Professor of Italian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and presently visiting professor at Stanford University with the seminar “Italy, France, and Postcolonialism”. She is a cultural anthropologist who in her studies on architecture and urban planning in the Italian colonies combines field and archival research.
Her monograph Modern Abroads: Architecture, Cities, and Italian Imperialism (Routledge 2007) won the International Planning History Society Book Prize in 2008. She has worked with the director Caterina Borelli on the documentary Asmara, Eritrea (2008), and in 2009 she helped to organize the conference Libyan Historiography at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies of Berkeley. With Ruth Ben-Ghiat she has published the book Italian Colonialism: a Reader (Palgrave 2005). She has focused on study of the colonial city of Tripoli, revealing the ambiguities of urban practices of segregation, and the design of French and Italian architecture in North African cities during colonialism. She is presently working on an ethnographic, architectural and oral history study on the Fascist foundation cities in Italy of the 1930s.