Of Sufis, fascists and bananas: Hagiography and the perception of Italian occupants in Ethiopia

  • Michele Petrone University of Naples "L'Orientale"


Italian occupation of Ethiopia (1936-41) has been described mainly from the point of view of Italian documentary sources and of the Amharic local sources. The point of view of local Muslim Oromo communities has remained largely ignored. This paper proposed a close reading of the hagiography of Aḥmad b. ʻUmar (d. 1953), especially of the passages narrating the latter’s interactions with Fascist occupants. The aim of this study is first to present a fresh perspective on the years of Italian presence in Ethiopia, namely the one of Muslims. It also aims at proposing the use of Ethiopian hagiographies in Arabic as a source for local history.


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Author Biography

Michele Petrone, University of Naples "L'Orientale"

Michele Petrone is a post-doc researcher at the University of Naples “L’Orientale.” His main research focus is Arabic literature from the Horn of Africa, especially Sufi hagiography and poetry. He is also working on the relation between orality and authorship. His more recent studies focus on the construction of collections of prayers on the Prophet and their role in the development of devotional practices in Ethiopia and North Africa (Prayer on the Prophet between Devotion and Scholarship, 2022).

Michele can be contacted at: michele.petrone@unior.it