Mabruchismo: concubinage and colonial power in Italian Libya (1911–1932)

Andrea Tarchi

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article assesses the Liberal and Fascist administrations’ shifting attitudes towards colonial concubinage during the years of the repression of the anti-colonial resistance in Italian Libya (1911–32). Also known as mabruchismo, concubinage in Libya closely resembled its counterpart in Italian Eastern Africa, as it involved middle- to upper-class Italian officers coercing colonised women into engaging in often exploitative intimate relationships. During the first 20 years of colonisation of the territory, the colony's military administration employed an ambiguous stance regarding the practice, condemning it discursively to ingratiate itself with the local elites while unofficially allowing it to provide safe sex to its officers. When the resistance was defeated in the early 1930s, and the Fascist administration began its demographic colonisation plans, colonial concubinage was prohibited as out of place in a racially segregated settler colony. This article employs an analysis of official archival sources to trace the regulatory framework that shaped the lives of the Libyan women and Italian officers engaged in concubinage in a shifting colonial society. The colonial administrations’’ regulatory efforts toward colonial concubinage testify to the crucial role that Libyan women and racially ‘‘mixed’’ relationships played in shaping categories of race, class, and gender relative to the Italian colonial context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalModern Italy
Issue number4
Early online date4 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


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