguing selection of images that stem from popular literature, tourist ephemera ranging from guidebooks to brochures and postcards, as well as architectural archives. The result is captivating." - Journal of Design History