Simulation and Simulacra in the Tripoli Trade Fairs

Episode 158

Simulation and Simulacra in the Tripoli Trade Fairs

In this podcast, Stephanie Malia Hom, Associate Professor of Transnational Italian Studies at the University of California - Santa Barbara, discusses her work on colonial Libya. She applies Jean Baudrillard's ideas of simulacra and simulation to make sense of the way that Italian authorities constructed the Tripoli Trade Fairs (1927-1939) as an idealized vision of Libya, and the Italian colonial empire more broadly, while simultaneously applying violent practices in Cyrenaica to crush anti-colonial rebellion. She ultimately argues that the pavilions at the Tripoli Trade Fairs "belie an insecurity on the part of Italian colonizers to demonstrate the worth of their own enterprise." Throughout her work, Hom raises questions about mobility, hyperreality, imperialism, nationalism, violence, aesthetics, and spatial production while depicting how these themes are profoundly intertwined.

Stephanie Malia Hom is Associate Professor of Transnational Italian Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She writes and lectures on modern Italy and the Mediterranean, mobility studies, colonialism and imperialism, migration and detention, and tourism history and practice. Prior to her appointment at UCSB, she served as Executive Director of the Berkeley-based nonprofit organization, Acus Foundation, and before that, as Presidential Professor of Italian at the University of Oklahoma.


She is the author of Empire's Mobius Strip: Historical Echoes in Italy's Crisis of Migration and Detention (Cornell, 2019), which won the 2019 AAIS Book Prize (20th and 21st century), and The Beautiful Country: Tourism and the Impossible State of Destination Italy (Toronto, 2015). She also co-edited with Ruth Ben-Ghiat, the edited volume Italian Mobilities (Routledge, 2016), and with Claudio Fogu and Laura E. Ruberto the special issue of California Italian Studies (2019) on “Borderless Italy/Italia senza frontiere.” Her essays and articles have been published in wide range of venues, including the leading journals in the fields of Italian studies, tourism history, urban studies, and folklore. She has also worked as a journalist in the U.S. and Europe.


For her research, Hom has been awarded fellowships from the American Council of Learned SocietiesAmerican Academy in RomeAmerican School of Classical Studies in AthensHarvard UniversityStanford Humanities Center, and The Nantucket Project.


She earned her MA and PhD in Italian Studies at UC Berkeley, and a BA with honors in International Relations from Brown University.

This podcast was recorded via Zoom by the Centre d'Études Maghrébines à Tunis (CEMATon December 13, 2022 with Luke Scalone, CEMAT Chargé de Programmes.

Download the Podcast:  Feed  iTunes  / Podbean / Spotify

We thank Hisham Errish, a music composer and oud soloist, for his interpretation of “When the Desert Sings” in the introduction and conclusion of this podcast.

Posted by: Hayet Yebbous Bensaid, Librarian, Outreach Coordinator, Content Curator (CEMA).

Suggested Bibliography

Ahmida, Ali Abdullatif. 2005. Forgotten Voices: Power and Agency in Colonial and Postcolonial LibyaLondon: Routledge.

______. 2021. Genocide in Libya. Shar, A Hidden Colonial History. London: Routledge.

Baudrillard, Jean. 2012. Impossible Exchange. Translated by Chris Turner. London: Verso.

______. 1994. Simulacra and Simulation. Translated by Sheila Faria Glaser. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Fuller, Mia. 2007. Moderns Abroad: Architecture, Cities, and Italian Imperialism. London: Routledge.

Hom, Stephanie Malia. 2020. “All Empire is a Stage: Italian Colonial Exhibitions on Continuum.” In Neocolonialism and Built Heritage: Echoes of Empire in Africa, Asia, and Europe, edited by Daniel E. Coslett, 106-123. London: Routledge.

______. 2015. The Beautiful Country: Tourism and the Impossible State of Destination Italy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

______. 2019. Empire's Mobius Strip: Historical Echoes in Italy's Crisis of Migration and Detention. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

______. “Empires of Tourism: Travel and Rhetoric in Italian Colonial Libya and Albania, 1911-1943.” Journal of Tourism History 4, no. 3 (2012): 281-300.

______. “Simulated Imperialism.” Traditional Dwellings and Settlement. Review (TDSR) 25, no. 1 (2013): 25-44.

McLaren, Brian L. 2006. Architecture and Tourism in Italian Colonial Libya: An Ambivalent Modernism. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

______. “The Tripoli Trade Fair and the Representation of Italy's African Colonies.” The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 24 (2002): 170-97.

Mitchell, Timothy. 1991. Colonising Egypt. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Said, Edward. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Vintage.

Von Henneberg, Krystyna. 2005. “Public Space and Public Place: Italian Fascist Urban Planning at Tripoli’s Colonial Trade Fair.” In Italian Colonialism, edited by Ruth Ben-Ghiat and Mia Fuller, 155-165. New York: Palgrave.