The Life Cycle of the Libyan Coastal Highway: Italian Colonialism, Coloniality, and the Future of Reparative Justice in the Mediterranean

Emilio Distretti
Antipode: a Radical Journal of Geography, 2021

This paper explores the role of the Libyan Coastal Highway across history: originally built by fascist Italy during colonisation, in the postcolonial era Libya demanded Italy commit to the construction of a new motorway as part of the reparation process for its crimes. Only in 2008 was an agreement reached. Through it, Italy used the promise to build a new road as a bargaining‐chip to secure Qaddafi’s cooperation in containing migrant mobility across the Mediterranean. This paper explores the different ways in which the Libyan road has endured as a space and a tool of power by tracing historical and political continuities across time, from colonisation to demands for postcolonial reparations and migration governance. Drawing inspiration from the notion of “coloniality”, the paper investigates the colonial continuum expressed by the Italian/Libyan reparation process, and seeks to posit alternative pathways towards the unresolved question of postcolonial justice around the Mediterranean.

Special Collection “Libya During the Italian Colonial Period”
© Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

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