FacultyEileen Ryan

Assistant ProfessorEileen_Ryan

945 Gladfelter Hall
1115 West Berks St.


Italy, Libya, Imperialism, Colonialism, Fascism, Mediterranean


I received a PhD in history from Columbia University in the summer of 2013 after obtaining a MA in religious studies from the University of Chicago and a BA in Religious Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My interests in religion in history informed my first book, Religion as Resistance: Negotiating Authority in Italian Libya. Based on extensive research in Italian, Libya, British, and French archives, this book provides an innovative interpretation of the politics of resistance and collaboration among the Sufi order of the Sanusiyya in colonial Libya. It also examines the ways in which Italians defined their own religious identities in the process of state expansion in Muslim North Africa.

I am currently working on an exciting new project that examines the end of Italian imperialism after the Second World War. The end of Italy’s relatively short experiment with empire occurred in the chaos of a European refugee crisis on a massive scale. I am interested in exploring this chaos from a variety of perspectives: fascist officials holding onto an imperial dream, Italian settler families reluctantly ‘repatriating’ to the Italian peninsula, African soldiers stuck between Italian and postcolonial identities. What can their experiences tell us about the meaning of imperialism in the postwar Mediterranean? Who determined the boundaries of racial and national identities in this moment of flux?

Selected Publications

  • Religion as Resistance: Negotiating Authority in Italian Libya (Oxford University Press, February 2018).
  • “Violence and the Politics of Prestige: The Fascist Turn in Colonial Libya,” Modern Italy 20, no. 2 (May 2015): 123-135.
  • “Italian Colonial Native Policy in Cyrenaica and the Specter of Pan-Islam,” Annali della Fondazione Ugo La Malfa, September 2011.

Courses Taught

  • HIST 0874: Confronting Empire: Voices of Resistance
  • HIST 2304: 20th Century Europe: A Continent in Crisis
  • HIST 2319: The Mafia in Modern Italy
  • HIST 2806: Colonial North Africa in European History

I am in the process of developing a new course on race in modern Europe. Focusing primarily on blackness in Europe, this course places the recent waves of migration from Africa to Europe in a longer historical context. Through films, novels, and historical documents, we will explore how the presence of black bodies has challenged national identities in modern Europe.