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Title:'Oziosi, vagabondi e pregiudicati': labor, law and crime in colonial Asmara, 1890-1941
Author:Locatelli, Francesca
Periodical:International Journal of African Historical Studies
Geographic term:Eritrea
colonial law
social stratification
Abstract:Drawing on new archival sources from the High Court and Municipality of Asmara and interviews undertaken in Eritrea, this paper explores the inherent relationship between labour, law and crime (particularly theft) in colonial Asmara throughout the Italian presence in Eritrea. The Italian colonial administration tried to exercise control over urban areas that it considered dangerous through the criminalization of poverty and the prosecution, as well as creation, of crimes that endangered the colonial social and cultural order. At the same time the Italian colonial government was able to establish its legitimacy through fragmentation of the indigenous social structure. By the end of the Italian presence, the social structure was for the most part divided into a first generation of indigenous Eritreans who contributed to the establishment of the 'colonia primogenita', and subsequent generations of migrants from different Eritrean regions and from 'oltre confine' who came to form the urban underclass. Control over the urban 'oziosi, vagabondi e pregiudicati' was exercised through the creation of a system of justice and punishment that guaranteed the most repressive result in the most efficient way. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]