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20 In 1905, after more than 15 years of colonization in Eritrea, only 2,333 Italians lived there (incl (. ) 21 In May 1936 there were 330,000 Italian soldiers in the region. See Labanca , 2002, p. 189. 22 On prostitution in the Italian colonies in Africa, see Stefani , 2007, p. 130?143. See also the repr (. ) 23 Campassi , 1987, p. 239.
9 The number of Italians in the Horn of Africa, mostly men, grew during the Fascist period, especially during the 1930s. Of course, women were not the first reason for expatriation. At the time of the Italo?Ethiopian war, more than 50,000 unemployed men went to Eritrea to work on road construction and other public works.20 In 1935, hundreds of thousands of soldiers moved to Eritrea to take part in the war in Ethiopia.21 After the occupation of Ethiopia and the creation of the Empire in 1936, at the same time as the launch of a vociferous campaign against “mixed?race” unions and miscegenation, the Fascist government wanted to increase the Italian female population in Africa, and set up training courses in “preparation for the Empire” for women. The regime also wanted to send several professional Italian prostitutes to the colonies (it actually did so, in part).22 However, these projects mostly turned out to be failures and Italian women in Northeast Africa towards the end of the 1930s numbered, at the most, 10,000.23.
Madamato : Practices and legacies.
24 See for example Martini , 1946, I, and Paoli , 1908. 25 Throughout this article, I will use such “conventional” terms as prostitution, concubinage , marriag (. ) 26 Tabet , 2004, p. 158. 27 Stoler , 2002, p. 49, 50.
10 As revealed by colonial sources, ever since the beginning of Italian colonialism, concubinage between Italian men and Northeast African women was a widespread phenomenon in the Italian colonies in the Horn of Africa. 24 Italians would usually refer to colonial concubinage as madamato or madamismo , meaning by these expressions “something” that was neither marriage nor prostitution,25 and which could differ from one case to the other, in terms of feelings, objectives, abuse, and conditions experienced by partners involved in this kind of relationship. As Paola Tabet noted, “relations between sexes are globally impacted by economic transactions. And continuity – meaning a lack of dichotomy or separation between ‘good girls’ and ‘bad girls’, and relations of economic exchange characterized by shifting from one condition to the other, or even the coexistence of different roles and relations for one person – has become increasingly evident through recent researches.”26 Concubinage , in various colonial settings, was a nuanced and sometimes controversial notion that Ann Laura Stoler (referring to different colonial contexts) has described as follows: “ Concubinage was the prevalent term for cohabitation outside marriage between European men and Asian women. But the term ambiguously covered a wide range of arrangements that included sexual access to a non?European woman as well as demands on her labor and legal rights to the children she bore. […] Concubinage reinforced the hierarchies on which colonial societies were based and made those distinctions more problematic at the same time.”27.
28 On colonial concubinage in Eritrea and local sexual politics, see Barrera , 1996; Sorgoni , 1998. On (. ) 29 In 1898 in Asmara, Martini wrote: “Let’s stop with these ‘ madamas .’ Their use was tolerated: now de (. ) 30 Martini , 1946, I, p. 145. Before the 1929 Concordat, according to the Italian civil code, religious (. ) 31 Pollera , 1922, p. 73. See also Ambrogetti ’s 1900 booklet La vita sessuale nell’Eritrea , p. 5, 15, q (. ) 32 On the life and work of Alberto Pollera , see Sorgoni , 2001. Right before dying in 1939, even if it (. ) 33 Pollera , 1922, p. 73?85. As far as the cultural and intellectual background of these assumptions is (. )
11 Italians called Northeast African concubines madama (an ironic distortion of the French word Madame ) and used the term madamato only to refer to colonial concubinage in the Horn, while the term mabruchismo may have been applied to the much rarer form of concubinage that existed in colonial Libya.28 Before the Fascist regime (1922?1943), when Italians were still prone to spend years in Eritrea, colonial concubinage was usually tolerated by the colonial authority, although at the very end of the 19 th century, writer and politician Ferdinando Martini, Governor of Eritrea between 1897 and 1907, condemned such a practice in his diary.29 According to the same source, Eritrean women believed marriage with an Italian man was official if it conformed with their customs, while Italian men took part in the ceremony just for their own interest or for fun, without committing to it: “ I think we should tread carefully in celebrating these marriages that are only religiously binding. Perhaps the indigenous woman believes that civil and religious marriage are merged into the same ceremony, as is the case in her country. The white man knows that a church wedding does not have any effect according to the civil law. Thus, the white man can cheat, the native woman can be cheated on, and the latter will believe that the union is indissoluble, when it is certainly not the case”.30 Thus, on one hand (through Martini’s words), the male?colonialist discourse was able to negate women’s agency by stressing Northeast African women’s lack of self?consciousness. On the other hand though, the male?colonialist discourse would also assert itself by stressing another opposite and complementary aspect considered specific to colonized women: indeed, the colonizer’s assumption that concubines, courtesans, and prostitutes in colonial contexts were not stigmatized by their own society and the idea that they were, actually, naturally inclined to perform these (somewhat interchangeable) roles was generally widespread and persistent, and also applied to other colonial contexts. Other Italian colonial sources stressed the fact that “Abyssinian women” could be sexually free without being locally stigmatized “because here the freedom of women’s sexual mores has very ancient roots”.31 According to the colonial official and prolific ethnographer Alberto Pollera – who, himself, lived with two “ madamas ” and had several children he formally acknowledged32 – madamato , even if not the optimum coupling solution, was an “inevitability” for young Italians living in the Horn of Africa. According to colonial sources, this land, considered inappropriate for Italian brides, was inhabited by “Abyssinian women” who, thanks to their “Semitic ancestry,” were supposed to easily mate with Italian men and become their concubines.33.
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