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From warriors to urban dwellers : Ascari and the military factor in the urban development of colonial Eritrea

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Chelati Dirar, Uoldelul

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Abstract In the process of urbanisation experienced by Eritrea, between 1890 and 1941, under Italian colonialism a major role was played by the military component. Military priorities were crucial in determining lines of development in the early colonial urban planning in Eritrea as the criteria of military defensibility, rather than economic or functional priorities, had significantly influenced the main patterns of early colonial settlements in the region. The military factor was also important in determining the nature and extent of the interaction between colonial urban planning and Eritrean society. In this process a major role was played by Eritrean colonial troops, known as ascari. In virtue of their close relation with the colonial authority ascari became a sort of buffer between colonized and colonizers and, therefore, were partially involved in the colonial strategy aimed at reshaping the social and economic landscape of Eritrea. Ascari were instrumental in the colonial attempt to set up the composite set of relations and strategies which constituted the colonial milieu. Urban history of colonial Eritrea represents one of the ideal subjects for the study of the development of the colonial society in which colonial soldiers were important actors as builders of social and territorial urban spaces.
Keywords colonialism; Italy; Eritrea; urban development; urbanization; military; soldier; Africa
Classification General History
Method historical
Free Keywords colonialism; Italian colonialism; colonial troops; military history; urban studies
Document language English
Publication Year 2004
Page/Pages p. 533-574
Journal Cahiers d'Études Africaines, XLIV (2004) 175
Status Published Version; reviewed
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications