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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The color of love: 'madamismo' and interracial relationships in the Italian colonies
Author:Ponzanesi, SandraISNI
Periodical:Research in African Literatures (ISSN 0034-5210)
Geographic term:Eritrea
race relations
Abstract:This article focuses on 'madamas', colonized women who provided 'the comforts of home' to male Italian settlers in East Africa. While the madamas represented only a small fraction of colonized women in the Horn of Africa, they emerged as a key feature of the Italo-African encounter and dominated colonial discourses on and representations of native women. Native women were stereotypically represented as Black Venuses, voyeuristically gazed at and petrified in atemporal settings without any sociocultural specificity and dismissed as 'victims' of Italian colonialism, or as dangerous and mysterious objects. Even early colonial narratives that expressed some sympathy for the violated indigenous people were unanimous in portraying the madamas who consorted with Italian men as sorceresses, femmes fatales, spies, witches, or manipulators. The madamas were often blamed for Italian military incompetence and for turning many Italian men into 'insabbiati', literally 'covered with sand' and figuratively 'gone native'. Historians, ethnographers and writers have inevitably tended to concentrate on the colonizers rather than on the colonized, and on the sexuality of white males in nineteenth- and twentieth-century colonialism. Based on emerging studies on the historical nature of madamismo in Eritrea, and its cultural implications, this article brings a gender corrective to the dominant discourses surrounding madamismo and accounts for the experiences, legacies, and voices on the colour of love in colonial times from the colonized perspective. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]