Photograph of Ignacio G. Galán

On November 1, 2023, Ignacio G. Galán, assistant professor of architecture, published a new article in the quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal Modernism/modernity, titled “Furnishing Italian Colonialism: ‘Nomad’ Interiors and the Habitations of the Empire.”

In his article, Galán explores how the design and circulation of furniture and decorative arts between Italy and its Libyan and East African colonies enacted the colonial system’s social hierarchy. Galán discusses the relationship between pieces created in colonized territories, those intended to be used and displayed in Italian households, and those that were sent overseas to facilitate the Italians' life in the colonies. The circulation of these different pieces was likely to promote the “expansion of life horizons” characteristic of modernity by creating a sense of a more interconnected world and taste. But the reality, Galán asserts, was different: both the modernist designers behind some of these works and the ethnographers responsible for the circulation of others collaborated to ensure a distinct delineation in identity was upheld between pieces intended for Italians and those subjected to their colonial rule. In this way, Galán explains, strict limits were placed through the mediation of modernist design on who was allowed to engage in the social, cultural, and material “expansion” of modernity and who was to remain confined—a reflection of the defining hierarchy of the modern-colonial period.