Religion as Resistance: Negotiating Authority in Italian Libya

Religion as Resistance: Negotiating Authority in Italian Libya

by Eileen Ryan


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When Italian forces landed on the shores of Libya in 1911, many in Italy hailed it as an opportunity to embrace a Catholic national identity through imperial expansion. After decades of acrimony between an intransigent Church and the Italian state, enthusiasm for the imperial adventure helped incorporate Catholic interests in a new era of mass politics. Others among Italian imperialists-military officers and civil administrators-were more concerned with the challenges of governing a Muslim society, one in which the Sufi brotherhood of the Sanusiyya seemed dominant. Eileen Ryan illustrates what Italian imperialists thought would be the best methods to govern in Muslim North Africa and in turn highlights the contentious connection between religious and political authority in Italy.

Telling this story requires an unraveling of the history of the Sanusiyya. During the fall of Qaddafi, Libyan protestors took up the flag of the Libyan Kingdom of Idris al-Sanusi, signaling an opportunity to reexamine Libya's colonial past. After decades of historiography discounting the influence of Sanusi elites in Libyan nationalism, the end of this regime opened up the possibility of reinterpreting the importance of religion, resistance, and Sanusi elites in Libya's colonial history. Religion as Resistance provides new perspectives on the history of collaboration between the Italian state and Idris al-Sanusi and questions the dichotomy between resistance and collaboration in the colonial world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780190673796
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 02/01/2018
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 9.40(w) x 6.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Eileen Ryan is an Assistant Professor in the History Department at Temple University. She has published articles in Modern Italy and the Annali della Fondazione Ugo La Malfa. She is currently working on an article on Italian settlers as refugees during the process of decolonization. This is her first book.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

List of Maps

List of Figures


Chapter 1: Italian imperialism and Sanusi authority at the turn of the century

Chapter 2: Crafting an Italian Approach to Colonial Rule

Chapter 3: Occupation, War, and the Transformation of the Sanusiyya

Chapter 4: Railways and Resistance: Idris al-Sanusi's Fall from Power

Chapter 5: Religion and Power in the Fascist Colonies


Essay on Sources: Memories of Resistance in the Oral History Project


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