About us

Marta Scaglioni

Marta ScaglioniMarta Scaglioni holds a master degree in cultural and social anthropology. Currently, she is a PhD student at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, in co-partenership with the University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy. She is specialized in North Africa, the Middle East, and Islamic societies in general. She carried out field research on Cairo shantytowns and processes of gentrification. Her current research area is North Africa with a focus on the regions at the border between Libya and Tunisia.





Research project: “Blacks at the Border between Libya and Tunisia.”

My research focuses on Blacks in contemporary North African contexts by questioning the legacy of slavery and of the slave trade in the social set-up of the regions between Libya and Tunisia. The slave trade was abolished in Tripolitania in 1853, but continued covertly up to the 20th century. The Ottomans were willing to turn a blind eye on the trade because of the major profit acquired from it and because of their personal involvement, as traders and as owners. On the other side of the border, though, Tunisia was a forerunner in promulgating a decree to abolish slavery in 1846, two years before France abolished slavery in its colonies. First, Tunisia had never been strongly connected to the trans-Saharan slave trade and the profits it got from it were non-essential to its economy. Second, Tunisia was put under a stronger abolitionist pressure by the Europeans. Finally, Ahmed Bey, the tenth Husainyd ruler of Tunisia (1837-1855), acted doubtlessly as a reformist and open-minded Bey, and he was himself the son of a Sardinian slave concubine.

Italian and Tunisian archives offer a rich documentation on the end of the slave trade and slavery, and on the trajectories of freed slaves. I am particularly interested in Tripolitanian slaves fleeing to Tunisia in seek for freedom, three decades after Tunisia abolished slavery. They were Black Libyans who moved to Tunisia attracted by the promise of better conditions and safety from the imminent Italian-Turkish war. Their migration continued up to the first decades of the 20th century, until the Italian colonization in 1911 and the First World War changed the Libyan landscape. Starting from the analysis of both archival and ethnographical data, I intend to open a window on the trajectories of Tripolitanian and Cyrenaican slaves who sought freedom in Tunisia, and on the condition of Blacks and slave descendants on both sides of the border.